at the wheel

Visions of a mangled Buick danced in my head.

It wasn’t that much of an extreme over-reactive leap, considering.

The previous week, Jeff had accidentally put the car into reverse instead of drive. At the gas station. He managed to crumple a bit of the hood of the vehicle behind him.

Luckily, “It was a junker and the fella didn’t care.” At least, that’s what Jeff told me. Right before he told me, “I gave him 50 bucks, and he was happy.”

“What about our car?” I wanted to know. “Nothin’’” Jeff smiled. “Not even a scratch.”

I was curious about that. How did he damage the other car without damaging ours, and where did he get the $50 from? “Well, I wasn’t going all that fast,” he chuckled. “Buick’s solid.” The money game from the store till.

Anyway, that’s why the ‘Did Jeff tell you about the car?’ question, riled me.

Split-second, internal conversing commenced. I would have noticed that, right? I couldn’t have walked right by the car and missed that, right?

“Oh, it was so funny,” she laughed.

‘Funny’ caught my attention. I rationalized. If it was funny, it couldn’t be that bad, right?

“I looked out my window and Jeff was sittin’ in the car with the door open, and one leg hanging out.”

“One leg out?” Flashback to the time he decided to hang his blood-spurting leg out of the car on our way to the hospital, conveniently located at the end of our street.

“Yep.” she continued. “I looked out again, and he was still there, and the car was still running!”

Again? How much time had passed between the two look-sees? Then my brain caught up.

“The car was … running?” I gasped.

“Yeah, but don’t worry, hon. He woke up.”

“He. Woke. Up?” My stomach dropped into a downward flip-flop. A heart skip had me clutching the phone and the counter. “He was sleeping? And, the car was running?”

“Yeah, it was just a few minutes.”

‘Don’t worry’ is one of those knee-jerk, antonym inducing commands. I was worried. “Ok.” I said, and thanked her for calling and letting me know.

Jeff wandered back into the kitchen with the last of the shopping.

“So…” I raised my eyebrows, and peered over my glasses. “Wanna tell me about falling asleep… in the driveway…:

Jeff took a deep breath.

“With the car running…

 Big-mouth bass impression.

“And one leg hanging out?”

“Oh, geez,” he protested. “I was just waitin’ for the end of the song.”

Quote for the Week: 2019 04 30 Some people assume the worst case scenario jakorte

Couched

To say that I’d become accustomed to coming home to some sort of weird situation, is putting it mildly.

This time, Jeff was sitting-up on our living room couch. His head was bent as if he were scrutinizing his foot-ware. It took me a moment to realize he was fast asleep.

The sitting-up-sleeping thing wasn’t the unusual part. It was the fact that he’d couched. We rarely used our formal living room, even though it was right inside our front door.

All the good stuff, like the TV, stereo, surround-sound, book cases and treadmill lived in the den. It was where we spent the majority of our evenings, at home.

He woke up as I finished rustling in. “Oh, hey!” he said, cheerfully, like he hadn’t been completely conked-out. “You’re home early!”

I checked my watch. It was, indeed, a few minutes earlier than normal. “You’re right,” I agreed. “It’s only 5:45.”

“Huh. 5:45?” Jeff frowned. “I was just resting a minute after… oops!”

Wind-milling his legs for propulsion, he pushed off the couch, unsteadily heading toward our Dale Earnhardt shrine-home office.

Paused in the doorway, Jeff threw his arms up in frustration. “Aw, dang it! I never got the groceries put up!”

“When did you go shopping?” I asked, following. Gathering up bags, Jeff answered, “On my way back from dropping off the boxes.”

“When was that?” I prodded. He thought for a few seconds.

“I dunno.” He replied, pulling on his beard. “Sometime around 2:30-ish, I guess. I think I was home by 3:30.”

I was still processing that Jeff had been shoe-inspecting, sleep-sitting for over two hours, when the house phone rang.

Grabbing a few bags on my way to the kitchen to answer the call, I commented over my shoulder. “The milk’s probably no good, but everything else should be ok.”

“The milk’s probably ok, too,” Jeff hopefully argued, as he followed me.

I wrinkled my nose. He just laughed, and headed back to the other end of the house for the rest of the goods.

“Well, you’re the one that’s going to have to drink it…” I amusedly called after him.

I set the groceries on the counter near the phone, and picked up the receiver.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Hon!” the cheerful voice on the other end greeted me. We were lucky enough to have the sweetest, most sunshiny neighbor.

“Oh, I’m just checkin'” she chuckled. “Did Jeff tell you about the car, today?”

“About the car?” I squeaked.

Quote for the Week:2019 04 23 Resiliency adaptation jakorte

 

Dog Gone, Repeat

It was more than a little bit my fault. I was going for the mail, when our mischievous little bit darted through the door on a Saturday afternoon. She silently slipped behind me, which was amazing, as she was an unusually heavy-footed pup. Stealth really wasn’t her style.

