It’s hard to be writing about December and January when Dad is out in the yard. He put on his overalls, an orange plaid long-sleeved shirt, and his farmer’s hat. He’s already got his garden going, with a row of cabbage, He came to The Cellar door to ask what he could do for me in the flower beds. I put him to work pulling weeds in the lower garden. It’s the largest one and the weediest, too! I see now he’s swapped the plaid shirt for a grey t-shirt and the overalls for his shorts and kneepads.
I always turn Dad loose in my gardens at my own risk. He doesn’t see well and sometimes he gets aggressive about the weeding and happens upon a perennial that he doesn’t recognize as a good thing. It’s no disaster, I just go find some more and call the amount I lost “entertainment.”
Speaking of disasters, I left this story last time on December 22 at a restaurant in Mt. Juliet where Jaxton introduced us to his sister who is set to arrive in June. We left the restaurant in two vehicles to go to Jellystone Park’s Christmas Lights and Village. Jade and Anjie were in front of us. Darrin and Dana rode with us.
We knew we were in a bit of trouble when we saw the long line waiting to get off the interstate at the Opryland exit, the path to Jellystone. We chatted back and forth on our cell phones a few times, and I took a picture of a tree we could see from the interstate. The line finally started to move, but it wasn’t going fast. I surmised that each time they let in the quota to the park, the line moves and then it stops until that bunch comes out of Jellystone. I really don’t know if that is accurate; I do know we sat there–and crept forward a little–for a long time.
I heard whispering from the back seat. “What?”
“I’ve got to go to the restroom,” Dana said.
“Oh me, we’re not in any position to get out of this line,” I said.
She decided she could hold it for a while. We crept forward. Dana only complained one more time. “I have GOT to go.” Didn’t sound good. Dave told the story about the time that we were halted on a drive to North Carolina and spent two hours waiting for a lane to open through one of the mountain tunnels.
I was in Dana’s shape. “I can’t wait any longer. I’m going to just hike out there beyond those bushes,” I said. “Nobody will see me there.”
I had a good start on the tromp across that dry, grassy rock field when a man in a car behind us called out, “Miss! Miss! Watch out for the snakes!”
I turned around. “Snakes?” When he didn’t answer, I yelled, “I’m not really afraid of them. I’ve got to go….” I started toward the bushes again.
His reply was just one word. “Rattlesnakes!”
I spun around and got back to our vehicle much quicker than I had made my way toward the makeshift toilet. I no longer had to go.
Then he told the story about his college summer job of surveying on the Wyoming-Montana border. “We found seventy-five rattlesnakes, and I bet I found sixty of them.”
“That’s because that one bit you,” I said.
“Did you get bit by a rattlesnake?” Dana asked.
“Yeah, on my calf.”
“What did they do?” she asked.
“Oh, they had a snakebite kit, so they lanced the bite, and I took anti-venom and they took me on to the hospital.” He paused. “I hate snakes.”
We told more snake stories. Dave finally asked, “Why are we telling snake stories? I hate snakes.”
As we finally got closer to the exit, going right instead of left looked so much more attractive. Left would take us–maybe by morning–to Jellystone Park. Right would take us toward Donelson and the interstate. I think we all spoke at the same time. “Let’s go right…. Let’s quit this sh*t…. Let’s go home…. Go right, go right! Somebody call Jade and tell him we’re getting out of line to go home.”
Jade had come to the same conclusion.
I told Dana we’d stop as soon as we could find a bathroom. Up popped McDonald’s. Yayyyyyy! The whole van-load cheered for the golden arches. I’d barely claimed a parking spot when Dana bolted. Somebody suggested that we drink milkshakes since there seemed to be a fine special–and then there was the ambience!
The McDonald’s was an unusual one, with a lovely and homey seating area in front of a fireplace, in addition to the normal dining room. We perched on the couches and chairs and slurped up our chocolate slurpies and congratulated McDonald’s for such a fine gathering place. Who should walk in but Jade? We laughed. “So you had to go to the bathroom, too?”
“Oh, man,” he said.
“We decided to stay here and drink milkshakes–they’re two for one. I bet Jaxton is asleep.”
“Oh yeah, he was gone by the time we got in the line. I better go ask Anjie if she wants a shake.” She did.
“What’s the status of your repairs?” Darrin asked.
“Oh, they’re done. I mean, the plumbers are. The flooring is supposed to be installed January 8.”
“How about the van?”
“It goes in the shop Monday–or is it Tuesday….”
Now that we’ve had some separation time, we think it was December 23rd, whatever day that was. A young man from Enterprise picked me up at Service King to take me to the lot to get a rental–which insurance was paying for! Dave and I agreed to get the largest vehicle that we could without paying extra.
