It all started innocently enough.
It was a Monday morning. The night before was one of those nights that I love. My Bible Study gals with their husbands and their kids (All of ’em!) had been together in the Gathering place of Laws Mennonite Church for our Christmas supper. Good food, good company, and a great time made some wonderful memories for this Delaware Grammy, but even with excellent clean-up help, this gal was so very, very tired.
My Sweet Mama had been away for two weeks but came home while we were having our supper. I was under the impression that she was going to be late, and so, when I came into the house around nine o’clock in the evening, I decided against calling her. My good sister in law was driving her, and I knew that she was in good hands. I had checked to make sure that someone was going over to turn up the heat and make sure things were in order, so I thought all was well.
Monday Morning. There was piles of laundry to do, and I had an appointment in Dover for Nettie. I needed to take Mama to Denton in the afternoon for an appointment with her primary care physician. I got my ladies up, gave Cecilia her shower and got her dressed and combed, got breakfast and medications done, packed the lunch, and tried to keep up with the laundry.
This was also the day that our chickens were going out. We would like it very much if our chickens would never go out on Sunday night for Monday’s processing, but we don’t choose that, so Certain Man was up most of the night, putting up feed lines, raising the drinkers, and making sure that not too much extra damage was done. He managed to break his glasses somewhere along the way, so when the last house was finally under the control of the catching crew, he decided that he would go to work so that he could stop at his Dover optometrist and get those glasses fixed! So he was on his way around 9:10. I drew a deep breath, so tired, so tired.
Around 9:20, the phone rang. It was my Sweet Mama.
“I thought you would be coming out here this morning,” she said.
“Um, no. I am coming out this afternoon to take you to the doctor, though. You have a four o’clock appointment with Dr. Jensen.”
“Oh, well.” She sounded let down. “I got home around seven last evening.”
“Really? Did you hear from anyone?”
“No. No one. I thought for sure you would come out this morning.”
“We had our Bible Study supper last night, Mama, and I was so tired when I got home. I think Beebs is coming out there this morning, but our chickens went out last night, I’m trying to get laundry done this morning, and I need to take Nettie to Dover for an appointment at one.”
“Well, I guess I’ll just go back to Pennsylvania with Rose,” she said. “Nobody comes, nobody calls, nobody cares.”
That really hurt my feelings. Being tired probably made me touchy, and she was probably (at least a little bit) joking. “Mama. I’m so sorry. I think that Beebs can get what you need and bring it out, and then I will come this afternoon and take you to Dr. Jensen.”
She had been so sick while she was up and Nel and Rose’s house, and I was very anxious for her to get to her PCP. Two rounds of antibiotics, strong cough medicine and huge doses of rest hadn’t managed to knock out the bug that was bothering her. She gets incredible care while she is with Nel and Rose, and I know that we don’t cover the bases as well when she is home. Sometimes I feel really, really insecure about that, and this time, secretly, I was suspicious that we could never measure up.
The injured feelings cast a long shadow over my morning, but there was so much to accomplish before heading to Dover. The doctor’s office had faxed me fourteen pages of things to fill out. Actually, Nettie was to fill them out, but this is the stuff that ordinary people have trouble with, much less handicapped individuals.
“On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your pain?” “Is your pain a stabbing pain, an aching pain, or a throbbing pain?” “Would you say your pain is sharp or dull?” “Is it constant or intermittent?” “Is your pain made better or worse by lying down?” “Is your pain made better or worse by standing?” “Is your pain made better or worse by sitting?” “Is your pain made better or worse by daily activity such as getting dressed or household chores? “Does your pain interfere with— (there was a never ending supply of those questions!).
My head was spinning. I was trying to answer as questions with answers like I thought Nettie would answer, but the end result was frustrating and time consuming. Plus, there were all those questions about her general health, social adjustment, medications and mental illness. I finally carried the questionnaire in to her table and asked her several questions while she signed the necessary papers. And finally we were ready to go.
And then the phone rang. It was Certain Man.
“Hon, could someone run out to the chicken house and make sure that the catching crew turned off the tunnel fans? They said they were going to, but I just want to make sure.”
“Well, I’m just about ready to walk out the door to take Nettie to Dover . . . “
“Maybe Rachel could go, then,” he said. “All you gotta’ do is check to make sure the fan on the front side of the house is off. I’m sure if they turned off the front one, they also turned off the back side, too. I just don’t need all this cold air getting pulled into the house and causing trouble.”
