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I Turned Down A Dinner Date With An Ex-Con

I live in a strange neighborhood.  I engage in running narratives  about my neighbors stemming from  my over-active imagination and my lack of social life coupled with my tendency to snoop and their odd behavior.

Brian, let’s call him, is the man I sometimes refer to as  Creepy Neighbor Number Two.  For a long time I suspected that Creepy Neighbor One might be a serial killer, but I digress . . .

I Feel Compelled to Include A Much More Flattering Depiction of a Nosy Neighbor
Michelle Pfeiffer, What Lies Beneath

Brian is more odd than creepy.   I found it suspect that he and his wife, let’s call her Nancy,  had a baby that we rarely saw, nor did we see evidence of said baby.  On the couple of times when I saw either Brian or  Nancy with the baby, they didn’t seem to know what to do with him.   On one very cold day they had the baby in the stroller at the grocery store.  He had on a hat and jacket, but nothing on his feet.  Nothing at all.  I hoped they’d get him home soon.  Then other times, for weeks at a time, the couple would hold weekly yard sales, selling antiques, and though both were home, the baby was not.

Huh.

Remember when Chandler on Friends was too skinny?

When I was in the midst of exterior renovations and landscaping, Brian used to walk behind my home at least once a day, say hello and sometimes chat.   He was painfully thin, with short-cropped hair, had bad knees and sometimes walked with a cane.   Brian was always friendly and gregarious.  I admit I’d go in the house when I saw him out and about.  He made me uncomfortable.

But then, he was gone.

After Brian dropped off the face of the earth,   I’d seen his wife Nancy  from time to time, but not the baby.  One fine afternoon she was walking a seriously drunk and belligerent friend home.  On  another occasion my kids witnessed her having a heated argument with a guy on a bicycle in the alley behind my house.  My kids thought it was a drug deal gone wrong.  Clearly, they’ve inherited their mother’s tendency to fill in the blanks.  The last time I saw Nancy was at a convenience store — she didn’t acknowledge me and was very jumpy and very, very thin.

Drugs, it had to be drugs.  Plus,  she had no baby with her.

Courtney Love, during skinny times

Then in the Spring Brian  reappeared  in the neighborhood after having been gone for at least a year.  His  appearance had changed.   At first I didn’t recognize him.   His hair is much longer and he’s put on a few pounds.  He seemed healthier, had no cane and often was on a bicycle.

Brian actually reminds me of the heavy Chandler Bing (Matthew Perry), you know, after Rehab.

Plus,  he’d taken to going shirtless — most of the time.  He is not cut.  I mean, on a beach or in his yard this would have been fine, but every day walking or biking around the neighborhood?   No.

On Friday evening Brian knocked on my door and invited me to his home for  Saturday night.  He wanted to cook me dinner.

“Hi Diane. How are you?”

“Good, It’s Roxanne.”

“Oh all this time I thought it was Diane.”

“No problem.”

“Well, I have the house fixed up and I wondered if you wanted to come over for dinner tomorrow night, I’ll cook for you.”

“Oh wow, tomorrow?  I don’t think so, not tomorrow.”  I was caught off guard.

Awkward silence, which I then felt compelled to fill, bad Roxanne, bad Roxanne.

I added,

“I’ve had a rough week,” and after another awkward pause,  “and plus I have plans with friends that may or may not happen.”

“Oh, well, if you’d like to come another time, just let me know.”

“Okay, I’m glad you’ve got the house together.”

“Yes, well, it’s coming along.”

“Okay, well, see you later.”

“Okay, Bye.”

Ouch, right?  Why didn’t I say yes?  Did I actually have plans?

Well, I had plans with old college friends I rarely see that were never confirmed so no, no real plans.  It is true that I’d had a hellish week and didn’t want to have dinner with him — or anyone else.

But let me paint a picture.  Three of my kids were standing or milling about behind me and heard the whole conversation.   I was mortified.  He saw that the kids were there and asked me out anyway.  The invitation did not include the children.  It was painfully awkward.  Plus, the kids knew that I had been avoiding this guy and that while I don’t  think he’s  a bad or menacing guy, I do think he’s  strange.   If I’d said yes, they would know either that I was lying about not liking him all along, or that I agreed to have a date with him out of pity.   Not good either way.

