Many, many ages ago when I first met Paul, he performed a quick thinking pet rescue. Christmas time can offer new dangers for pets.
Paul has always been a dog lover. When I met him he had a dog. I have always been a cat lover. When I met him I had two cats. If I didn’t marry him, I may have been destined to be the crazy old cat lady. So we struck up a compromise after marriage, he has one dog and I have one cat. It is a good arrangement and with 3 kids we do not have any more openings for pets or people.
During the Christmas of 1995, Paul and I were in his apartment when across the hall we heard cries for help. There was a desperate pounding on the door of his apartment followed by hysterical screams from the neighbor lady. She was crying and shaking as she grabbed us into her apartment. Her little dog was wrapped in the Christmas tree lights. He was trying to free himself but was becoming more and more tangled in the process. The cord wrapped tightly around his neck.
Everything was happening so fast that I too began to panic. Paul, however, ran back to his apartment to grab his scissors. He held the struggling dog down while he cut the cord that was wrapped around his neck. Time and time again, Paul has acted in situations where most people freeze. This makes me feel safe because I know I can’t seem to control my inaction during those times.
On that winter day, my Christmas lover became a hero in my eyes. Paul the Pet Rescuer. I knew that I had to keep this guy.
I remember one Christmas where my dad played the part of hero. But was he really?
Christmas at my parents house is kind of a blur now. I remember having two or three Christmas trees before it got to the point that my parents didn’t celebrate with a tree in the house anymore. One year I got 2 Cabbage Patch dolls, that was memorable. Another year Luke took a little earring box that I had and put a couple of pennies in it under the tree. I opened it before Christmas and wrapped it back up again. My mom found out and I got in trouble for that. But the most memorable Christmas was the one that my dad played the hero. I don’t think that my brothers will remember ever celebrating Christmas in my parents house. I will have to ask them.
It was Christmas Eve when our dad was a hero to us. My younger brothers and I had our Christmas program at church that evening. My dad stayed home. After we did the Christmas program at church, we received a bag of goodies which consisted of an apple, an orange, and peanuts. We came home that evening to find that my parents bought us an Atari gaming system. My dad had it all hooked up when we got home and was playing on it. He let us play on it too. We thought that it was really cool. Wow!
We thought that my dad was really cool to surprise us with it. But was he really? He didn’t come to our concert and watch us perform. Through adult eyes, I don’t think that was very cool. He didn’t play the part of hero very often in our eyes, so I will give him that little small moment. On that one magical evening, he was a hero to us. It was the best and last Christmas memory at my parents house.
If you are an American and were old enough to remember, you probably know where you were when you heard the news of the terrorist attack years ago. When I think about it, really reflect on it, I remember exactly where I was when I heard all the bad news in my life. When my grandpa died 15 years ago, I answered the phone downstairs in the family room. I accused my mother of lying. I said it wasn’t true. I just spent the day with him a couple hours before it happened. I was in the kitchen when I heard that my grandma died. I was in my bedroom when I called her brother to tell him. I was in 6th grade when I heard that the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Teachers were sobbing over the death of the teacher Christa McAuliffe. The school was torn down over 2 decades ago, but I still remember the room I was in.
It seems so strange that my children, nearing adulthood, have no memories of 9/11 because they were too young. It seems like yesterday that I was staring transfixed at the TV screen. My good friend called crying first thing in the morning telling me to turn on the TV. I remember feeling numb with shock. This couldn’t be happening. Our old neighbors stopped by later that day. I remember her sobs. The images we were seeing were horrific. Our children watched with us, not understanding. I remember watching the little children in the church nursery weeks afterward crashing little cars into toy buildings while pondering the fate of our country. Even though I didn’t know anyone personally affected by the loss, we as a nation mourned. We watched for weeks hoping that survivors would be found among the wreckage. We developed a new fear of anyone collectively different from us. We had to. We were afraid, even in rural Wisconsin. We worried that our Great Lakes would be poisoned. People in large cities were afraid. Then came the Anthrax scare. It poisoned our mail. We weren’t even safe in our own homes. Health care workers got small pox vaccinations in defense against biological warfare. People feared mass transportation, shopping malls, and traveling in general. Life as we knew it changed.