“Tell you what, Sweetheart,” I said, “I will go out there in the van and check when I am on my way to Dover. I can just drive out there and I won’t even need to get out of the van. I can just look!”
“That will be fine,” he said happily. And so, that was the plan.
So I got Nettie and her black book. I got the 14 pages of paperwork and my purse. I got a tall glass of water and got everything loaded in my trusty mini-van and headed out towards the chicken house. Whew! I was tired. Did I mention I was tired? That bone deep weariness that feels like it will never get better. I contemplated my lot in life as I headed off the side drive onto the chicken house lane.
Wait a minute. Which house did he tell me to check? House two or house three? Oh, well. I guess it didn’t matter. I would just check them both. On the front side of house two, all the fans were quiet and unmoving. I checked the back side of house two and found things the same there. On back the lane I went and checked the front of house three. Nothing there, either.
“This is good,” I thought. “But what if they had somehow inadvertently let the fans on at the back of the house? I will check there just to be sure, then I can tell Certain Man that everything is totally off.”
Which, of course, it was!
But now I had a dilemma. The thing is, I’m not the greatest backer in the world. And I had about a hundred feet to back with chicken houses on one side and sturdy fence on the other. I decided to cut in between the chicken houses and make the backing part of my departure shorter. So I turned my wheel while looking out the driver’s side to make sure that I had enough room. I noticed that there was a very soft place in the ground beside the tunnel fans, and having had a previous experience with getting VERY STUCK in that same place on another occasion, and noting that there were deep ruts from the chicken trucks that I needed to avoid too, I cut a wide berth and was carefully watching out the driver’s window when — KERSHLAM!!!
I jerked my head around in time to see Nettie rock in her seat like she had just had a jarring experience.
“Mare-Ann!” She said reproachfully. “You really hit that hard!”
“Oh, dear!” I said. “I guess I did! What in the world –?” My heart sank to my shoes as I looked out the window and realized that I had somehow collided with the feed bin at the end of the chicken house. I put the car in forward and pulled out a bit. I got out of my side of the car and trudged to the back to see what the damage was. I couldn’t see anything! I looked and looked all around the back of the car and there was nothing.
“Whew,” I thought ruefully. “I would have thought there was some sort of damage for how hard that hit! I must have gotten away with it this time somehow.” But then I happened to look on up the side of the van and my delight was short lived. On the sliding door, just behind the front passenger’s door, there was a nasty, nasty dent. I betook myself up there and mournfully surveyed the damage. I tried to open the door. That was out of the question. There was a very sharp place on the handle, anyhow, that discouraged too much effort. What was Certain Man ever going to think?
Time was slipping by, and I had an appointment to make, so I got back into the driver’s seat and began my trek to Dover.
“I had better call Daniel,” I thought. “Might as well let him know.” I’m so glad that Certain Man is usually kind and understanding about such things. There have been times when I’ve been surprised at how nice he is when things like this happen. Rarely does he fuss at me about such things. But I still dreaded calling him. I dialed his number and waited while the phone rang and rang. He didn’t answer. That would give me more time to cry, I mean, THINK!
Then the hands free device on my visor announced, “Phone call from A-Daniel. Answer or ignore?”
“What’s up?” Asked my good-natured husband. “I saw you called.”
“Well, hon, you will be glad to know that the fans are all off. I checked both houses front and back and everything is off. The bad news is that I did something bad to the van.”
“Hon! What did you do?”
“I ran into the feed bin.”
“Hon! How did you do that?”
“I don’t know. I was just backing around, trying to miss the soft spots when I crashed the side of the van into the feed bin.”
Great was the discussion for some time about what we were going to do and when and how. It was only a short time until the kids were all coming home for Christmas and we were planning to use the van for family expeditions. We finally agreed that, since I couldn’t get the door open, that Certain Man would call our faithful body repair shop and see if he could get it in pronto. We said our “love you’s” and “Good-bye’s” and I waited to hear, “Call terminated” coming from my device. What I heard instead caught me flatfooted. It was my husband’s voice, frustrated and a bit cross, coming over the airwaves in a tone that I have almost never heard directed at me.