To be fair, I’ll admit that I knew the invitation would be forthcoming.  He’d told me weeks earlier that once he got his house fixed up (his wife had trashed it) he would have me over for dinner and tell me all of the horrific things that have happened to him.   In true overly polite and dating challenged Roxanne fashion, I’d said, “Sure,”  thinking, hoping it would never happen.

Should it ever become a reality, I had decided that I would not accept his dinner invitation.

When Brian made a followup nonspecific dinner  suggestion more recently I’d given him the classic girl response,

“We’ll see.”

He had not been dissuaded, however, and he had showed up at my door.

This time, I just had to say, “No.”

Though I’m single and I need more purely social interaction with adults, I don’t have to date the guys that walk by my house, just because they ask.

Plus, he’d previously turned me off   by saying stupid things, like;

“We should get together sometime.  Wait, how old are you?”

Dude, no, seriously?

And repeating the same statements to me.  “Did you know you can get free mulch?

One week later:  “Did you know you can get free mulch?

Another week later:  “Did you know you can get free mulch?

And he’d stopped by to chat on one of his walks, reeking of liquor.  He’d done the same with the workers at my house, reeking of liquor.  Though this was before the disappearance.

More recently he knocked on the door and asked to borrow DVDs from my son, though we had never had a previous conversation about sharing movies.

Just the other day he waved  at  my house even though no one was  outside.

He’s just not quite right.

Call me shallow, but these are red flags to me.

People can get down on their luck, I know I am.  But my instincts told me to say no.

And let me add more color and texture to the picture I’ve painted.   The last time I had a conversation with Brian  he confirmed some of my suspicions, telling me  that his estranged wife is indeed a drug addict– a coke-head actually, and she’s crazy, that his child is in foster care (hence no evidence of a baby), that he’d been in prison for the last year for trespassing on his own property.  Ahhh this is why he’s been, as the lawyers at the firm used to say, “out-of-pocket.”   But for trespassing?  Really?    Now, given my experience with my own War of The Roses situation, I know that absent physical abuse or a restraining order one cannot be arrested for being on a property that one owns jointly with a spouse.  So it must have been something else, or there was indeed a restraining order against him, which opens another can of worms.   Brian also told me he used to make a lot of money in computers but is now  unemployed and that Nancy and her mother  had scammed him out of everything he had, including his unemployment checks.  He  also offered that he had recently called the police to have his wife removed from the house when she showed up uninvited.  This information did not make me want to pass a pleasant evening at his home.

What if his drug addict wife showed up again?

Yet, even given all that, Brian seems like an “okay” guy,  and it sounds like he’s trying to get his life together.   If he has an addiction of some sort, it’s always a good sign when a person puts on weight. Truthfully, I’d been worried about the baby and was relieved to hear that the child has been removed and is in a safe, temporary home.   But I didn’t  want to hear any more of his stories, not over dinner alone at his house.

Maybe he needs someone to talk to and is reaching out, but he has always made me uncomfortable.   Plus, I just wasn’t in the mood.  Thanks to some of my own problems,   I probably wouldn’t have dated any of People’s Sexiest Men Alive  last weekend.  So the usually shirtless Ex-Con didn’t have much of a chance.

“I want to be alone.” Greta Garbo

I wanted to be alone, truly.

Still, when I refused him, he looked so sad I and I felt guilty.  I hadn’t meant to hurt him.

It’s okay to say, no, though.  It is.  I don’t have to date the guys who walk behind my house unless I really want to.  This I know.  This, I’ve learned.  See Not Digging the Landscaper Guy – Part I, Landscaper Guy and the Female Chandler Bing, Part IIThe Landscaper  Guy and The Phone Smarter Than Me – Part III and The Snowman.

Just Me With . . . no date on a Saturday night.  And that’s okay.

Damn, this is an unusually long post that I apparently needed to write to convince myself that it was okay to say a very short word, “No.”

I had Another Encounter With The Ex-Con which confirmed my decision.   Even the dog knew something wasn’t right.

