Pre-Birthday Jitters

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On Thursday, February 25, 2010, Dick left for a long weekend to visit Juanita.

His timing was actually perfect. I was ecstatic.

M birthday was the next day, Friday, February 26th. With him going away, Dick unknowingly was giving me the best birthday gift of all— leaving me alone and being as far away from me as possible! Never in my wildest dreams could I ever have imagined that this would have been the best present I could have possibly received for my birthday.

Finally, something was going my way!!! I looked up to the sky and mouthed “Thank you.”

By mid-morning I was starting to relax and unwind. By the late afternoon I was nearly floating on air.

That was until Ashley came home from school and hit me with a bombshell. She told me that Dick texted her and said that his flight was canceled. If he couldn’t reschedule to one taking off later that afternoon, he’d be home by 10:30 that evening.

NOOOOOOOOOO, I screamed silently in my head.

I quickly got on my computer and checked American Airlines flight status. There were no canceled flights headed to the Valley of the Sun.  The plane Dick was supposed to be on not only took off on time, it landed early. Something was fishy. All I could hope for was that somehow he re-booked on another airline.

My excitement was short-lived. At 10:00 PM, Dick came home…but his luggage didn’t.

The only thing that could have happened was that in between the time Dick got to the airport and before he was supposed to board the plane, he and Juanita got into a humongous argument and she told him not to bother coming to see her. Most likely he checked his bag when he got to the airport and his luggage went out to Arizona without him. I deduced that was why he returned empty-handed.

With Dick home, it was a given that he would do everything he could think of to ruin my birthday.

Welcome Home!

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When I walked through the door, my family room looked exactly like it did before I left for Indiana.

Ashley’s Sweet 16 gifts were scattered all over the floor. It was nearly impossible to walk without tripping over something.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Ashley dearly. However, my daughter has always been a procrastinating slob.  Unfortunately, she could have cared less. I’m sure her attitude had everything to do with all of the friction and tension in our home. This was her way of dealing with the “mess” that all of our lives had become.

Surprisingly, Dick, being the obsessive-compulsive neat freak that he was,  didn’t make Ashley straighten up while I was gone. Actually, the more I thought about it, he was probably waiting for me to return so he could constantly badger me about getting on Ashley’s case about her “disorderly conduct.”

Ashley greeted me with,  “What are you making for dinner?”

For crying out loud, I just returned from a whirlwind weekend visiting Josh. I was drained from all of the driving and this was all she could say to me???

I asked her if her father was going to take her out to eat. She told me that she didn’t feel like going anywhere. I guess I should have felt honored that my daughter wanted to spend time with me. Looking through the pantry for something quick to make, I decided that mac and cheese and left over Sweet 16 cake were the perfect comfort foods for a cold, dreary night.

Hearing that Ashley was staying home, Dick left the house to grab some grub. Before I finished cooking, he was back.  He placed his paper cup filled with pop from the fast food joint he just dined at on the kitchen table at the spot he usually sat at. Was he actually going to sit down at the table and join us while we ate?

Yep, that’s exactly what he did. He’s always been such a control freak. It bothered him to no end if I spent any time with our kids without him hovering over us.

While we were eating, Ashley shared with me some of the responses she would give to possible interview questions she might be asked at school the next day. She was hoping to be selected as a member of the group chosen to mentor freshmen students. The competition was fierce. Ashley spent a ridiculous amount of time rehearsing her answers. She went over several of her choices with me. They all sounded great until she said if she could be any Disney character (this was actually a potential question!) she would be Goofy. I asked her why she picked Goofy.

All of a sudden, Dick started yelling at me, “Why don’t you mind your own business. Nobody wants to hear your opinion. You think you know everything but you don’t know anything. All you know how to do is give advice.”

It became clear to me that he told her to be Goofy. As calmly as I could, I told Dick that Ashley were having a discussion and not to interrupt.

I turned to Ashley and said, “You are giving our best shot to be picked for a leadership position. Why would you say that you want to be Goofy? When I pictured him,  I could hear him guffawing and acting silly.”

With that, Dick started up again. With a sarcastic snicker on his face, he continued,” Why don’t you get a job like everyone else and start making money instead of spending all of mine? You’re totally worthless. All you know how to do is write checks. I work and all you do is spend my money. Boy, are you in for a rude awakening. I have a big surprise for you. You will be living in poverty very soon.” I looked at him and said, “Whatever.”

