Kristmas Gone Kerflooey, Part III: Bolting Past New Year’s Day!

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. 2015-04-13 11.28.26

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. 2014-11-29 18.36.13 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. 2015-01-01 14.42.24I 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.

2015-01-01 12.13.33

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. GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAAnd 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.”

He did.

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.

The **** Prius.
The **** Prius.
2015-01-01 15.03.43 - Copy
Jerry Wong’s car. Apparently something happened to the wheel bearing, too. Hm.

 

 

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.

The Prius…at Lowe’s

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.”

Huh.

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?)

***

The new floor
The new floor

 

Painting the paneling, changing the color scheme, new mirror....Someday I'll finish all the painting!
Painting the paneling, changing the color scheme, new mirror….Someday I’ll finish all the painting!
New floor--and new toilet (which, in the South, is a "commode")
New floor–and new toilet (which, in the South, is a “commode”)

 

 

 

 

 

Kristmas Gone Kerflooey, Part II: The Big Hole

Let’s start back in mid-December. So these huge fans ran all weekend. And dehumidifiers. And blowers. I think there were three different machine-types. On Monday, I found out that it wasn’t CON’s guys who brought the drier-outers, but a “water restoration” company. I don’t understand that naming. Wouldn’t restoration indicate that somebody was going to “restore” that water? I didn’t want the water restored. I wanted it gone.

Monday morning, the restoration guys packed up the roaring fans and their friends–after we’d paid $1800–and said CON’s guys would be here in about an hour.2014-12-05 05.45.06 2014-12-05 05.44.042014-12-05 05.44.58 2014-12-05 05.44.30

Rabbit from CON showed up in less than fifteen minutes. I wondered if he’d been waiting down the street for the “come on down.” He said he needed to make sure the concrete was dried out. “Bet you’re glad those fans are gone,” he said.

“They didn’t bother me much. I stayed down here and worked at my computer most of the time.”

“That horrible noise didn’t bother you?”

“No. It was actually somewhat soothing.”

“Guess what,” he whispered.

I shrugged my shoulders.

“You’re nuts.”

Really? I thought. Like he had made a discovery that might hold the key to the universe.

I was reminded of a friend of mine, a statuesque and overweight young woman, who went to see a new internist, a female, one Dr. Kia. Let’s call my friend Gritti, named for her mother’s hopefulness of having a daughter who would not only stand up to males, but might even help to move culture into a new age of gender equality.

Dr. Kia, well-known for her quick opinions and sharp tongue, said to Gritti, sitting naked on that hard table, legs swinging as they would not touch the footrest, “Miss Gritti, I’d like to talk to you about your body BMI.”

Gritti chuckled and almost interrupted, so as to put this horror show to rest. “BM’s? Oh, they’re fine. Regular as clockwork. Well, maybe a calendar. I have at least one a day.”

“If you’d quit giggling and let me finish, you’d know I was talking about the Body Mass Index.”

“Oh-h-h-h-h-h-h,” Gritti answered, “you mean….”

7631c4a0e616708103afdbe75f3d1b7dAnd now who was interrupting. “Yes, if you look at the chart over here on the wall, you’ll note that your height and weight places you in the category of morbidly obese.”

“No-o-o-o-o,” Gritti answered, as she slid from the table, missing the footrest, the paper cover floating away toward the hateful chart. “Get me a mirror!” Gritti called as her bare bottom hit the floor. “I didn’t know I was fat!”

***

“Rabbit, get me a psychiatrist, I didn’t know I was bonkers!” I didn’t say it. I was afraid he’d start apologizing and I’d have to tell him how much his opinion meant to me.

“This next step is where the noise is,” he said.

“The jackhammering?” I asked.

He nodded slowly and crept around the basement area.  After maybe a quarter-hour, he announced that his guys would present themselves in just a few minutes and then he left. I stayed downstairs to greet them. I sat at my desk and laughed about Gritti, then I began to dawdle. I got on Facebook–same thing as dawdling except if the dawdler is drunk. Then it’s called yammering.

However, I call what Rabbit was doing “yammering,” and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t drunk.

I left my desk to make some diet Swiss Miss with some of the water I’d brought downstairs in a gallon jug, since we couldn’t use any plumbing downstairs, and sat back down. It was almost eleven o’clock. “Dang,” I said out loud, “another hour and they won’t be getting here this morning.” The truck pulled up just as I started to stir.

The driver stepped out of the big truck’s cab and said, “Sorry if you expected us earlier. This was the morning we went shopping for the Christmas angels.”

“Like, the Salvation Army Christmas angels?” I asked.

“Yeah, we paired up and the company give one kid to every two of us. You wouldn’t believe some of the things we got.”

“I bet it was fun,” I said.