A Story Of Domestic Violence

For a couple of years my husband and I rented an apartment in the city. (Ironically, just blocks away from where he lives now with his new wife, but I digress . . . )  It was in a semi-circular stone post-war building that in its hey day was probably luxury living but had since come to disrepair.   If I had a few million dollars sitting around I would have bought and refurbished the whole thing, it had great bones and was located near a golf course,  it just needed an overhaul.    All the units were attached  around a shared courtyard with the “A” apartments downstairs and the “B” apartments upstairs.  We all had separate entrances but “A” and “B” apartments shared a back door.  The complex had an absentee owner but it was managed by one of the tenants who lived in the “B” apartment above me.

At the time, my husband and I were child-free and I was a student, so although he had regular day-time work hours and nighttime sleep hours, I was out a good portion of the day and up a good portion of the night.

The manager/neighbor upstairs was a nice enough guy, at first.  I’ll call him Kenny.   Kenny’s day job was managing the complex.   I soon realized that Kenny’s other day job was selling drugs.   There were too many short visits, too many exchanges of small items.   Yet Kenny was a “family” man.  He was married to, let’s call her,  Laura.  They had a son, little Kenny, who at the time was about four years old.   He was a really cute kid, an unusually cute kid, actually — and a real sweetheart.

A neighbor next to me used to come out and practice Tai Chi and little Kenny would just sit down and stare at her, but he was very quiet and respectful. When I sat outside with or without my dog he would visit and talk with me about life the way only a four-year-old could.  His mother knew where he was and that  I was cool — meaning safe.  I really liked that kid, and I admit I don’t warm up to every child.

I started to cool on Big Kenny, though.  I soon realized that big Kenny had another dark side, other than the illegal drug activity.  My husband and I would hear he and Laura arguing, yelling, screaming.  It wasn’t pretty.   Actually, we would hear him yelling at Laura.  The building was old and the walls were very thick and we couldn’t always make out words, but there is an unmistakable  tone of voice — that sound that means somebody has lost control.   Some couples are screamers, that’s the way they argue.   My husband and I were no strangers to the occasional loud argument, but we could sometimes hear Laura crying and as I said, there was something about Big Kenny’s tone.   Laura worked during the day so these “situations” usually happened at night.

Occasionally, I  would see Laura come and go.  She was a small woman, probably in her early twenties, but looked like she’d lived a century.   Her hair was usually just pulled back in a short ponytail, no make-up, her eyes were sunken with dark circles.   I could tell she was brought up with manners, because she always spoke nicely but she avoided eye contact and small talk and almost scurried away.  Maybe she was embarrassed by the thought that I could hear how her husband treated her?  I don’t know.  Maybe Kenny didn’t want her making friends with the neighbors.

During the summer months big Kenny spent more time outside, not working on the apartments, of course.  No, he was working on his car, listening to gangsta rap, meeting “visitors” and, as I could tell when I had to pass him, sampling some of his product.

Drug dealing is a dangerous vocation.  People get angry, people get ripped off, people get paranoid.    I wasn’t going to live there forever, but in the meantime, I’d keep an eye on this guy.

Kenny started to get even meaner.   The late night fights with his wife escalated in intensity and frequency.   My husband and I would lay in bed and hear muffled yelling.  Soon we heard crashes — things  got broken.

My husband and I discovered that if we made noise, it would stop.  I guess once Kenny realized there might be a witness he would calm down.   So my husband and I got into a habit of making noise  whenever heard them fighting upstairs. We would  start talking really loudly, knocking on furniture, making our dog bark, turning up the television, etc.  It would usually stop.   One night it got so bad I sent my husband to actually knock on their door.    Of course, they didn’t answer.  Still, our noise making temporarily stopped whatever was going on up there.  It became a semi-regular routine.

I would see Laura from time to time.   I admit I didn’t know what to say.  I was much younger then, and I was a different person, up to my eyeballs in a co-dependent yet not physically abusive relationship with a man.   I wish I had known how to help her better back then.   The Roxanne now would have been blunt in offering help,  talked about shelters, asked to drive her somewhere, anywhere.  But back then I took a more passive approach by making my presence known during the fights and when  I saw Laura, hoping she would just know that I cared, that I knew, though I didn’t say the words out loud.  I didn’t   realize that perhaps Laura might have needed a more direct approach.

I handled many things passively back then . . . .