At that moment, Ashley left the table and said she lost her appetite. My stomach was doing cartwheels, flips and acrobatic somersaults. I was afraid that my dinner would be recycled all over the kitchen walls within seconds.

After that wonderful meal, Ashley and I went down to the basement to talk privately. She wanted to know which Disney character I would be.

I asked her if she had heard of Randy Pausch. She hadn’t.  I told her that he was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who, while he was dying from pancreatic cancer, gave a touching last lecture to his students about what was important in life.  His speech was so powerful and moving, it was posted on You Tube and immediately became a world-wide sensation. Before he died, he chronicled his experiences in a book that went on to become a best-seller.

I explained to Ashley that Randy Pausch said in life you can either choose to be a fun-loving Tigger or a sad-sack Eeyore.  He chose to be a Tigger even though his life was ending at way too young an age and he wouldn’t be able to see his kids grow up.  I said, “Like Randy, I would also choose a character that focused on the positive.

We had a finished basement. Along one wall was a built-in unit. On several shelves were knickknacks, pictures and the decoration that adorned the top of my wedding cake. As I was telling Ashley about Randy Pausch and his book, I walked over to find my copy.

What I saw made me gasp.

Every picture that I was in was turned face down and the wedding topper was hidden behind a pile of books. I asked Ashley what was going on there. “I didn’t do it,” she swiftly answered. “I’m sure you didn’t,” I responded.  Without saying another word, I put the pictures back up and retrieved the missing bride and groom.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who the culprit was. However, I couldn’t believe how low Dick could stoop.

In reality, while he inhabited the body of a grown man, mentally and emotionally he still had the maturity level of a young child. Whenever he didn’t get his way, he threw a temper tantrum.

I knew that Dick was fuming because I went to visit Josh. He thought he could keep me grounded by not giving me the money for the trip. He was angry and retaliated because I left.

His behavior was typical of a young child who was upset when his mommy and daddy went away. Not typical of a grown adult.

Besides that, we were in the process of getting divorced. He should have been happy that I was out of the house.

Nausea swept over me (again!).  I wasn’t sure how much of it came from all of the commotion during dinner or because I was sick to my stomach from the realization that for over 26 years I never had a husband, but instead I was playing the role of “mommy” to an over-grown, spoiled-brat baby.

The visualization of this image made me want to puke.

On The Road Again

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Feeling well rested after a good night’s sleep, I checked out of my hotel and drove back to Josh’s frat for a farewell brunch. It was an enjoyable morning. Josh was in a much better frame of mind. Maybe he was happy I was finally going home!

Around 11:00 A.M., my bladder realized it was time to hit the road and demanded that I stop at the bathroom every 15 minutes or so. This was so ridiculous. I would have thought it was mind over matter, but every time I made a pit-stop, it was like someone turned on a faucet full blast. Honestly, I couldn’t figure out why this always happened to me.

After saying good-bye to Josh and giving him a hug and a kiss (which thankfully he didn’t back away from) I took off.  I barely made it to Indianapolis when Mother Nature called again. Luckily I found a Meijer Superstore on the main road and checked out their facilities. As I was leaving the store, it started raining. I could have lived without the downpour. As much as I wasn’t looking forward to driving in the storm, I kept praying that the temps would stay above 32 degrees so I wouldn’t have to deal with icy, slick roads. As Roseanne Rosanadanna, one of the characters Gilda Radner (may she rest in peace) played on Saturday Night Live used to say, ” It’s always something!”

For the next few hours, I focused on the traffic, the rain and the digital numbers on my dashboard that tracked the outside temperature. As I traveled further north toward Chicago, the readings gradually and steadily decreased. When 33’s and 32’s started appearing on the screen, I began to panic.

To take my mind off of this, I decided to plan a rest stop at Fair Oaks Farm in Fair Oaks, Indiana. About 45 minutes past Lafayette, and that much closer to home, it was the perfect place to take a break. On top of that, they had the most amazing ice cream I had ever tasted.  Even though the weather wasn’t ideal for that special treat and I probably would have been frozen the rest of the way home, I was looking forward to indulging myself with that decadent delicacy. After all, I deserved it after braving the elements and hazardous road conditions.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, there it was! Like a mirage in the middle of the desert, seeing the exit for Fair Oaks was my oasis. I made it to my first destination and was almost back in Illinois! Giddy with excitement, I drove over to the farm. When I pulled into the parking lot, I was surprised to see a number of other cars there. Even on that blustery, frigid day, there were several others who unbelievably also had a craving for ice cream. Truth be told, the dairy sold a number of other homemade products including milk and an extensive variety of cheeses.  Without a doubt, this was probably what attracted the crowd on that Sunday afternoon. To make myself feel like I wasn’t the only goofy person who would venture out on that cold, nasty day for ice cream, I liked to believe that others were doing the same.

