Judith Viorst wrote this kind of story first. In 1972, it was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. The story chronicles a day in the life of an 11-year-old boy whose every experience that day is wrong and something he hates, from waking up in the morning to going to bed that night in the very pair of pajamas he hates more than any of the others he owns.
I thought of that title and the story that goes with it on this day when I was doing granny duty at the home of my younger daughter. Alexander, I thought, let me tell you a REAL story! Just to give you the facts...the background of this experience:
- Son-in-law was less than two weeks post-op from gastric surgery.
- Daughter was committed to speak at a music teacher's conference in Tampa and needed to be away from home from Wednesday night to Saturday night.
- Mimi went to Jacksonville to keep life going for 11-year-old Charlotte and 7-year-old Nathaniel.
- To get to school on time, they have to be up no later than 5:45. That's a.m. I am not an a.m. person.
- And did I tell you they have three cats? Yes, three.
I arrived at the house Wednesday afternoon in time to pass Becky as she was leaving. Her message was basically "You got it, Mom. See you Saturday. Thanks." Notice she did say "Thanks." I can never say my children are not appreciative. The really good news for me was that Victor was now off his pain meds and was able to drive. I'm okay to drive in their neighborhood but getting on the throughways is another story. Nothing short of panic. Getting the children to school involves not only getting on I-295, but crossing the St. Johns River on a very long bridge that bottlenecks horribly every morning and every evening at rush hour. The very thought of it made me shiver and shake with anxiety.
Wednesday evening went fine. Kids did homework, got their baths and got to bed with little confusion. Victor and I conferred about dealing with the morning. "Don't worry, Ma," he said. "I'll set my alarm and get us all up at 5:30." Great. He's very reliable. I can handle breakfast and fixing lunches. I was sleeping in Charlotte's bed and she happily took the raised Aerobed which essentially made her room wall to wall bed. Her bed is very comfortable and I told myself everything would be fine in the morning and I could relax and have some down time while the kids were in school. Good plan. You know where this is going, right?
Somewhere in the early hours of the morning, I had a very vivid dream. I saw a clock...read the time...6:30. Bedlam. Remember thinking "Wow, glad this is just a dream." I rolled over and looked at the time on my phone. 6:30. YIKES! My heart flipped over. "Charlotte, wake up! It's 6:30!" I threw back the covers and put my feet on the floor to stand up. In a moment in time that plays in slow motion in my memory, my feet touched the carpet and slid right out from under me. I did not fall. I simply slid...all the way to the floor. Charlotte raised her sleepy self on one elbow and took in the scene through half-closed eyes. Her grandmother was wedged in a hole between her bed, the end of the air bed, her closet, and the small computer desk and chair.
The struggle began. I've gotta get up. The more I tried, the more my feet slipped. I couldn't get them under me enough to push myself up and there was nothing to lean against to push up on. The computer desk and chair are flimsy child-sized things and I would have torn them up had I grabbed them for support. No need to call Victor...he can't pick up anything because of his surgery. I AM STUCK! The panting and pulling and scuffling continued and Charlotte continued to stare at me. I wanted to cry but that wouldn't have helped anything. Divine intervention...that's what I asked for. Finally, I was able to get enough of that air bed in my hands and in desperation rolled myself up onto the end of it. Don't mess up your bad shoulder, I thought...that's all you need to do! I stayed there for a minute on my knees, praying for strength and breath, and eventually staggered to my feet.
"Charlotte," I panted again, "please get up and get moving. We are in trouble. We have overslept by an hour." Victor was anguished when I woke him up. "I'm so sorry, Ma. That's the first time I've slept through the night since my surgery. I didn't even hear the alarm!" Waking Nathaniel up adds another dimension to the confusion. He's deaf and has a cochlear implant which he takes off at night leaving him completely unhearing. I turned on his lights and tickled his feet. Then I jerked on his leg. I was just before picking him up bodily when he finally came to. I was not his favorite person at that moment.
The next 25 minutes are a blur. Lunches had to be dealt with and we didn't have anything Nathaniel wanted. I grabbed my wallet and gave him lunch money. Charlotte fixed her own. Neither sat down to have any breakfast. They were barely dressed and had their stuff gathered when Victor hurried them out the door. "If we don't go now, we'll be behind the buses and we'll really be late." They went out through the garage and I realized they needed something to eat. I had a box of protein bars. I grabbed four bars and ran out to catch them, my bare feet freezing on the concrete floor. This was a January morning and it was cold. Waving the bars at the car, I ran out and thrust them into Victor's hand and he took off down the street.
God help those children, I prayed. What an awful way to start their day. Guilt fell on me like a blanket. As I turned to go back in the house, I was met with the sight of the half-open kitchen door and Lucy The Cat strolling into the garage that was a wide open path to the street. I forced myself to be calm. I refuse to deal with a runaway cat this morning. I got past her without spooking her and got to the door.
"Here, Kitty. Come on Lucy." She stood still, eyeing the situation and the crazed figure calling to her. I hit the button to close the garage door and it started to rattle as it closed. She jumped to life and bolted for the safety of the kitchen. I followed her in and slammed the door.
Leaning against the wall, I worked to catch my breath and get a grip on my senses. What in the heck was all of that? Two cups of coffee later, my pulse had begun to return to normal. It's the start of a day, I thought. I'm their grandmother...we can DO this! God help us to make tomorrow morning better. That's all we can do, isn't it? When life goes haywire we just have to pull up our big girl britches and carry on. I looked around at the house and knew I could at least help out and make things better here. Do what you can, wherever you are. I needed some mindless activity...someplace to get my granny motor going.
I took a deep breath...and scooped the cat box.