Big Kenny was a big asshole,  but he was also a drug dealer who managed my building and I was alone in my apartment a lot.   I didn’t know what else to do.

One night it got really bad.  There was yelling, screaming, crying, crashing and then — it sounded as if Kenny threw his wife down the stairs.

I’m calling the police,” I said.   And I did,  while making a whole lot of noise.   Things got quiet, suddenly, as was usually the case when we became the noisy neighbors.   Whatever was happening up there had stopped, again.  I just hoped Laura wasn’t badly injured.

The police came.  Kenny and Laura refused to even answer the door.   Laura came to the window and told the police she was fine.   The police said there was nothing they could do if the woman doesn’t complain since they didn’t  witness the abuse.   So all we had accomplished was stopping the fight that night — and I guess we created a record.   Small victory.  Now I was afraid of what big Kenny would do to her when I wasn’t around.

Big Kenny needed to have his butt kicked, big time. His very presence was pissing me off, and he had this adorable son who he didn’t deserve, and a wife who did not deserve to be treated like that.

My purposeful noise making  increased, not just during the fights — but when Kenny had his visitors, whenever Kenny went in or out of the house,  whenever I was home.  I would go outside for no reason to let him know when I was there.   I just wanted him to know I was watching him.   Jerk.

Then one day, Laura was gone.

Little Kenny was gone, too.   At first, I thought they were just gone for a day, a weekend, but then big Kenny seemed to be on his own.   I’m suspicious by nature,  I’ve been known to often suspect foul-play, it’s just where my mind usually goes,  see “What Happened In My House?”  but not this time, somehow I felt that  Laura finally just left.  At least that’s what I hoped.

Fast forward over a year later. My husband and I had since bought a house and moved out of that apartment complex.   I was downtown, making my way to the train out to the suburbs.  As I was walking some woman stepped right up to me and said,

“Hi, Roxanne!”   She was all smiles and seemed to know me.

I had no idea who she was.  I put my mind through some mental gymnastics trying to figure out how I knew this woman, since she clearly knew me — Was it law school?  Had I worked with her?  Was she some sort of family friend I can’t place? 

I guess I hadn’t hid my confusion very well because she finally said,

“Roxanne, it’s Laura.  You know, with little Kenny.”

My mouth dropped open.  I couldn’t hide it.  Because this woman looked gooooood.    I mean, her skin was healthy, her make-up was flawless, her cheeks were plump,  her hair was out and styled,  she sported a cute outfit.  This woman had it together.  She was unrecognizable — in a good way.  I never would have known it was her if she hadn’t stopped me.   Never in a million years.

I had to say, “Oh my God, you look so good!”

She knew exactly what I meant and simply said,

“Thanks.   I got away. “

“How’s little Kenny?”

“He’s great.  We’re both great.  I’m done with him [Big Kenny].”  I knew exactly what she meant.  “I got out.”

She told me she’d moved out of the city and was doing  just fine.   It showed.

I had to hug her, and I’m not a hugger by nature.  I told her I’d often wondered how she was and added, “It was so good to see you.”  It was heartfelt.

I had never before been so happy to run into somebody I didn’t recognize.

I think I smiled for the rest of that day, and I’m smiling as I write this.

I never saw her again.  But I never worried about her again, either.

I tip my hat to Laura, “You go girl. Here’s to one that got away.”

Just Me With . . .  a happy ending.

P.S.  I wish I had done more to help her.  Now, looking back,  my mind fills with the “I should have done this, I could have done that . . . ”  and Big Kenny should have done time — for something, anything.     But I am just glad Laura got away.   I don’t need to be the hero.   Laura did it.  She got away.

Tales from The Bar Exam

I have always prided myself on my test preparation and test taking abilities.   Not just knowing the material, but the little things that help with preparedness, like getting on a sleep schedule that coincides with the testing hours, eating brain and energy foods, avoiding things that cause stress, dressing in comfortable clothes, mapping out and timing the route to the test location, even listening to Mozart!   Then there’s the superstitions:   I firmly believe that sleeping with books under my pillow or next to my bed helps.  I don’t care what anyone thinks about that.  I believe it.

