“Those aren’t Joey’s licks,” I thought, frowning in confusion as muffled techno bass line inserted itself into my post-grocery store listening experience.
As I am prone to do of late, I was listening to a Joey Monteleone CD I acquired after hearing his set at a Barlow Girl show my BIL and I attended with a couple of our respective kids in late August. As the CD received mixed reviews in my family, I can only listen to it in the car when I am either alone, or with just my son, which happens frequently enough that I have become pretty familiar with Joey’s sound-- which definitely does not include the jacked up rhythm that instantly upset the prevailing harmony.
Wednesday morning—the day of the fingerprinting, for anyone who happens to be keeping count—I was feeling incredibly positive about my prospects for my life in general and the day in particular. In hindsight, the unfounded optimism should have served as a red flag, but I somehow mistook the signal for an all-systems-go, and was attacking a decidedly lofty to-do list with impressive gusto.
I had the makings not only of a lasagna in my backseat grocery bags, but ingredients for homemade stromboli as well-two, count ‘em, two, pre-planned home cooked meals! I’d already been for a run, completed the fingerprinting and tackled some dusting, sweeping clean corners blackened from gross neglect. To top it all off, I had carved a huge block of writing time aside—practically the whole afternoon, until it was time to pick my son up from school. Life was humming along as smoothly as Joey’s ten tracks until the incongruous chords of a distant dance ditty entered the mix.
What were these tunes and where were they coming from? I asked myself, a split second before I realized that it must be my phone, emitting an unfamiliar ring tone my husband set to identify himself—a great concept, provided the owner of the phone is aware of the ID chime.
My husband doesn’t often call me during the day, so I quickly fumbled through my effects, and by effects, I mean sea of crumpled papers, tubes of chapstick and empty paper coffee cups—to locate my phone.
Me: (muting Joey): Hi, how are you?
Husband (weakly) Bad.
Now, bad wasn’t what I was expecting, but really, for me, bad can mean anything from a spilled latte to locking myself in the attic an hour before work, and for my husband the possibilities range from tedious meeting syndrome to some bad computer code—or a totally messed up knee, which was the brand of bad with which we were/are currently dealing.
The rest of my day was spent at the doctor’s office, the radiologist, and a series of pharmacies trying to fill a prescription for vicodin, a feat more difficult than one might initially expect. When I presented the prescription at my usual pharmacy the clerk asked when I’d like to pick it up. “As soon as it’s ready,” I answered. “How long will it take?”
The clerk gave me a quizzical look. “It’ll be at least tomorrow,” he said, as though I’d asked him to procure eye of newt, wing of bat, and liver of toad boiled under a full moon at midnight.
“OK, well, just give me the prescription back, I’ll go somewhere else.”
“Are you REALLY sure that’s what you want to do?” he asked, in a tone was either incredulous or threatening, I couldn’t tell.
Explaining that the entire purpose of the medication was to help my husband sleep, I told him that I was very confident in my decision to go elsewhere.
Fast forward an hour, and I’m sitting with the yellow pages, trying to find a pharmacy that was both open and willing to dispense the drug in a timely manner, which seemed unlikely, considering that I had to let the phone ring 65 times before one 24-hour joint even picked up, and I logged another half hour sitting on hold. I was beginning to fear that perhaps one too many episodes of House had kicked off some sort of organized anti-vicodin sentiment within the pharmaceutical industry, when I finally heard a friendly voice on the other end of the line who assured me that she could hook me up with the goods. This news couldn’t have hit at a better time, as I’d already taken to facebook, posting mobile alerts like, “trolling city streets trying to score vicodin.”
About three hours after what was to have been lasagna time, my husband was feeding me cold chicken nuggets as I navigated the van to a pharmacy in a neighborhood just on the sunny side of questionable. And we were laughing. Enjoying each other’s company; the day I originally planned long forgotten. Despite a certain level of uncertainty—we don’t know yet if the knee will heal on its own, or require surgery—the go-with-the flow mindset has prevailed in our home. My focus has been on making things both as easy and as normal as possible—I make a special effort to keep a clear path through the house for my husband to navigate on crutches. I try to anticipate items he might need. And we finally did sit down to a home cooked lasagna. In turn, my husband has been appreciative, maintained an optimistic attitude, and has been excellent company. I almost feel guilty that we’re getting along so well.
I say almost, because I already know the positive effect that crisis and interruption often has on daily life. Most people in my community associate a single word with the concept: “Isabel,” a 2003 hurricane that rendered our neighborhood a darkened tangle of branches, beams, and brush. Our street was largely without power for the better part of 10 days, and our family for a full two weeks, sustained in the final days by long extension cords trailing from neighbors’ homes and into windows on the north and south sides of our house. Yards were cleared collectively, people assembled on stoops to exchange stories, news, and supplies. There was a community stew cooked over a barbeque grill and comprised of odds and ends from no less than a dozen kitchens, and seasoned with a kindness that has not been sampled since.
It was an exhausting, scary, and wonderful time. No one would have chosen the circumstances, but everyone remembers the outcome fondly. In the six years that have since passed, it has become common to hear people wistfully recall the spirit of helpfulness, support, and community and wish it could be possible to replicate on an everyday basis.—a goal that has largely eluded us. No one really know why, but I think we could get a lot closer to the ideal were we able to adopt an attitude that embraces what is.
Difficulty forces us into thankfulness, into appreciation for everyday blessings and simple pleasures. Smooth sailing breeds an atmosphere of indifference, a taking-for-granted approach to the people, events, and circumstances that make comfort commonplace.
Of course I want my husband’s knee to heal, for him to be able to return to the lunchtime sport that caused the injury, and to normal, comfortable life. In the meantime, though, I am thankful for the opportunity to think more about him and his needs and enjoying the appreciation he shows to me in return. The pattern has become a sweet rhythm that I hope does not lull us into a new complacency, but rather resonates into a fresh new melody.