On the hopeful Saturday when my mother was about to have her respirator tube removed, my sister called her husband to see how the project at my mother’s house was going. My brother-in-law, Paul, and my husband were going to venture up into my mother’s attic to see about removing some mothballs.
It all started when Mom was driven to distraction by the squirrels that were invading her attic, running around in the day and night no matter how many exterminators and roofers my mother employed. She thought she’d tried everything when someone told her that squirrels hated the smell of mothballs, and that if she put some mothballs in her attic, they would leave. Not one to use half-measures, Mom loaded up on mothballs and asked Paul to throw them all around her attic. Since Mom had gotten so sick, Paul had done some research on mothballs, and we all agreed that they were far too poisonous to leave in the house. The house reeked, and when David and I made a trip back home, we realized that all of our clothes smelled like mothballs after being in Mom’s house.
The whole time I was thinking that this was the walk-in part of her attic with the little door in the bonus room. But no, this was the overhead part with the trap door that has to be lifted, tilted, and removed. When Karen called Paul from the hospital room to see how it was going, he said, “Now don’t get Cheryl upset, but the trap door fell on David, and I’m taking him to urgent care.” If I’d been paying attention to Karen instead of my mother and the stream of doctors and nurses coming through the room, I would have thought more about how she was suddenly saying, “Uh-huh” and “Mm-hmm” in that super-professional, fake sort of way that women don’t normally use with their husbands. After she hung up, she pulled me out into the hallway and said that the heavy board had fallen on David’s legs and ankles, and he may need a few stitches. At least it hadn’t fallen on his head. Although I would normally have driven straight to urgent care, my mother and her staff of twenty health care professionals kept us answering questions and calming Mom down, since she was terrified of the procedure.
A short time later, as we sat in the waiting room during the extubation, I received a text from my grown son, Michael, who had been fast asleep in the next room when Paul and David started their project. The exact wording of Michael’s text was:
Somehow the attic door fell on dad and scraped up his ankles pretty good. He’s still ambulatory, and I cleaned up most of the blood, but Uncle Paul is taking him to urgent care.”
When you are already as stressed out as Obama must have been when talking to the Chinese president about their internet spying the day after the NSA scandal broke, you really don’t need to receive any sort of message containing the words, “I cleaned up most of the blood.” I told him that his aunt had already told me about it, but thank you for texting, and he replied:
Waking up to the sounds of parents injuring themselves. No adrenaline there.”
I got home a few hours later to comfort my poor, wounded hubby, but he waved off the whole incident as no big deal. He’d gotten a couple of stitches, he said, and then he proceeded to vacuum the entire house and pack all of our suitcases and gear in the car. When I went upstairs to get ready to leave, there was blood everywhere. All over the white carpet in the bonus room, all over the floor and shower in the bathroom, all over several facecloths and wads of paper towels in the trash. We spent some time working with carpet cleaner and bathroom cleaner and did the best we could.
Much, much later I said, “So for all that, you guys never got to deal with the mothballs in Mom’s attic?” Oh, yeah, they did. After they got back from urgent care with what turned out to be seven stitches and several gashes in his Achilles tendon area, David climbed back up on the ladder to the attic, and they decided that nothing could be done, since the mothballs were thrown, loose, into blown insulation. Mom would have to remove the insulation and replace it in order to remove the mothballs. I asked how in the world blood had gotten all over the bonus room when he had been on a ladder near the hall door, and he said, “Well, I was going to just walk it off until I realized that I was leaving bloody footprints all over the place, so I went into the bathroom.”
Ooh-rah for manly men.