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Monday, Jan. 31, 2005
Boy, where did that month week go, eh?

I found it’s a lot easier to make a lot of diary entry’s when you’re strapped to a recliner on a daily basis, chasing shots of orange juice with handfuls of prescription pills as if they were so many beer nuts. Funny - just about the time I ran out of pills was the time I started feeling a lot better. Is it suppose to work that way?

I actually did start and restart a long tale of woe about the current Corporate Project, but it’s so difficult to get the imagery right I think I’ll leave it alone for now. The short synopsis would be: We’re building several high class mahogany store fixtures, they’re big and have a dark stain, they’ll be just delightful when finished. The twist? We’re fabricating them in Stu’s garage. Which you could appreciate if you’ve ever tried to paint a live alligator in a broom closet. I mean sure, you can do it, but it’s just not the most efficient means to the end if you get my drift.

Once in a while I’ll run into a smiling young couple, sitting at the Watering Hole or somewhere, misty eyed and doing that whole “I’m just gonna keep my arms wrapped around you ‘cause you’re so mine and I don’t want you to get away” sort of courtship dance. They’re so hopelessly in love, so blissfully unaware of anyone else in the room. Other folks will jab an elbow and say “Nice, isn’t it? I hear they’re getting married come Spring, isn’t that nice? Good looking pair, too. Oh it’s so nice for them.”

Dependant on the amount of time I’ve spent in the bar I might just go over and say hi, good to see you both, when’s the wedding? Or, and this is the more likely scenario, I might just raise a glass from across the bar and boom out “Hear yer gettin’ married! Well that’s all swell and all but just don’t ever have kids! Never! Don’t ever have kids, ye hear me?”

I’ve been telling people this for years with mixed results. But if they ever had a few hours to sit and listen to my stories I could guarantee you a population drop.

Because you don’t ever want to have kids. I got three of ‘em. Trust me.

This weekend Beth the Eldest moved out of her first apartment. The year long lease was up and it was time to escape the ghetto confines of the largish complex she’d signed on to. I’ve been wondering how it’s possible to have a ghetto apartment complex in the middle of suburbia for, oh . . . just about a year now and I can’t say that I’ve come up with an answer but that’s not the issue. The mission was to get her moved out, then moved into another place. In one day.

The troops were summoned, that being Ally and I along with Ben (never let it be said that 17 year old lads aren’t good for something - you really want one of those on moving day) along with a couple of Beth’s friends, and many vehicles were mustered, including the all important Corporate box truck.

And Ally and I stood outside the apartment, freezing in the mornings first light, gazeing up at the second floor landing where boxes were already staged, and wondered for the 2,671st time “Why did we ever have kids?”

It is, of course, a directive from somewhere on high that all apartments rented to someone’s kid be on the second floor or higher, because stairs become us, they truly do. Ben and I humped and huffed and toted and stuffed a collection of furniture and junk for hours. It’s weird, moving your child because you see all of this stuff that looks so familiar. “Hey Ally, Beth’s got the same kind of dresser and bed stands that we used to have, see? Isn’t that strange? And look, here’s a beat-up old recliner that looks just like the one you were wanting to throw out last year. Boy, it weighs just as much too” as your wife stands and rolls eyes and makes comments about memory loss and the effects that beer has on the old and feeble of mind.

I could make comments too, about how wives are selective in what they tell their husbands, and how blaming it on memory loss is just a pitiful excuse for the reality of the whole situation, but what fun would that be? And when the air is cold and the furniture is heavy I tend to save my strength for the task at hand, after all.

The packing was all accomplished in good time and I was collapsing against the tall sides of the box truck, awaiting stage two, when Ally happened to walk by. “Gee,” I opined. “I sure hope everything is cleared out at the next stop.”

Now the ‘next stop’ just happened to be the house of Ally’s sister, who lives with her husband in a fairly new place, and one with a vacant second floor. A second floor which, of course, had stairs leading to it. That much I knew.

“Oh I’m sure it will be” she said. “Mother’s been over there cleaning it out this morning and getting it ready.”

“Mother? As in, your mother? Where on earth are your sister and her husband?”

“Oh they decided at the last minute to take a weekend in Orlando.”

Well now then. And do I even have to say it? Because I’ve always liked my sister-in-law and her husband. But they have no kids. Orlando on a weekend is just a whim and a credit card away. And there’s something about people with no kids. They know trouble when they see it coming and have the good sense to get the hell out of the way. That’s a function of the brain that childrearing pounds into submission over and over again.

So Ben and I jumped in the box truck and made the ride, with him giggling and asking at least twice “Did Mom say that Nanna is going to be over at the house? Boy Dad, I’ll bet you’re glad to hear that.”

Oh yes, my son. The joy fills me like the prospect of flat kegged beer on a summers day, it does. Warm flat beer, at that.

Suffice to say, and I’m not so sure that this isn’t what my wife had in mind all along, that the unloading of the trucks was accomplished at a speed worthy of ten men being paid double time for a particularly unsavory task. The spectre of the mother-in-law is powerful indeed, my friends.