Cookies and cream was the flavor I opted to try. While enjoying every savory mouthful of that creamy, smooth concoction, I strolled around the gift shop area admiring all the trinkets they had for sale. There were so many cute candles, magnets, plaques to hang on the wall, kitchen utensils and hand lotions. Then a display caught my eye that made me stop in my tracks. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I actually lost my appetite and became nauseous. Right in front of me were racks of paper products made from recycled cow manure.  I was beyond stunned. I even asked another customer if this was real. She confirmed it was true. I thought to myself, I knew this was a farm, but wasn’t this taking things a little too far? I mean, weren’t there some things that were better left alone?  Trying to regain my composure, I found some more unique gift items to admire, forced myself to finish my ice cream (I didn’t put up too much of a fight), went to the bathroom (that should have been obvious) and then braved the elements outside to make it back to my car to resume my journey back home.

The rest of the trip home was uneventful. When I pulled into my garage, my heart started thumping hard against my chest wall, a chill began creeping up and down my spine and trembling replaced the steadiness my hands enjoyed just moments earlier.

What would be awaiting me on the other side of the door? I dreaded finding out.

The Bar Scene

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We topped off our evening’s festivities at Nick’s English Hut on Kirkwood.

This watering hole was Bloomington’s equivalent of Cheers.

When we arrived, the place was packed and it wasn’t even 8:30 PM yet. Our little group made our way up to the Hump Room on the second floor and quickly found a table.

I was still fuming from the incident at the restaurant. Even though Josh and I sat next to each other, we didn’t look at each other nor was there a single word spoken between us. While he focused on the college basketball game shown on the big screen television, I entertained myself by observing what the other patrons were up to.

Let me tell you, there was a lot of action going on.

To our right, was a large table occupied by sorority sisters and their moms.  The group was intensely playing “Sink The Biz,” a drinking game that originated at Nick’s quite a number of years earlier.

Named after the infamous sinking of the Bismarck— the World War II German battleship destroyed by allied forces— the game was played by placing a large metal bucket filled with beer (approximately two pitchers worth) in the center of the table. A weighted juice glass (the Biz glass) was floated in the center. Each participant had a full pint glass of beer in front of them.  Going clockwise around the table, everyone took a turn pouring beer from their pint glasses into the Biz glass in the bucket. They could pour as much or as little as they wanted. The object was to keep the Biz from sinking.  The person who sunk the Biz had to drink it fast like a shot. Furthermore, if the same person sunk the Biz three times, that individual had to drink all the beer in the entire bucket. In reality, depending on who was playing, the participants’ goal might or might not have been to sink the Biz—every chance they got. It was amusing watching this gathering of upscale moms and their female offspring calculating how much beer to pour to keep the Biz afloat and then it was fascinating observing how the losers handled their fate.

To my left, was another interesting crowd. They looked way too old to be college students. And based on their actions, they certainly didn’t behave like parents visiting their kids.  Without a doubt, all of them were wasted. Many of them also appeared stoned out of their minds. A loud bunch, they were oblivious to all the attention they were drawing to themselves. A few very well-endowed, somewhat attractive women in their group were busy giving lap dances to a couple of men who were seated in the middle of the gathering. While this was going on, several others got up and began bumping and grinding on the dance floor. As they gyrated, some of the men felt up their partners while a couple of the women blatantly began stroking their dancing buddies crotches. I was trying to figure out who these people were and what they were doing there. The only thing I came up with was that they were local swingers. I thought this would have been a good time to try to break the tension between Josh and me. I pointed out the happenings to our left and asked him if he had ever seen these people at the bar before. He looked over briefly, stated he didn’t recognize them and then went back to watching the action on the television screens.

By 10:00 PM, all of the day’s activities were starting to catch up with me. Thankfully, the other frat mom was as exhausted as I was. We told our sons that we were ready to get back to our hotel. I’m sure our kids were relieved to hear this. They were probably wondering how much longer it would be before they could finally drop us off and then go party like they really wanted to.

All I knew at that point was I couldn’t wait to get back to my room, crawl into bed and go to sleep.