“Oh, yes, ma’am, it’s kinda the highlight of our year.”

“Speaking of ‘the year'”, I said, “we’re winding up the year with a big project.”

“Yeah, that’s what I hear. Well, we’ll get right to work. I’m Harold. I’m the lead.” He pointed to his mates. “This here’s Thomas, and that’s Dickie. Dickie, he does most of our hammering.”

“Jackhammering?”

“Yeah. Well, we’ll take care of you. You just go on about your day. I wouldn’t advise staying down here with this racket.”

I stayed upstairs. I just couldn’t watch the destruction–but I could hear the jackhammer very well. It wasn’t as obtrusive and annoying as I had imagined it would be. It didn’t drive me nuts; but then, Rabbit had already said I was nuts. I had no facts to support a counter argument.

Around one o’clock, there was a lull in the GRRRAKKA KKAKKAKKA KKAKKAKKAKK  AKKAKKAKKAKK. Maybe they’d gone to lunch. No, the truck was still there. I stepped into The Cellar and walked around a short wall. Harold leaned against the door from the bathroom to the laundry room. Thomas and Dickie were on the cement floor, scooping rock and block from a large L-shaped hole that started in front of the toilet and wrapped three-quarters of the room.

“Here’s your leak” Dickie said.

The Great Hole of The Cellar.
The Great Hole of The Cellar.

He plowed around in the middle of the floor, knee-walked a couple of feet and said, “Here’s another one.” It was right next to the mountain of rock, dirt, and concrete they’d shoveled out of the hole.

I pointed toward the pile. “What will you do with that?”

“Aw, we’ll put it back in, don’t worry,” one of them said.

I bent over the leak nearest me. “That sure doesn’t look like cast-iron pipe.”

“It’s not. It’s PVC. It just separated.”

“What do you mean, it separated?”

“Well, nothing’s busted, no holes in the pipe, but they used some kind of sealer on this line that’s not for sewer. And it finally just wore out.”

Harold piped up. “There’s one more, too.”

“In the laundry room?” I asked.

“No, it’s over here at the corner of where the vanity sits.”

“Huh,” I said, which is what I say when I don’t know what to say.

“There’s no leak in the laundry room. The reason it was wet in there is because your drain overflowed.”

Dickie took the reins. “See, what happens is, wherever the leak is, the ground takes on as much water as it can–and it’ll spread it out across a wide area. I seen three rooms wet from one leak. But when the ground can’t take any more, that’s when your floor and your carpet, or tile, whatever, that’s when that gets soaked.”

“What happens now?” I asked.

Harold answered. “Well, now we leave this open to dry. We’re gonna go to lunch, and leave some heat and fan on this.”

“But you’re coming back?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah. We’ll be back after dinner.”

“Dinner,” I said.

Harold nodded. I figured dinner meant lunch to Harold.

They were back–after lunch. They declared the hole ‘dry enough’ and proceeded to mix concrete. The great hole, a mini-me of the ravine behind The Compound, was all filled in by the time they left for the day.

All filled in!
All filled in!

“We’ll be back tomorrow to check and see if that concrete is set up. I sort of doubt it getting dry enough, but when it is, we’ll set all your stuff back in.”

I went upstairs to report progress. Dave was amazed. “You mean they found the leak and fixed it and got it covered with concrete? All today?”

“Yeah,” I answered.”I don’t think they got it smooth enough for somebody to put flooring on it.”

“This cannot possibly take two weeks. Didn’t Rabbit say it would take two or three days for the concrete to set up?”

“Yep. And they’re thinking they’re going to put the toilet and vanity back in there tomorrow.”

“Well, that means, let’s see, instead of fourteen days, this is going to take six or seven days max.”

***

Author’s note: I’m tired of telling this story. I suspect my readers’ eyes are a bit glazed–if any are still with me. And if you and I both are tired of this story, neither of us wonders why I might abridge the rest of this tale.

***

The next morning, Harold, Thomas, and Dickie were back. They parked their big white truck in the usual spot several feet from the back door to The Cellar. Dave pulled out of the garage and eased the Sienna between their truck and the house. I went downstairs to see why I didn’t hear activity.

Harold explained. “We don’t think it’s dry enough to start setting things back in,” he said. “Tell you what, we’re going to go check in on another job while we run these fans a little longer, and we’ll come back right after dinner to get you squared away.”

 

I heard the truck stop in the driveway below and looked out the dining room window. They were back a little earlier than expected. Dave was just returning from his workout. He eased the van toward the garage the same way he went out, between the truck and the house.

He heard the scraping but didn’t stop; after all, he knew he’d driven the van through that same spot earlier. What he didn’t know was the guys had left, and come back, and this time, the truck was a wee-e-e bit closer to the walls. When he came out on the other side, he got out to survey the damage.

