Oh hey September! You’re here. I’ve been waiting for you.
Due to last week’s cantankerous post, I feel I owe you an upbeat story, minus the sarcasm, salty language and snarling.
So here goes it:
A funny thing happened after I pouted about my Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad August.
Things got better.
The last seven days have been a testament to the old annoying saying this too shall pass. Since airing my dirty laundry (and by dirty laundry I mean my gratuitous references to swamp ass) on the internet, I’ve felt a lot less like Charlie Sheen and a lot more like his toothy, hapless counterpart on that sitcom I’ve never seen, Two and a Half Turds.
It would appear that our August hex is over. The Pig-Pen-like dirt cloud that has hovered over our house dissipated about a week ago, giving way to a bright blue sky with puffy clouds that resemble ukulele-strumming unicorns. Not really, but I’m inclined to see unicorns in all clouds, so maybe.
How do I know the spell is broken? Because at exactly 3:29 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25 at the corner of U.S. 19 and NE Coachman Road in Clearwater, Joe was pulled over for speeding on his way to a fantasy football draft at an Italian restaurant he couldn’t find on a stretch of highway he didn’t know. The cop clocked him going 70 in a 55 mph zone.
Given our track record, one would assume he’d be ticketed, strip searched and tossed in the clink. Instead he was given an adorable little warning, a friendly smile, directions to the restaurant and, at the end of the night, a promising fantasy football team.
“You got a WARNING!” I exclaimed. “You got caught speeding and you were WARNED!”
I grabbed the warning, frolicked gaily to the kitchen and stuck it to to the refrigerator door next to our collection of friends’ baby announcements.
“This is fantastic,” I continued. “Things are finally starting to turn around for us. A warning! Hot dog!!”
Cubbie, who is still suffering from blindness and what appears to be either a.) a brain tumor or b.) some kind of encephalitis, has made tremendous improvements thanks to the addition of prednisone in his daily cocktail of phenobarbital, milk thistle and flax seed oil. We’re now going on two weeks with no seizures and no middle-of-the-night vomiting, pooping or peeing. Wait. No. That’s untrue. The first night he was on prednisone he stood in the middle of our bed (while we were sleeping in it) and just began pissing without any control or awareness of what he was doing. Because parenthood has made us the world’s lightest sleepers (and because we’re now hardwired to predict and prevent Cubbie’s every misstep), Joe and I quickly shot up in bed.
“He’s pissing. Like. Right. Now,” I said.
“Well, lift him off the bed before it soaks through to the sheets,” Joe replied.
It’s exactly this kind of sensibility that attracted me to Joe. The man is rational and quick on his feet. Rather than cuss out the ailing pug for peeing on our covers at 2 a.m., he simply provided a solution to the problem: remove the top blankets before the dog’s urine leeches into the mattress.
Like a dutifully wife, I followed his orders, thus cutting the urine off at the pass and saving us the annoyance of having to strip the bed at 2 a.m. Much like Joe’s traffic warning, I considered this another glowing example of our new-found good fortune. If the universe still hated us*, the dog surely would have peed on our face.
Our lucky streak continued the following day when I received a letter from the folks at Sirius Radio telling me I had 10 days of free satellite radio in my car JUST BECAUSE**. As a flat broke cheapskate, I do not intend to activate this service once the company’s generosity runs out. I have however, spent the last week driving around with the volume cranked on the all-90s station. (To my neighbors who may have spotted me dancing in the driveway. Yes, I was teaching my son how to do the Tootsee Roll.)
You see, things have gotten better. And just in case I failed to illustrate it in these three glaring (ie: mostly subtle) examples, I will share one more irrefutably lucky anecdote.
On Friday, Hank and I embarked on a picnic via bicycle. We stuffed my backpack with the usual fare: sammies, chips, gin and tonic. I failed to check the weather forecast before we left, which as any Floridian will tell you is a big no-no in the summer. (Summertime rainstorms are as common in Florida as augmented breasts and bumper nuts.)