“I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!” Ranted Certain Man. “WHAT IS SO HARD ABOUT THIS??? YOU JUST LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING, LINE THINGS UP AND BACK OUT!!!”
“Uh, Hon,” I said, “I’m still here. I can hear every word you are saying.”
“Call terminated” chirped my hands free device. And believe me! It WAS! The thing was, I didn’t feel bad about it at all at that point. I was so upset with myself that I could hardly see straight. I mean, this is the same van that I hit a deer with last summer that made it need so much repair work. That was all covered by our insurance, but this? Um, I think not.
It wasn’t long until Certain Man called back and said that he was going to meet us at the doctor’s office and see for himself what the damage was. The body shop said that they needed to know what kind of door it was, but that they would work it in and do it as soon as possible, even though it didn’t suit them very well. And so he met us there, strong armed the door and got it to open and decided that we could live with it until after Christmas. He didn’t mention the things that had been said in my hearing. I didn’t either. I found out later that he never heard me. But whenever the subject came up, he looked a little sheepish. He never once said that he didn’t say them. Like I said, He isn’t inclined to speak unkindly to his addled frau. He should be allowed to let off some steam now and then. The LORD KNOWS I deserve it.
There was still the doctor’s appointment to get through. I handed in my paperwork and decided to arrange other transportation for my Sweet Mama’s appointment in the afternoon. Niece Carmen agreed to do it. I called Mama to tell her my troubles and that Carmen was going to take her to her appointment. I couldn’t help crying. Mamas are pretty good at detecting what is really wrong, and it wasn’t long until she realized that part of my problem was the hurt feelings from the morning. Mama was so sorry that I had taken what she had said as truth.
“You weren’t hurt by what I said this morning,” she said with that element of wonder in her voice.
“Well, Mama,” I said, feeling so petty, but also still smarting, “You SAID that nobody called, nobody came, nobody cared! And that you were going back to Pennsylvania. Of course I was hurt!”
“Oh, you girls!” she said. “I’m going to have to stop saying anything. I say stuff and I mean it kidding, and you take me serious! I didn’t mean it!”
I managed to tell her that Carmen was taking her to her appointment, that I had messed up the van, and she was fine with all the arrangements. “Don’t worry about anything,” she said, cheerfully. “Everything is going to work out okay. You’ll see.”
Back inside the doctor’s office, we waited and waited. Then they took Nettie back and did vitals and went over her paperwork. Then we waited some more and finally the nurse came in and said that the doctor wanted to talk to me privately before seeing Nettie. And there ensued the strangest conversation I have ever had with a healthcare professional. The upshot was that he was not going to treat Nettie. He was certain that he could not help her. He was uncomfortable with her mental illness, and critical of her former doctor’s treatment. As we left the consult room, I noticed that he didn’t even turn in the direction of her room.
“Is he not even going to talk to her?” I asked the nurse who was walking with me.
“Well, he CAN, if you want him to,” she said a bit cautiously. “Shall I ask him to come tell her?”
The adrenalin had been flowing since the feed bin episode, but suddenly all of that was gone and I felt a hundred years old. I thought about my girl, Nettie, on the other side of that door, and of all the rejection and disappointments of her life, and suddenly, I didn’t want him setting foot in that treatment room.
“No,” I said. “I will tell her.” I put my happy face on and went into the room. “Well, Nettie,” I said, “this is your lucky day! You don’t have to get any of those long needle shots after all. The doctor doesn’t think it will really help anyways, so he is recommending that we don’t do it.”
“Does that mean I have to live with this pain the rest of my life,” she asked, sounding a bit non-plussed.
“We need to go back to your pain management specialist,” I said, “and see what he has to say. Maybe since this doctor feels like this wouldn’t be the best course of treatment for you, Dr. Coveleski will find something else that will work better. Besides, Nettie! Just think! We can go get some shopping done now and we don’t have to worry about those shots.”
She looked a little unconvinced, but before long we were happily on our way for a little retail therapy. At the mall, she bought a sixty-eight dollar bottle of Red Door perfume and I bought a Chrismassy sweater and both of us came home in a much better frame of mind.
Four weeks later, the van is repaired, looking better than it ever has on the passenger’s side. Nettie has had a change in her pain meds that seem to be working quite well, and Certain Man and his wife have been living harmoniously and in forgiveness concerning the van mishap.