Harold came out the door. “Did you just hit the truck?”

“Yeah, but it’s not hurt–unlike my van,” Dave said.

“I just have to report it back to the company,” Harold said.

Dave nodded.

***

We’d just sat down for lunch, Harold’s version of dinner, when Rabbit called from downstairs. Dave told us to go ahead with lunch and went back downstairs to meet him. We’d passed around everything on the table and picked up forks when we heard voices. My friend-almost-family dined with us. “I have never heard Dave talk that loud,” she said, “and that is from downstairs, isn’t it?”

“I think they’re outside.” I paused, and then added, “Yep, that’s Dave.” And his end comment was, “I was willing to pay you $14,000 for a 14-day job. I’m not willing to pay you that for a 3- or 4-day job. And I don’t care if I have to go to court.”

I started down the stairs to tell Dave he was preaching to the entire Whispering Hills neighborhood. He was coming up the stairs to eat, said he was finished, said Rabbit was going to talk to his boss.

The next morning, Dave and I decided the Toyota’s scrapes and dents were too prominent to leave as is, so he called our insurance man to report the latest accident. Our agent is my son, Jade Graham. He and his brother have this insurance agency in Lebanon, Tennessee, named Graham Insurance.

That afternoon, acting on Jade’s instructions, Dave took the van to Service King, one of the “concierge vendors” for MetLife, to get an estimate. They scheduled our repairs to begin on December 23, just one week later. Insurance would pay for a rental car–a little rental car.

Rabbit came by in the evening to report on his talk with his superior. The end result: Dave agreed to pay a little over $9200 and informed Rabbit that was still way too much.

I shopped for flooring. The Lowe’s installation scheduler called me two days later to ask if they could begin on January 8. “Why, of course,” I said. “I’ll be here celebrating Elvis’ birthday.”

The girl on the other end of the phone was too young to know that or to care much about it. All she said was, “My grandma loves Elvis.”

I said, “Huh.”

Before I-Day (Installation Day), we had some other celebratory events to attend to. The first event was our family Christmas event December 21 at John and Vicky’s house (Jameson and Carly, too). We voted not to exchange gifts this year, in favor of some event to attend. John and Vicky offered to host a party and assembled an entertainment committee. Vicky planned a cross between Festivus and a Christmas Vacation and everyone was to attend in costume. If I couldn’t think of anything else, Dave and I could wear our Lone Ranger and Tonto outfits that we made for a New Year’s Eve party about ten years ago. Dave’s outfit was constructed from a heathered brown Hanes sweatshirt and pants. He was Tonto. There was really nothing funny about me in a cowboy suit and hat with a gun on my hip, but I have to admit that Dave rocked that feather attached to the shiny black mullet on elastic around his head.

Before I could utter the first Hi-ho, Silver, John and Jameson came down with the flu, closely followed by Vicky and Carly. The Graham-Revell-Blair Christmas party was off. We’d just have to figure out another time–or skip it.

We’d also planned a caravan to Jellystone Park’s Dancing Lights and Christmas Wonderland at dusk. Darrin and Dana, Jade and Anjie, and Dave and I decided not to waste that opportunity, so we all arranged to meet for late lunch/early dinner in Mt. Juliet and then drive over to see the lights. Jade, Anjie, and Jaxton were already at the table when the four of us arrived. I took a corner seat next to Jaxton, and across the table from Anjie.

Jaxton was wound up and talking a mile-a-minute. 2014-12-20 16.18.31 2014-12-20 16.36.29 When the server brought three beverages, she asked us new folks what we’d like to drink.

“What’s that you’re drinking, Anjie?” I asked.

“Milk.”

“Milk?”

“It’s for my heartburn. I’m having bad heartburn,” she said.

My lips were pursed for “You’re not pregnant, are you?” but, fortunately, I slammed my tongue against the roof of my mouth, uttered a quick “I’m sorry,” and ordered a Diet Coke.

Congratulations flew across, and up and down, the table. Anjie received a big promotion the week before; this was the first chance any of us had to congratulate her in person.

When everyone had begun to eat, Jade asked Jaxton if he wanted to show off his shirt. He stood in his high chair. The green and red print showed, “I’ve got a Christmas surprise!” Then Anjie turned him around (which he did not want to do) and the back of his shirt read “I’m going to be a big brother!” He told us that Mommy had a “sitt-ter” in her belly; Anjie introduced us to Savannah Grace Graham.2014-12-20 17.37.11

We hurried to text all the sickees.

Next, Kristmas Gone Kerflooey; the Wrap-Up of the Mis-haps of 2014! 2014-12-20 17.37.40