They put me in a Toyota Prius and taught me how to drive it. Actually, the little guy taught me how to start it and tried to sell me extra insurance–just in case something happened while I was driving it.
“Oh, by the way,” he said, “there’s no gas in this car! Somebody returned it empty, I guess. Well, you just drive out of here and turn left into that Exxon station. I do think I’d get some gas before going home.”
I did as he suggested and finally managed to load fifteen dollars’ worth in the little thing’s tank and started to go home. It was cold and it was dark. I couldn’t tell who was behind me, or liable to be behind me in a couple moments. I finally got out and looked before I pulled out.
“This is crazy,” I thought. I turned right instead of left and pulled back into the Enterprise lot.
“Can we help you?” the nice girl at the counter asked.
“Yes,” I said, “I don’t think I can drive this car. I can’t see out.”
“You can’t see out where?”
“Any place, front or back. What else can you rent to me?”
“Well, we have some larger vehicles but you’d need to pay the amount that the insurance won’t pay.”
What they wanted for a one-level upgrade was exactly twice the insurance provision.
“You don’t have anything in this class–what is this, mid-size?” I asked.
“No, that’s our full-size [or maybe she said ‘intermediate size’–either way, it’s a stretch] …and we just don’t have anything else.”
It was cold. It was dark. I wanted to go home. “Okay, fine. It’ll be a wonder if I don’t kill myself in this thing,” I mumbled.
The first thing I said to Dave when I got home was, “Oh, Lord, Dave, you won’t believe this.”
No, he did not want to learn to drive the Prius. After all, he wouldn’t be able to drive at all after his shoulder surgery on January 5.
Surely to goodness we’ll have the van back by January 5, I thought.
The first time he rode shotgun with me, he said, “I don’t know how you see out of this thing.” The first time we pushed Mom and Dad, rump first, into the Prius, I wondered how we’d ever get them out.
Mom said it like she thought it, “This thing is a tin can.”
Christmas Eve–and Day–were uneventful. We still did some traditional cooking, but both days were quiet. “Not like Christmas,” I said.
All the women exchanged emails about a possible redeux for the Festivus/Christmas Vacation party. “We already have the meat,” Vicky said. “What if we do it New Year’s Day? Somebody’s going to cook that day, anyway.”
So we all got our “bring this” assignments and planned for our big day. Some of us decided to wear costumes, most didn’t. Mom wore her Mrs. Senior Smith County tiara and sash. I wore Tonto and took some extra clothes.
Jerry Wong wanted us to guess. “Who am I?” he asked. He insisted he was dressed in costume. We couldn’t see it.
“Well, I should be the one to wear that Tonto stuff,” he said.
“You mean it would go with your costume?” I asked.
“Give up, I’m a half Chinese, half Indian.” Family joke, I guess. Jerry and his brothers really are half Chinese, and half Native American.
When Jameson saw that GrandmaMA and I were costumed, he announced he would be back in a few–and went to prepare himself.
He stepped back into the room as Cousin Eddie.
Carly had fun opening birthday presents. Several of us pooled our pennies to buy an American Girl doll, this year’s ballerina, Isabelle. We also got the barre and some other totally necessary supplies and equipment. And for that, she let us have some of her Rice Krispy Treat Cake.
We discussed the year’s activities. John and Jade have an insurance company, Graham’s Insurance, in Lebanon. Jade runs it while John works for himself in recovering overpayments to healthcare providers.
“We’re doing well,” Jade said of the insurance agency. He moved toward pensive. “We would have made good money this year if it weren’t for family.”
Dave said, “Our roof was last year.”
“Yeah, we put a roof on Anjie’s mom’s house, and then y’all have that big claim for the leak, and then the van…” There was more. Much more. I don’t want to expose anybody.
John summed it up. “What we need is some more clients that are also total strangers.”
We made away with a fabulous beef tenderloin dinner and pronounced the day a rousing success–especially since the sick were now somewhat well, and we had finally got some quality celebrating under our belts. We loaded the Prius when Dad started looking tired.
“Everybody buckled in?” I asked, as usual. “Dad, move a little to your right. I can’t see.”
Cru-u-u-u-u-nch. “Oh!” and “Uh-oh” and “Oh, shit, I’ve hit Jerry Wong’s car!”
Jade was the first person out of the house.
I drove over to Enterprise the next day to give them the latest scoop.
The nice young woman in management smiled. “Oh, dear. That’s why I always suggest that extra coverage.”
“Well, here’s what I would like to suggest. I think you ought to have something on the lot in every class that a normal person could drive.”
The discussion that followed was, um, amicable, but it ended with “Well, no, I wouldn’t recommend you to anyone. I think if someone drives back in and says, ‘I can’t drive this vehicle,’ it would behoove you to come up with something different.”
I turned toward the counter. “Do I need to pay anything today?”
