Stories and thoughts about family and life

Operation Anniversary

on October 17, 2012

My parents bought their house six months before I was born.  They were settled in and enjoying their country life on the day I was born–a day, as I’m told, where my mother had to drive herself 30 minutes back into town as my dad had gone off to work and she went into labor right after he had disappeared from sight.  A day, about 20 years before cell phones were even a possibility, where she had to make a decision about what to do, and loaded my sister up and drove to town.  As she tells it, she tried to leave my sister with various neighbors along the way, but no one was home.  I was nearly a month overdue (another thing which would never happen today), and apparently it was quite the ride with Mom speeding down the highway until a contraction would hit, and then slowing down dramatically until it would pass, and slamming on the gas again.   My dad finally had a family friend catch up with him and send him into town, but not before he had to change a flat and borrow a clean shirt (which is humorous in itself, if you know what a big man my dad is at 6 foot 6 inches.

Anyway, I guess that all demonstrates that from the get-go, I don’t do things in a simple and unnoticed manner.  🙂

My parents were married 43 years this past week.  They began talking about a month ago about taking a little trip with a couple of friends of theirs.  As soon as I found that out, I started scheming on what I feel like was the perfect anniversary present for them.  They were leaving first thing Tuesday morning, and would be arriving home later in the day Thursday.  That gave me plenty of time.  I mentioned to a friend of mine (who may never offer to help me ever again!) what I had planned and she offered to help where she could.  I would spend Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at their house, vacuuming, cleaning, doing laundry, and filing paperwork so they could come home to a nice clean house.  In addition, I wanted to have dinner made for them, so I planned on cooking a pot roast and having it waiting on them when they arrived Thursday.

I had a series of conversations with my parents to gather the information I would need.  I was thankful to a work friend who asked me about having a house key–we never locked the house when I was growing up and that easily would have been something I overlooked.  I called my dad and under the guise of gathering information in case anything ever happened, he gave me the gate lock code and the location of the house key.  I asked questions over subsequent days about the cat and dog and who might be dropping by to check on the pets and the house.  I was then able to call those folks and warn them that should they arrive at the house and find the disarray I created when I started cleaning, to please not shoot the suspect perpetrator.  Thankfully, I was able to reach everyone and put my mind at ease.  When I left the house for the grocery store Tuesday, the scene would have been pretty alarming to anyone who showed up, as all the windows were open, a trash bag in the middle of the kitchen floor, dishes and glasses out in the floor from one cabinet I was cleaning out, skillets all over the kitchen where I was doing dishes and restocking cabinets, furniture in disarray in the living room, and the vacuum out in the floor.  My only hope is that the thought would have been “gee, these thieves sure are nice to clean the house first.”

My parents have been long-time smokers.  With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to borrow or rent an ionizer which would clean the air.  A friend of mine pulled a couple of strings and facilitated me borrowing an ionizer unit, used to filter the air and hopefully remove the smell.  She arranged the loan, and then told me that this was an industrial strength unit, and measured some six times what a normal household unit would put out in ozone.  I freaked a bit, thinking this was going to be a large unit I wouldn’t be able to handle.    When I arrived to pick the unit up, it turns out it’s about the size of two large shoe boxes, placed end to end.  As the guy is explaining to me what to do, I’m grateful to notice that it runs on a 110 outlet.  As the house they live in is an old farmhouse, I was a little worried about running something that would pull a lot of electricity, particularly with me not watching it very closely.  As he explained that I didn’t want to be in the house while it was running, and that I should leave it overnight, my panic returned.  He set a timer located on the machine, and then explained I should leave the fan running on the air unit all night so it would circulate throughout the house.

Now, I should say here, that I’m not normally a “doom and gloom” person who panics or sees the downside of everything, but the thought of potentially burning my parents house down should the air unit seize up, or something happen to the unit didn’t make me feel too wonderful about the gift I was about to give them.  I was focused so much on trying to calm my mind (they live in this house everyday, and nothing is going to happen. . . ) that I almost missed it when he asked if they had an animal who lived in the house.  “Yes.” I replied, a bit hesitantly, as he began to explain that the cat would need to be removed in order to ensure we didn’t harm it.  Even if that level of ozone didn’t kill the cat (OMG, did he say KILL????), it would certainly harm its lungs.  Oh, great.  So now I’m maybe not going to burn down the house, but I’m going to potentially kill the cat.   “Okay,” I said, as I gathered the machine, my mind reeling with what needed to happen next.  As I drove to work, I gave it a little more thought.  I could borrow a cat carrier, catch the cat, and take it into town with me.  The friend I was staying with wouldn’t mind, surely.   He assured me the timer would shut the unit off, and the remainder of the time the house was closed up would allow it all to dissipate before I got back.  I decided not to use the fan, as the thought of being 30 minutes away where I couldn’t check on the house was simply unbearable to me–I knew I wouldn’t sleep anyway.

I contacted a friend of mine to borrow a cat carrier, which I picked up on my way out of town.  She was in hysterical laughter on her front lawn, listening to my neurotic conversations back and forth with myself about how everything was going to go wrong.  I had imagined every scenario possible where I would not be able to find that cat, or would take the cat into town and something would happen and the carrier would open and the cat get away.  Then I would have to tell my parents that I thankfully didn’t burn their house down, but I had killed their cat.  Holy cow, the thoughts just kept coming and coming.  I would later decide to use the unit sparingly, and only on one end of the house.  I was a nice sentiment, but I ended up not using it throughout the entire house as I had originally planned.

It’s amazing that I haven’t lived there regularly since I was 18, yet it all felt so familiar again.  The sounds and the feel of the house teleported me each day back to childhood.  Back to sitting near the picture window in the living room and reading, or having the windows open in my bedroom and enjoying the autum breeze.  I had the windows open and the fans on the entire time I was there.  It was a series of those perfect fall days where there’s a nice breeze and that old farm house pulls the breeze across it so well.

The house cleaning went well, and my parents were actually very pleased with the results.  I ended up doing more than I originally anticipated, like washing the walls in the dining room.  Thank goodness I had the good sense to stop there!  That’s the kind of job that leads you from room to room, and I already thought I had done a million push-ups when I got home, my arms were so sore.  I was a bit concerned that they would be offended I had been in their space, but in the end they recognized it as a very nice gift, and appreciated dinner already being in the crock pot waiting for them.

So, even when you don’t do things the easy way, they can turn out to be really great.  It was a lot of work, but I’m really glad I did it.  I think I’ll have to come up with something a little less industrious for next year’s anniversary gift. . .


One response to “Operation Anniversary

  1. rex1111 says:

    I loved reading this! I’m sorry I couldn’t get there to see you while you were closer. Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2012 22:48:00 +0000 To:

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