Old stories. #2:
I know for a fact that grown men whimper.
I don’t remember the first time I heard Jeff whimper, but it probably had something to do with some expensive Dale Earnhardt Sr 1:24 die-cast replicate race car.
I do remember one quite clearly, though.
Kmart was closing a few Michigan locations, so we took a drive out to one to see about bargains. The one we ended up at was nearly done-in. The place was a disaster; people were taking things off racks and shelves, opening and destroying boxes and leaving items mid-aisle.
I was just about to drag him out of that madhouse when we rolled by an aisle with – gasp – tools!
“Oooooo,” he murmured. Eyes wide, he radared every shelf. I don’t know how he saw it, but well-hidden, stacked behind some really traumatized boxes was a brand new scroll saw with it’s own folding workbench.
He dragged it out for inspection, carefully searching for any signs that it might have been opened before, returned or damaged in any way. Then, cautiously and thoroughly reviewed the “before and after,” markdown pricelist, dragging his finger down the display.
“Oooooo,” he gasped, peering closely. I could see the dreamy dollar signs in his glazed-over look.
“How much?” I asked.
“It was $215.00,” he marveled.
“How much?” I asked.
“It was already marked down to $115.00,” he cooed
“Jeff!” I snapped my fingers hoping to bring him back, because he was clearly swirling into the “I don’t think I can live without this piece of equipment,” abyss.
“How much?” I asked, again.
.Jeff tentatively smiled as he lovingly patted the box and solemnly spoke. “$62.50.”
“I don’t know, Jeff,” I hedged. “What would you use it for?”
“Lots of things,” he insisted. Earnestly adding, “for the store! um, and… making stuff!”
“I just don’t think we can afford that right now, honey,” I said, trying to let him down easy.
Certain he would bow to my logic, I wheeled the empty cart around to leave.
That’s when I heard it. The whimper.
I was so surprised I stopped right in my tracks and turned to stare at him.
The whimper came with a face I had never seen before – one way more serious than puppy-dog eyes.
Eyes still foggy with scroll-lust, bottom lip tucked in under his teeth, still touching the sacred saw, he barely shuffled away from the hand-magnetizing carton.
He truly tried to take another step toward me, moving maybe an entire inch, arm about 20 degrees behind him.
Then he whimpered, again.
“Ok,” I said. “Throw it in the cart.”
He did. Grinning and with ninja speed.
“Quit smiling like that,” I good-naturedly grumbled. “You’re gonna split your face wide open and I don’t wanna spend another night in the emergency room with you.”
Jeff just kept twinkle-smiling. I twinkle-smiled back.
Quote for the Week:
I didn’t have to listen to AC/DC on the way home, either, but, I happily did.
Jeff was asleep before we even made it to the highway, not five minutes away. I was tired, too, so high-energy, head-banging was necessary.
It’s hard to fall asleep while scream-singing. Actually, I’ve never fallen asleep singing. I’ve never fallen asleep eating, for that matter.
Multiple trips from Nashville to Michigan, and back, were always well stocked. Eating M&M’s one at a time. Munching mini pretzels. Chocolate covered raisins, only on the overnight drives, to avoid messy melt.
Anyway, I had no food stuff for this short trip. I wasn’t hungry anyway, because we’d eaten. But, I did have Jeff’s chosen music that, historically, sounded best played loud. So, that is what I did.
Jeff slept through. He didn’t stir when we slowed. He didn’t notice when exiting where Interstate 94 meets US 223.
There were a few, follow-the-roadway-to-the-right, definite stay-awake curves to navigate on our usual route home. I’ve been looking at a map to try and match the terrain and the place logic.
It might have been near the Slee Highway intersection, or, might have been Gilbert Road – a little further down. I’d have to drive it again to be sure. Maybe, I’ll do that on some future western-to-northern excursion, just to pin point the memory.
If he’d been awake, Jeff would have probably launched into his habit of mimicking NASCAR announcers. “A- rrrround the corner we gooooo!” Jeff (also, sort of often) used the saying to express the notion that I’d cut a street corner a little close, for him.
Fair enough, since I almost amputated his already bleeding leg, that time I pulled into Herrick Hospital. Silly enough, even though he was totally zonked out, the lovingly familiar, would-be comment, floated around in my head.
It popped up out of nowhere on the approach; a double rainbow, though there hadn’t been any rain. At least, none that we drove through. Travelling 55 mph, in the time it took me to second glance, the sight had significantly changed.
I pulled over abruptly, but Jeff didn’t budge. I called out. I shook his shoulder. I yelled, and pushed some more.