“No, we’ll settle up when you return the vehicle. You can drive it, can’t you?”
“Well, IT will drive.” Then I added, turning to leave, “I told you before I couldn’t drive the damn thing.”
Not much discussion about Jerry Wong’s car, in spite of my long rendition of how it all happened, but I suppose Enterprise really had no dog in the Wongster’s hunt.
Service King was slow to finish the work on the van, what with holidays and a flu epidemic in Nashville. I drove the wrecked Prius… and I drove the wrecked Prius some more. Every two days, Service King sent a text promising me “we’ll have your car ready soon.” I prayed for an end to my torment.
One day, I stopped at Lowe’s to choose some moulding for the flooring. (Someone from Lowe’s had called to leave a message on the home phone. It seemed that my original choice was no longer available.) I parked the Prius in handicapped parking–Yes, I know that I am not handicapped, but I do have Dad’s tag in the pickup truck and Dave’s tag in the van, and I am not afraid to use them when I need to. I made sure I carried the one from the van in the Prius.
In the flooring department, I once again had to converse with Mike. This time was more successful than others. You see, Mike is hard of hearing, wears two hearing aids that obviously do not relieve him of his problem, and we had some difficulty during the first two meetings. By now, I knew to tap him on the shoulder and look directly at him when I spoke. We finished in fifteen minutes.
I walked toward the Prius facing me at the Exit door of Lowe’s. My heart began to race when I noticed that the front of the vehicle was wrecked on the front of the passenger side. Someone had made a large dent and scrape while I was in the store. It also looked like part of the headlight was missing.
“No-o-o-o-o,” I wailed. “No-o-o-o-o.” I set my purse–a big one–on the ground, just couldn’t hang onto it while I pitched what I knew was going to be a major hissee. I was stomping around saying, “Shit, shit, shit!” when a man with a long, grey ponytail stopped in front of me. I pulled my phone from my jeans pocket and snapped. The man folded his arms. He was so calm.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m looking at this place where somebody hit this damn vehicle.” And, at that precise moment, I realized that the white Prius with the wrecked front side was his vehicle, that my “damn vehicle” was in the next row.
I did not explain. I just picked up my purse and got in my own wrecked Prius; well, Enterprise’s wrecked Prius. He didn’t even shake his head, just got into his car and drove off.
The van was not ready when the crew came to put down the new flooring, a vinyl plank that always looks old and dirty. I figured it was the best solution for the place where everyone brings in dirt and mud from the gardens. It looked fine when they finished the installation except that the vanity was about two inches out into the floor–not bumped up to the wall–and the workman just casually applied the moulding to the out-of-place vanity. Another fix-it, I thought.
I called Lowe’s to ask if the installer could come back out. “I signed off on the work,” I said. “I just didn’t see it at the time.”
“We’ll have to charge you an appointment fee,” the guy answered me. “It’s fifty dollars.”
“I’m not surprised,” I said. “Never mind, I’ve got to have some other work done, too. I’ll just make sure I put this little tidbit on my evaluation.”
He was so cheerful. “Okay, well, thank you for letting Lowe’s provide your flooring.”
Two days later, the van finally came home and the Prius went, well, not exactly where I’d told it to go so many times. The Service King guy who picked me up from Enterprise chuckled when I told him about the damages.
“You know what?” he said. “We’ll get a call about twenty minutes from now, and I’ll come back over here and pick up that Prius and take it to our shop to fix it.”
I just nodded. I was shed of it. I had to learn to drive the Sienna all over again. It felt like a Greyhound bus, but it looked wonderful.
Enterprise, Service King, and I eventually settled up. Jerry Wong’s car was totaled (something about that wheel bearing, I think…). Our friendly MetLife paid everything except for deductible and, lo and behold, the credit card company (Chase) covered the deductible! Who would have ever thought of that? (My husband.)
Thanks to the snow and ice of February, our friendly neighborhood landscaper and handyman came and re-did most of the moulding, tightened up the drop ceiling and replaced broken tiles, replaced the door to the bathroom, and hung a new light fixture and mirror. It took him days.
I still haven’t painted the bathroom but then, there are several holdovers of things I need to do in The Cellar. Things that go in the laundry room are still in the garage. Things that go in the bathroom are still in the garage. Shoes that go in the big shelving unit in the laundry room are still…scattered around. I have yet to re-organize the garage storage. I mean, garagES.
But I’ve done a hundred loads of laundry, cooked a few dozen meals, and hand-washed dishes galore down here in The Cellar. I haven’t really cleaned the new floor, either. I figure if it’s supposed to look old and dirty, I’ll just let it do its best job for a little while longer.
We’ve had no more insurance claims in 2015…yet. Maybe Graham Insurance will send us a thank-you card at the end of the year! (Do you think our premium might go up a little bit?)