Then came the first anniversary of 9/11. I remember exactly where I was. I was in the bathroom that day taking a pregnancy test. Right after it said positive the fire trucks went down my road full sirens blaring with flags behind them. People came out of their homes and waved. Many years have past since then. I was even invited to a wedding that day. I didn’t think that it was right. But could I say it was wrong? Life goes on. Others were born that fateful day. Friends of ours were flying out of the country on 9/11/01 to get married. They spent their scheduled “wedding night” with hundreds of other frightened travelers grounded at the airport.
Several years back, I had the opportunity to go to the 9/11 site and museum. It was solemn, eerie, and mournful. Outside the site itself, there were people protesting their foreign government in languages that I did not know. I don’t think that I could even describe how empty that felt. I was standing next to a blackened building hearing their cries, understanding but not. Inside the 9/11 site were the names of the victims, some people had roses placed next to their names. This was at the edge of an eternal waterfall. No matter how far you looked down you could not see its ending. I just remember how silent everything was even though there were tons of people there. I don’t think that anyone kept a dry eye in the museum. I think over time our country grew stronger because of this. We pulled together. We made it through. I just wish the cost wasn’t so high. We will always remember the strong and courageous people who gave everything they had that day.
My mother’s life has been anything but ordinary. She was born prematurely in a foreign country. Despite my grandmother taking medication to prevent premature labor, my mother arrived early at a hospital in the Panama Canal Zone, after my grandma flew several hours to see her husband who was stationed there in the Navy. She weighed 4 lbs and stayed in an incubator for a month. This was in the 1940’s and she wasn’t expected to live.
My mom grew up in a rural community and met my dad in a one room schoolhouse. Her family was poor and she spent most of her summers picking cucumbers for a local factory to help support her family. She didn’t have a lot of time to play and had one doll. As a teenager, her mother died after delivering her eighth child. My mom was in college at the time and spent her weekends helping take care of her 6 younger siblings. My dad went off to Vietnam. He came back a different person. College finals were cancelled due to war protests and bomb threats.
My parents eloped. My dad went to work on their wedding night, my mom cooked for their sponsors. The night ended with freezing rain. My mom wondered if she made a mistake. My dad started drinking a lot. He was depressed and sat around with a gun in his lap staring off into space. He was going through PTSD after Vietnam. He drove a tank in the war and one day all of his buddies died in that tank. He was the only one that walked away unscathed. He became abusive and mean. My mom wondered if she made a mistake. My mom got pregnant with me. When I was a month old, a tornado was headed towards the trailer park we lived in. Sirens blared, it was time to take shelter. My dad just sat in his chair and stared. My mom decided it was time to pack up and head back home, they were hours away from family.
My parents lived with my dad’s parents for 2 years while they built a house and started a new life. My dad stopped drinking. My mom got pregnant again. They moved into their new house and planned on having 2 kids. Their plan for 2 kids ended up turning into 4 kids within 5 years. Their second child was violently autistic. My parents fought constantly. My mother wondered if she made a mistake. My mom was very beautiful with plenty of opportunities to leave my dad. A best friend’s husband wanted to plan a hook up with her up north. No one needed to know. Another friend’s husband kissed her. I just found out about this and he was a great guy. Guess who I ran into right after she told me? Other men pursued her, but she ran away from them instead of running away with them. That was one of my mom’s greatest strengths, staying committed to a marriage she was miserable in. This is such a rare quality nowadays. It is hard to live up to parents who have a wonderful marriage. It is even harder to live up to a parent sticking with it when given ample opportunity to leave.
My mother was the family breadwinner. She is still working full-time at 67. She was emotionally strong when faced with many difficult life situations. She was there for us when my dad couldn’t take it. She has patience when others have none. She is a hard worker. She handles difficulties with ease. She has been an anchor through all of life’s storms. I am proud and honored to have her as my mother. What a blessing her life has been to me and many others. She has been a lifelong advocate for the disabled and their parents. She has helped many with her empathy and compassion. She has been very generous with the gifts she has been given. She is one strong woman.
Happy birthday, mom! I love you.