Panicked, but not sure why, I resorted to louder stimuli. I blew the car horn three times, in quick succession, then, let one long loud one linger.
That sort of worked.
Quote for the Week:
It’s been a short decade since New Year’s Day became my dedicated day for sorting miscellaneous paperwork and receipts and preparing to file taxes.
It’s an unfortunate luxury; having time to dedicate.
There wasn’t that kind of time in my life with Jeff. We were too busy cramming love and fun in between hospital visits and medical appointments.
Fun was anything and everything.
Eating dinner. Folding laundry. Grocery runs. Anything hot sauce or store related. Puppy playtime. Kitty cuddle time. Diner breakfasts. Church. Anything NASCAR. Talking about our day. Watching TV. Just being in the same room together. Anything we did, together.
Fun was everything, every day.
Except for the scary moments, hours, sometimes days of broadening health failures. Those were downs. The downs started coming more quickly in 2006.
Medication adjustments didn’t always solve the problem. Jeff was unhealthy enough to be excluded from certain paths. Being told Jeff didn’t qualify for next level treatments, wrecked me. Many times, it seemed I’d be more upset than he was.
“Let’s just leave it,” he’d sigh. “Docs know what they’re doin’. They went to school for that.”
He’d say, “Don’t be upset. It wasn’t meant to be.”
Or, he’d say, “It’s ok. Something better will come up.”
It wasn’t ok with me. I searched out medical articles, suggested seeing different doctors, trying non-medical over-the-counter remedies. I checked on available studies and made him apply.
He did get into one. Before the wrist band fitness tracker craze, Jeff was given a combination glucometer/pedometer that had the ability to down-load data and a variety of noise choices.
They day he got it, I was in the kitchen emptying my lunch bag after work, when Jeff strolled in.
Hey, check this out!” he laughed. “The faster you go, the faster the music….”
He then proceeded to take circular baby-steps while wildly swinging the pedometer. The music sped up to a maniacal pace.
“That isn’t really getting you anywhere,” I scowled. “Yeah, I know,” he shrugged. “But, I’d never be able to make it go that fast walkin’ and it sure is fun!”
I was disappointed when he did not get into a test-trial for a new drug formulation. “Well,” he commented after reading the rejection letter. “It was just another pill, anyway, and my tackle box is full-up.”
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When Jeff was ready to continue, we set out slow walking. It was obvious to everyone who scooted around us, that there was a problem. It really got him down. We made it into the stands and stood for a while at the bottom looking up. The trudging climbers didn’t seem to bothered by the pace.
“C’mon,” I tugged his hand. “Let’s go…” He was dubious, but shuffled forward.
When the upward surging mass stalled, Jeff held on tightly to the rail. “My legs are shaking,” he told me. “That’s ok!” I replied. “You’ll be stompin’ in your seat shortly.” He gave me a little head shake smile, as the crowd crept along. We plodded on, keeping time with the slow bobbing waves of heads. “One foot in front of the other…” I sang off key. He chuckled.
When we’d made it, we both collapsed in our seats. “We made it!” I cheered. “I feel like Rocky…” Jeff huffed. “… after a few rounds.”
Not sure how we lucked out, but we had two seats on the end of the row, which meant Jeff could stand up and sit down easily. Eventually, we both caught our breath, and set about the business of setting up in the stands.
Jeff divvied up the headsets, which sadly were really only brought along for ear comfort. They’d previously hooked up to a radio, set to track channels. We’d listen to pit crews, his favorite drivers and even announcer chatter.
He handed me the binoculars and kept the camera, slung around his neck. Jeff surveyed the situation and sighed. “I hope I don’t gotta go….”
I was looking down re-stashing the sunblock we’d just slathered on the back of our necks, when a shadow came over us. I looked up and caught the tail end of a fighter jet just as it soared out of view. Jeff’s hat came off, smacking me in the face. I reflexively reached up, opening my hand to catch the cap. The sunblock sailed forward and beaned the gentleman in front of me.
In those few seconds of mayhem, the clocked by sunblock fellow turned around. Jeff stepped closer to me, raising his eyebrows and hands in apology. I involuntarily shrieked in surprise as the sonic boom hit. I slapped both hands over my ears as they painfully popped. I’d just experienced my first fly over directly in the path of a fly over. Frozen in place, I stared at Jeff.
He surveyed me quizzically, quickly surmised my shock and threw out his own boom. Jeff’s contagious laugh caught on, as usual. Those around us grinned, chortled, chuckled, and very nicely returned our strewn belongings.
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