Sadie had slyly wedged herself against me as I  turned the door knob. I looked down at her adorable face and foolishly said, “Stay.” I don’t know why I thought that would work. Never had in the past.

She took it as an invitation to tag along. Sadie pushed through the slight crack, pranced down the drive, t turned a hard right without hesitation.

By the time I got to the street edge, she was out of my sight. I forcefully bellowed her name, hoping she’d hear me. It’s safe to assume most of the neighbors heard me, because Jeff showed up at the door.

Coming out of the house, he called down to me. “Why’re you calling her? Is she with you?”

I wailed the obvious. “No! She ran away!” Then, quickly requested, “You try calling her!”

Instead, Jeff did an about-face and headed back inside. “Let me get my shoes!” he tossed back-over his shoulder.

“Ugh! You don’t need shoes to shout!” I shouted, as the door closed behind him.

Left on my own, I started scouting for Sadie. Within seconds, I spotted her sneaky spots squeaking between two houses on the other side of the street. I headed that direction, only hesitating to glance toward the house when I heard the front door slam, again.

Jeff had wandered back outside, with a firm grip on his car keys and slippers on his feet.

Sadie heard the slam, too. She took off at a sprint, again, heading around the curved corner of our street.

“Argh! I think she’s just gone around the corner!” I informed my husband, assuming he was going to track her down by circling the neighborhood.

He didn’t. Instead, he just stood there next to our old beige Buick, repeatedly hitting the lock button. I surmised he was just having some sort of bumble trouble. But, I was wrong.

The car horn beep-blasts served as a Sadie beacon. She showed up panting and smiling. Just sat her cute little butt down by the driver’s door. Ready and waiting, eagerly watching Jeff.

“Whelp….’ Jeff tossed the keys from one palm to the other. “We need to go for a ride, now.”

“Um, no, we don’t.’ I countered. “Let’s not reward her for running away.”

“Oh, no.” Jeff shook his hands and head. “We’re not rewarding her for running away! We’re rewarding her for coming back!”

When it was obvious I wasn’t immediately following his train of thought, he clarified. “It’s happened before.”

Narrowing my scowl, I put my hands on my hips preparing to ask how it was that I didn’t know of this before, even though I knew the answer.

Before I could formulate an appropriate scorn, Jeff added an addendum.

“Besides,” he reasoned. “It’s a good day for an ice cream, anyway.”

I processed his Jeff-logic and realized the rub. Sadie knew what would happen if she wandered. Jeff knew what would happen if she wandered. That explained her carving a familiar path, and matched his lack of concern. They both waited patiently.

Of course, the ice-cream tricked worked on me, as well.  I laughed at them both, then headed inside to get my purse.

Those two were made for each other, and made for me, too.

Quote for the Week: 2019 04 02 a pleasurable punishment encourages repeat jakorte

 

 

 

Chucking Chuck

Splat.

It turned out that Jeff hadn’t been expecting me, at all. “No! No! Not you!” He exclaimed. “Sadie!” Jeff shouted and pointed. “It’s Sadie!” He waved his arms as he launched another piece of meat skyward, calling, “Here, Puppy, Puppy!”.

We completed an impressive, synchronized peer-over.

Hyper-girl was ping-ponging around, running a non-direct, Jack Russell route. She was making a bee-line toward the tree line, and Jeff was chucking chuck to get her to come back.

Our only slightly attentive lassie, was only slightly interested in what he had to say, but she was starting to sniff out the meat. Each morsel delay lasted about 2 seconds, then she’d turn her back and resume her directionally impaired run for freedom.

I resituated my grease-smudged glasses, and scooped the fallen bit from my sneaker top where it had finalized its landing. Struggling to quickly (aka ungracefully) open our escape-proof gate, I wasn’t exactly able to immediately bolt down the stairs.

Sadie saw me. Her homeward-galloping greeting was perfectly interrupted by another falling fragment. She was swift. I wasn’t swifter.

I had an advantage, though. By placing her tail-end toward me, I was in prime position to scoop up the little scoundrel just as she scarfed another bite of my supposed supper.

When she was safely back up-top, I set her down, and turned to Jeff. “How the heck did that happen?”

He’d been flipping a burger and caught a blur in the corner of his eye. When he fully turned towards it, he saw Sadie happily prancing along.

“Ok.” I said. “But, how did it happen? The gate was closed. I couldn’t get it open!”

“Hmm,” he remarked. “I kinda wondered what you were doing….”

Jeff and I mirrored surprise faces, and simultaneously scanned. She’d ghosted.

Sadie Bug Lady Bug and I played a one-sided game of tag, for a 5-minute while. Jeff watched and coached, offering wrangling advice and helpful stealth tactics. I finally got her.