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Crash: If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you ARE! And you should know that!    – Bull Durham

The bar exam is one  pretty big test, at least two full days, depending on your state.  Accordingly, one must be prepared and ironically, having graduated from law school has little to do with being prepared for the bar exam.    There is a period of two and a half months of bar exam study  for would be lawyers.    In my infinite arrogance, I decided that unlike EVERYONE else, I would not pay for and take the bar exam prep course.   My thoughts were, it is stressful to be around anxious pre-lawyers all day,  the course itself is ridiculously expensive.  Plus, what do the courses do?  They give out materials, go over them, teach and practice test taking strategies and offer  practice tests.  I can do this myself, I thought.    I have always (until now . . . but I digress . . .)  been extremely disciplined.  I credit my musical training for this.   I don’t need a class to give me daily study structure.   I can, all by myself, put myself on a study and practice test schedule, every day for eight hours a day, plus a couple more hours at night.    I truly thought I would do better by myself.  I had never taken a prep course for any of the other standardized tests I’d taken, why start now?  Plus, I  resented the way in which the companies that sponsor these bar prep courses (not law schools) profited from the insecurities of pre-lawyers.   These companies know that we have to pass the test and we would do almost anything to pass the test.   No one wants the embarrassment of failing. No one wants to take it more than once.   One Tweeter @CriticalA aptly noted:  “”I’d rather suck Satan’s d*ck than take the bar exam again.”    That pretty much sums it up.

So partly out of arrogance, taking a stand against corporate greed, and, well,  I had no money, I decided:   No, I’m not going to do it.  I will buy the books, but I will not take the course.

Not one other person I knew made that choice. Not one.

girls-standing-alone

But it was all good.  I did put myself on a schedule.  I never missed a day of studying, except for the Rat In My House incident, all went well.   I felt prepared, ready.   Mine was a two-day test.  The first multiple choice, the second essay.  If  the test taker  scores high enough on the first day, the second day is less important, so most of the prep courses and study focused on the first day of testing.  I prepared for both.

As planned, a week before the test I put myself on test schedule for sleeping and eating.   I was well rested.  I actually felt good.  I had passed my practice exams well within the allotted time.  I was ready.  Nervous, but ready.

Day One

On test day, I successfully avoided my stressors, got a good seat.  And . . . go!!!!

At some point during the exam, however, I apparently decided that it was time to take a nap.  

 

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A nap!!!!  I freaking fell asleep.

I fell asleep on the bar exam.

I freaking fell asleep on the bar exam. 

There was no reason for this.    I was well rested, nourished.  All I can think is that my mind had been so focused on getting ready, that when the day finally came, my brain said — “Okay, I’m done now, right?” and checked out.

I don’t know how long I was out.  I woke up with about a half hour left and a lot more than a half hour of questions to answer.

I wanted to die. 

 I finished when they called time, but not with well thought out answers and with no time to spare.  I’d always had time to spare in my practice tests.  But then again during my practice tests — I WAS AWAKE!!!!!!!

CRAP!!!!!!

According to my finely tuned text taking strategies and rigid rules,  I must not discuss this monumental blunder with anyone.  I would only go home, eat, rest and sleep in order to be ready for Day Two.  Because  I FELL ASLEEP  on Day One, Day Two became much more important.

I put myself in denial and robotically followed my plan.  I spoke to no one, except my husband, only out of necessity.

Day Two 

I always liked  law school essay tests, but since I HAD FALLEN ASLEEP on the previous day’s multiple choice test, I had to do more than “like” these essays on Day Two.  I had to ace them.

Pursuant my test taking techniques,  I scanned the essay questions.   There was one that I absolutely did not know that answer to.  I would still answer it, of course, but it would take some reasoning.  No need to panic.  And as I recall there was another that was a bit difficult as well, but at least I knew the answer, though the reasoning might be tricky.  I did what has always worked for me, I knocked out the easiest ones first, to reserve time for the harder ones later.

In the end, I finished in time, actually with a little time to spare, proofread my answers and tried to put the whole experience behind me.

On the way home, however, I realized —-  to my horror:

I’d answered the one question I was initially concerned about but I’d  FORGOTTEN  TO GO BACK AND ANSWER THE OTHER ONE!!!

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I HAD NOT ANSWERED ONE OF THE REQUIRED ESSAY QUESTIONS ON THE BAR EXAM!!!!!!!!!!!