And after dropping Ben off, I hoofed it over to the Watering Hole to let Chief Mo remind me, yet again, why I should never have kids. He is thorough, is the Chief. He reminded me many times.

There’s something about muscling furniture around for the better part of a day that just makes you glad there’s a Sunday to get over it, and I was in deep repose yesterday morning with the remote and the TV, trying to work out some semblance of a viewing schedule for a day without football in the middle of winter.

It must have been a trying day of moving for my wife as well, for she staggered downstairs even later than usual for a Sunday, which is to say she missed breakfast entirely and was face first into the last of the coffee by the time I’d watched SportsCenter for the third go around.

My wife, shall we say, takes her time at the whole business of becoming conscious in the morning. There’s none of this quick dash of caffeine and hop to it activity about Ally, especially on a weekend. So a good hour wandered by before she happened to check her cell phone for messages. Messages from, you know, the kids we shouldn’t have had, but who frequently call at hours normally reserved for people far younger than ourselves.

I could hear her in the kitchen, mumbling something to the phone after listening to one of those messages. Something that sounded suspiciously like “Oh what the blue hell now?” followed by a deep and alarming sigh.

She ambled straight to me, of course. “You’d best put yourself on a state of alert here, husband. Maggie’s stranded on a mountain and can’t get off.”

Visions of my middlest child dangling from a rope or tied off to an ice pick had their moment, but I know better than to stop my wife in mid-explanation. There was evidently a story here, somewhere.

“Seems her ride to Evergreen took off in the middle of the night and all her stuff was in the trunk and she’s stuck there.”

“Now wait just a minute,” I said. “Can you give me the background now and save me all that trouble asking about stuff that I’m already supposed to know? You know, all the stuff you told me days ago that I’ve forgotten now, in my geezer delirium?”

Again, there is that whole wife with kids thing going on, who frequently tells me schedules and itineraries when I’m half asleep so that she can roust the conversation up days later with an exasperated “But I told you about this last week! Don’t tell me you don’t remember!”

I know this behavioral pattern, and have learned to peacefully coexist with it by adopting a pleasant and laid back personality. If you’re a male and you don’t know how this works, you’ve not been married long enough, and you surely don’t have any kids.

Ally ticked off the facts. “She went skiing at the resort this weekend with friends. Was spending the night there. The resort was Evergreen. It’s in the mountains. She called me from some hotel up there and said she didn’t have her cell phone, mentioned something about a series of unfortunate events . . .”

“So she’s up there with no ride and no stuff? And no cell phone? Oh isn’t this just peachy.”

It helps to know that the resort in question is about a four hour ride from me, is indeed a mountain and a damn big one. Thousands of acres and thousands of ski lodges and skiers. Good place to go looking for someone with no phone, no money and no ride.

You go through a lot of emotions at times like these. Anger, of course, at the fact that someone dumped your kid off with no support in the middle of the wilderness, even if it is a civilized wilderness. Worry, there’s always that. You look at your spouse and the two of you cope with it by saying “Kids . . .” with a shake of the head and letting it go, because sometimes there’s nothing much more to say than that. Not if you want to keep your sanity, that is, and keep a wife from tears.

I always opt for the practical, and got maps ready, and figured mileage and gas requirements. And when you’re a Dad, you take a half serious look at the Remington on the wall, and congratulate yourself that you stocked up on shells just a month ago. Birdshot, which is handy since there hasn’t been any bodily harm inflicted just yet, and birdshot is mild enough for this sort of thing.

Then you do the one thing which you do as a parent all the time. You wait.

You wait for a call to come, and you hope it’s early enough so that you can get on the road and finish the rescue mission before darkness sets in. You wait and remember and stare dolefully at pictures of kids on the wall. Mostly, you just wait.

At 3 in the afternoon the call finally came and Ally took it.

“You’ve got a ride? And it’s with people you know, and you’re leaving now?”

I mentally put the Remington back on the wall, put the maps away, canceled the call to Stu to marshal up the extra truckload of large lads with grim faces and let Ally finish the call.

I was almost placid. “So she’s inbound? And all we have to do is wait for some 19 year old to drive Maggie down the mountain and back here, eh? Good, well I’m glad that’s all settled. What’s for dinner, anyway?”

And she did show up some 4 hours later, with bags and phone and stuff, and a tale of snowbound adventure straight out of a bad Jack London novel. Although she did, in the best of the Maggie way, get in some excellent skiing for all the ensuing drama. The telling of which occupied her for almost an hour, and if it didn’t involve the blundering of teenagers and all the things that kids learn not to do when on their own in the world would almost be worth telling. But I won’t.

It is enough to say that one should never have kids in the first place.

Not that anyone ever believes me.

And to hear my wife talk, they’re not listening, either.

Five minutes ago we heard that the ghetto apartment complex Beth moved out of this weekend had a shooting, and some kid was killed. Some 20 year old kid.

Beth’s 20. She didn’t know the victim, or the shooter either. But then, it was a big ghetto sort of a complex.

Not nearly big enough, if you ask me.

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