Carrying Her Highness of Happiness up the stairs, again, I proposed we watch her to figure out her Houdini act. I waited at the bottom of the stairs. Jeff waited atop; at the barrier.

Soon enough, a patchwork head and two frisky paws popped through to the right of the door.

She was about to make a jump for it, but Jeff snagged her wiggly butt and hauled her back.

Sadie had, somewhat smartly, squeezed between the wider, wooden railing slats, and jumped down to the steps. We remedied with additional, in-between slats.

Since, we weren’t sure she’d be able to gauge the inappropriateness of a 5-foot leap to the ground, Sadie’s future deck-scapades were seriously supervised.

There were a few other canine escapes. The first one was accidentally resolved, which might have made my latter incident easier to resolve. If I’d known about that first one….

Quote for the Week: 2019 03 26 Where there’s a will there’s way jakorte

 

 

That Looks Easy….

Jeff’s penchant for home improvement shows came in handy, sort of.

If you watch enough of them, you’ll absorb some basic knowledge. Most of that will need to be supplemented by online videos, step-by-step instructions or just jumping into the deep end to see how it goes.

Basic knowledge was enough to get me through numerous post Hurricane Katrina rebuilding missions with a construction based Michigan team, and various issues at home alone, later.

If Jeff was still here, he’d be telling humorous stories about some of our least successful attempts at home repair and renovation. We’d always start out thinking, “That looks easy enough.” We’d always end up bickering, and then, laughing at our bickering.

In mid-September, we finished an attempt to ‘easily’ replace the gate at the top of the back deck stairs. We needed one that  our dog, Sadie, wouldn’t be able to plow through, wiggle through or accidentally (or maybe not so accidentally) open. She’d managed to escape a few times, in all those ways.

The installation, actually, went pretty well. We had it done in a little under an hour, and tested our work. That’s when we realized we’d installed it to open the wrong way, by setting it in place upside-down.

“I thought that seemed a little harder than normal,” Jeff commented. Also, more difficult than ‘normal,’ the hardware wasn’t easily removed. Parts of screws broke off or were stripped, nuts fell between the cracks and tumbled down our long flight of stairs.

A lot of banging, two trips to the hardware store and four hours later, we were finished. To celebrate, Jeff suggested we fire up our newly repaired grill and cook-out.

The grill had been another frustrating fiasco. A 15-minute fix turned into two-hours of gentle Jeff cussing while installing a new lighter thingy.

I was inside cutting tomatoes and onions and gathering impromptu picnic supplies, when I heard Jeff shout.

“What the?”

“WHAT the?”

“Hey!”

“HEY!”

“Come here, YOU!”

As I ran to the slider, his voice volume was over-excitedly escalating.

“HEY!”

“Ouch!”

“Come HERE!”

“OUCH!”

Stupefied, I watched him pull and throw chucks of sizzling beef over the 5-foot drop at the back of our deck.

“Jeff!” Alarmingly concerned about his mental state, I slammed the screen door open. Suspecting he was having some sort of serious negative medication reaction, I blurted out, “I’m right here! What are you doing?”

Startled, he turned quickly, giving me a incredulous look, like I was the weirdo in this situation.

His stop-arm reaction time was a bit slower than his body turning time. Set in motion for an airborne release, he lobbed a glob of barely cooked ground in my direction.

I watched it wobble in a somewhat graceful arc, my mental slow-mo calculating: no – that’s not gonna happen.

It happened. Direct hit to my face.

Quote for the Week:2019 03 19 Nothing is ever fool proof jakorte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cards, Stacked

There were obviously more cards from Jeff, but those were the ones I kept.

There were obviously cards going the other way, too – from me to Jeff.  Two at a time. Always, one funny and one serious.

When it came time to move out of our home, I pared down. I waded through our shared stacks. I discarded most of the me-to-him. My thought process was that he would never be reading them again, so there was no point in keeping them. However, I found two of them in the card box, amongst the him-to-me.

For our first anniversary, I handmade the serious one. It was just one simple sheet of plain red cardstock, plainly folded in half. The only embellishment added was a left-over gold foil, double-heart seal we’d used on our wedding invitations.

I wanted the message to stand on its own. The outside read, “I meant it when I said….” On the inside, I’d re-printed the vocal vows I made to Jeff on our wedding day.

I do not know which anniversary the second card was for. We only celebrated four of those, so it was either the second or the third or the fourth. Store-bought, it reminds me of the snowman card; same subject. Another way to answer to Jeff’s rote retort, “I don’t know why.”

The last two cards I saved from Jeff were life lessons for me. The subjects aren’t all that happy.