For the second time in two days, I wanted to die.

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Let’s  recap, shall we?  I didn’t take the bar exam prep course that everyone else took,  I fell asleep on Day One of testing, and I simply neglected to answer a full essay question on Day Two.

It wasn’t good.  Not good at all.

And now the wait . . .

If you don’t know,  there is a four-month delay between the date the exam is taken and when the results are published. It was a long-ass four months. By this time,  I was working for a federal judge. My co-clerk was a snobbish double ivy league golden boy son-of-a- judge. 

The  results day came, finally. This was before discovering your fate could be accomplished alone, via the Internet and without human contact.  The snobbish double ivy league golden boy son-of-a- judge  and I decided that instead of participating in the law clerk tradition of  walking to the county courthouse to publicly read the results,  we would call the designated a hot line at the State Bar.  Good.  For the reasons above, I had convinced myself I had failed. I figured that receiving the inevitable news over the phone would limit the witnesses to my embarrassment to just one: the snobbish double ivy league golden boy son-of-a- judge. That would hurt my ego, but it would be better than  public humiliation followed by  the long walk of shame back to my desk — and my judge.

Snobbish double ivy league golden boy son-of-a- judge and I  called the hotline.  He entered his identification number and got word of  his Passing  score.  He  handed  the phone to me.

My head was spinning:  Why was I so arrogant?  Why didn’t I take the course like EVERYBODY ELSE? Why did I fall asleep? Why did I decide part of the exam was optional? Why can’t I just lay down and die???????  I  entered  in my identification number, waited, then  . . .

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I PASSED!!!!!

Despite it all, I had passed.  I had passed.  I had passed.  Damn, I must have done something good.

(Yes, I see the typo in the image text, my apologies, it’ll have to do for now.)

Just Me With . . . the ability to say . . . I passed the bar exam in my sleep.

And here’s a bonus, much to the utter shock and dismay of  my  snobbish double ivy league golden boy son-of-a- judge  co-clerk, not only had I passed, but my numerical score was . . . wait for it  . . . higher than his.   (I didn’t say a word, on the outside.)

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And  here’s yet another  bonus.  Years later, I ran into my  snobbish double ivy league golden boy son-of-a- judge co-clerk, who actually gained some humility over the years and apologized to me for his arrogance (which is beyond the scope of this post).   Then he started telling me how busy he and his wife were:

Him:   “You’ll never believe it!  I have twin girls!  Yeah, it’s crazy!”

Me:    “Really?  Twin girls, huh?  Wow.   Crazy.   So . . . you  have . . .  just . . . the one  . . . set of twin girls?” .  . .    wait for it . . .   “I have two.”

We had a good old laugh about that.

Him:  “You always manage to one up  me, don’t you?  I guess I’d better just shut up.”

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See:

A Rat In My House  – Unscheduled study break …

My Law School Crush

Another Embarrassing Moment, Another Crush

A Sad and Disturbing True Halloween Story

This happened years ago . . .

I don’t come from a large family, I only had three cousins in the area.   It was my Dad’s sister’s family:  two boys and a girl.  They were Army brats and moved a lot, but eventually settled on our street.  The girl was my age and we were inseparable growing up all the way through high school.  She would escape to my house to get away from her pesky older brothers.  I had my first kiss at the brothers’  party at their house.

Adulthood happens.   Bill, the oldest cousin, was now thirty-two years old.  He was married with three children: a four-year old girl, a three-year old girl and a nine month old baby boy.   His wife was a stay-at-home-mom.  I was also married, but no kids yet.

On October 31st  his wife was home getting the children dressed for Halloween. She was waiting for their Daddy to get home from work  and take the kids Trick Or Treating.

He never got there.

On his way home from work on Halloween night, he was struck head on by a drunk driver  .  .  .  and killed instantly.

His wife, wondering why he was late getting home,  had to receive the news while the kids were in costumes.  It was the most tragic of tragic — a young mother, children too little to understand, a senseless accident occasioned by stupidity.   On Halloween.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were just around the corner –but it would be just the first of many holiday seasons missing a Daddy, a husband, a son, a brother,  and there had been no chance to say goodbye.  It rocked our entire family.  It was devastatingly sad.