The thunder started twenty minutes into our ride. The wind picked up behind us, scattering leaves and littered beer cans. Across the bay I could see a gray sheet of rain moving toward downtown St. Pete.
I stopped pedaling, pulled the bike under the canopy of a giant oak and quickly spread out a blanket, estimating about five minutes of dry picnic time before rain rolled in.
I instructed Henry to eat. Fast. This wasn’t a problem for him since he prefers to eat like that a Japanese competitive hotdog eater. Our sammies were halfway gone when the rain came. Why I didn’t just spend those five minutes pedaling back home is proof of my hardiness and stupidity.
“IT’S RAINING,'” Henry squealed. “IT’S POURING!”
I pulled the blanket out from under our feet and tossed it over our heads like a makeshift tent. This worked surprisingly well as a rain shield, plus Henry found it to be totally enchanting.
“Mama, Henry under bwanket,” he said. “Mama, Henry gettin wet!”
We stood this way for a while, huddled together under a tree, under a blanket. We sang a couple songs and shivered for the first time in months because even summer rain can feel cold. Through a slit in the blanket I could see the sky clearing in the distance. We wouldn’t have to stay huddled this way for long, though honestly, it didn’t bother me to stand in the rain with Henry. I actually love this kind of stuff, which is probably half the reason why I don’t check weather forecasts before I go on bike rides. Whatever it takes to stimulate the senses, I suppose.
I suddenly noticed a figure approaching us – a guy in rubber boots and cargo shorts. I recognized him as a fisherman we had passed along the way. He was carrying an umbrella.
I dropped the blanket around our shoulders. Rain rolled down Henry’s forehead.
The man was neither smiling, nor frowning. He was large and drenched. If I were a fearful woman, this would be the part where I’d run for my life, convinced I was about to be murdered by an umbrella-wielding fisherman killer/child abductor.
“Here,” the guy said, handing over the umbrella. “Give it back when the rain stops.”
Then he turned and walked away.
I thanked him profusely, but he wasn’t the kind of guy who cared about that. He was simply giving an umbrella to a lady with a kid. Maybe to him this felt like the right thing to do.
Should I have suggested he stand under it with us? Would that have been weird? Would we have all fit?
He was gone before I could process these thoughts. I spotted him standing under a tree about 30 yards away, his hands shoved in his pockets, a tackle box and fishing net at his feet. He had been casting for mullet.
“Man give Henry umbrella,” Henry said.
“That was very nice of him,” I said.
“Man very nice,” Henry repeated.
“Yes, very, very nice,” I said.
The rain fell hard for another 15 minutes before it tapered off into a drizzle. By then the fisherman was soaked and Henry and I were relatively dry. I felt tremendously guilty.
We walked across the park to the man’s tree.
I advised Henry to thank the man for his kindness, which he did enthusiastically.
The fisherman said nothing in return, which I found to be at once strange and endearing.
“Thank you,” I said. “That was really nice of you.”
He nodded and managed a small smile. He didn’t say you’re welcome or comment on the weather. He didn’t say good bye or wish us well as we pedaled away.
He had done his part. He had kept us dry. It was a small gesture, a quiet expression of kindness toward a stranger who at that moment needed a little shelter from the storm.
*I know the universe doesn’t hate us. Our luck and economic hardships pale in comparison to other people’s misfortunes. The day I started this post, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack against its own people. Though it felt good at the time to complain about my problems, it feels a little tone deaf to cry a river over things that can (mostly) be fixed by time and money. I realize I have many lucky stars; too many to count. When I claim to be slighted by the universe, I do so in jest. Also: I like to pick fights with the universe.
**SiriusXM Radio was not being generous by offering free temporary service to drivers with inactive satellite radios. They know even those of us who claim to still enjoy listening to Adele’s 21 on rotation are sick of hearing the same 25 songs on Clear Channel radio stations. And they’re right. I never thought I’d be so thrilled to hear Whoomp There it Is while waiting in line at a bank drive-thru.