The first one came from an incident where I was once again harping about his health and bad habits and chewing tobacco. Jeff stood on one side of the bed; I was on the other side. “You must not love me very much,” I’d snarked.  “I’m trying,” he mumbled back. I shouted, “Stop TRYING and just do it!”

” I’M … TRYING…” he snapped back at ramped up volume. Stomping his feet and throwing his arms wide for exclamation, his eyes filled with frustration and failure.

That look broke my heart. He wasn’t a failure. He was just unfairly up against some highly stacked odds.  I knew no matter how much I nagged, Jeff quiting the killing tobacco wasn’t going to make him ‘get better.’

I just couldn’t understand why he’d choose to exacerbate and accelerate with vile chew. Hindsight, I know now it wouldn’t have mattered. We’d have argued a lot less if I’d realized that, then.

“Come sit with me,” I said. We sat on our bed, and held onto each other. “I don’t want you to die,” I whispered. “You wouldn’t be so lucky,” he teased, with quiet laugh. “I’m gonna live ’til I’m 80. You’ll see – I’m gonna be a grumpy ol’ man, just like my Dad.”

As unusual as it was for Jeff to have the last word in an argument, that was the end of that. He’d emphatically expressed he was trying, so I backed-off and let it drop.

Three days later, he handed me a card.

Quote for the Week:

2019 01 29 if someone says it better than you jakorte

That time when someone said it better; perfectly.

2019 01 29 if someone says it better than you slide 2 jakorte 01 28 2019

 

 

Tah Dah! (and other love notes)

We weren’t lighting the world, the state or even the city up, but the Michigan Hot Sauce Club was our baby. If we sold one or two of something, we’d order one or two more, plus a new product or two until we’d reach free shipping status. Jeff had long and real conversations with our suppliers. I came across many of them while going through his email after he passed away.

I also have a good number of interesting and humorous exchanges between us. At first, I held onto them accidentally. Clearing out email wasn’t even something I’d ever considered doing, for which I am thankful. I’ve held onto them for a long time, now, considering most of them are 12-15 years old. I haven’t shared them before, but now seems like a good time.  So, keeping in mind we were married in 2001, went through deaths of multiple family members and Jeff’s health was failing, here comes a small sampling of some of the best support we offered each other.

05/06/2004 Re; hello?

Me: I love you!

Jeff: wooo hooo!!!! can ya see me do the snoopy dance? ? ? you love me!!! and I love you!!!

05/10/2004 Re: ok… so…

Me: I love you more than the never-ending blue sky that is always around when you are. kisses. me.

Jeff: I think you just made my day … my week… my month… my life… I love youuuuuuuu

09/16/2004 Re: Christmas cards

Me: We have blank card stock, so we need envelopes, but here is my idea [for MHSC]…. Happy Jala-Days!

Jeff: sometimes I think I would like to crawl inside your head, just to see how you think up all your great ideas.

01/05/2005

Jeff: I can’t remember if I told you that I loved you this morning… so just to make sure…. I LOVE YOU! Jeff

01/19/2005 Re: American Idol

Jeff: Well shoot. We missed American Idol last night. But I really enjoyed snuggling up together and reading last night. I love you. Bubba

02/09/2005 Re: nothing but trouble

Jeff: You are the GREATEST wife in the world. I don’t know what I would be doing without you. Probably be locked in the basement at Gary & Mom’s is my guess. I’m so glad you came into my life. I hate it when I get short and grumpy at you. I feel like such a heel when I let myself do that. I think for Lent I will give up arguing with you. Oh, did I tell you lately that I love you? Well, just in case I haven’t…. I LOVE YOUUUUU!! If I could get up on the roof of OUR house, I would shout it from the rooftops for all to know and hear! Will you be my Valentine??

03/07/2005

Jeff: We can get schmaltz from the mustard guy

07/01/2005

Me: Almost quitting time. Looking forward to our long weekend! Do you know when the fireworks start?

Jeff: I’m hoping tonight when you get home. 😉

02/14/2006

Jeff: Gappy Valentine’s Day! oxoxox. I LOVE YOU!! TAH DAH! (He was missing a front tooth.)

06/27/2006

Jeff: it’s raining cats & dogs. I just stepped in a poodle!

08/31/2006

Jeff: I LOVE YOU!! TAH DAH!

09/22/2006

Jeff: Seasonings Affective Disorder = the need 2 kick things up a notch when they taste fine the way they are.

Quote for the Week:

2018 04 10 the secret to any good relationship sticky notes jakorte 04 10 2018

I Wish You Could Enjoy This Week’s Discovery Link:

Unfortunately, I’ve spent about an hour and a half searching for the source of our “Tah Dah!” It came from a TV program Jeff and I watched one night featuring a humorous inspirational blonde woman speaker; I believe from Australia. Her two key phrases and matching gestures were “Get Over It!” and “Tah Dah!”

Tah Dah.