Funeral Procession by Ellis Wilson

The services were, of course, well attended.  The steering wheel had gone through my cousin’s chest and broken his jaw,  but his face was otherwise intact and they were able to have an open casket. There was a viewing , the funeral itself, the burial and the reception.

It’s difficult to describe how heartbreaking it all was.   There were tears from three generations, a pretty and petite  mother of three– it seemed like a slight breeze could blow her away, bouncing preschool girls, a cutie-pie fat and happy baby boy,  grieving parents, siblings, friends,  aunts and uncles, and yes . . . cousins.  It’s been years and years, but I still think of it, the horror of his senseless death.

When we arrived at the funeral reception, my then husband turned to me and said something I’ve never been able to  forget.

He said,

“I’m not going to do this all day.”

Dangerous Liaisons

Just Me With . . .  no words.

P.S.   This is backstory.   The accident happened years ago, but understandably I think about it every Halloween.   The drunk driver did some time, I don’t recall  how much.  It got him off the road, but it didn’t bring my cousin back.   My cousin’s wife grieved hard but recovered as much as a person can.     She received a settlement from the insurance and never hurt for money.  She eventually remarried a family friend and had one more child.  The children grew up well, the  whole family keeps their father’s memory alive.  That nine month old baby boy grew up to look a lot like the Dad he never knew.   The girls,  young women now, are beautiful, healthy and happy.  His parents  routinely visit the grave and leave fresh flowers on holidays.  I say all this because I don’t want it to appear like I’m using this horrible tragedy just for blog fodder about me.  As I said, it’s that time of year;  it’s on my mind.  And my husband’s statement to me at the funeral reception has haunted me for years . . . and it’s scary.

Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

My house wasn’t this grand, but it was somewhat similar.

My Marital Home was  large Victorian fixer-upper still in progress.  I  had accumulated a lot of  children and stuff over my years there.   One of my forms of therapy has always been to get rid of things and rearrange furniture (I know, a little weird) .  Consequently  I’d been cleaning crap out with a vengeance after my husband left (so much so he thought I was moving way before I even thought about it).

When the real move was on the horizon, I was faced with moving from this  big house to my new little project where Piss Man and his GF were living  (See Piss, Puke and Porn).    So I basically decreased our belongings by — my guess — around two/thirds . . .   Mind you the kid count was remaining the same and they were/are growing by the minute and although some days I’d like to sell them, I’m aware that generally this is frowned upon.  Consequently, other stuff had to go.

Since I’m a purger by nature I drop by Goodwill often; they know me (even got hit on there).  But since I was already doing this massive move by myself, including getting the Marital Home ready for sale and fixing up the new old hoarder’s house, I was quickly tiring of schlepping my stuff to Goodwill.  I also tired of selling individual items, you know, meeting strangers at inconvenient times, etc. to maybe or maybe not make a sale.  (Sounds a little like dating, but I digress.)  I’ve never had luck having yard sales.   So I started posting things for free.

We’ve all seen those ads, “Free Stuff”  “Moving” etc.  Well, I became one of those people.    I decided to give away everything I could on one beautiful weekend.  I took pictures,  posted them on Craigslist and said FREE — come get it . . . first come, first served.

When living in a smaller space you don’t have the luxury to store certain things, one of them being holiday decorations.   I’d already gotten rid of much of that stuff, but I was ready to let go of  almost everything else.  I told myself, and I was right, that I probably wouldn’t miss it  and if I wanted more decorations later I’d  start fresh.

My kids’ babysitter (now a good, good friend) had given them these beautiful angel decorations — you know the kind with the velvet gown and fur and whatnot — I had four of them for the girls and she’d given the boy  a big nutcracker (heh heh).   The angels had looked beautiful in my formal dining room when I had my Christmas sing-along parties.   But, that life was . . . over.   Still, even for me,  it is a bit harder to get rid of items that were thoughtful gifts from a loved one–  so I struggled a bit.

I knew I couldn’t store the angels and I knew that in the new old house I wouldn’t have a place to display them at Christmas  . . . so . . .  I took a picture of the kids’ pretty angels, posted it on Craigslist and put them out on the street, convincing myself that my friend would understand.  It felt kinda like giving away my four girls, except  my girls  aren’t  always angels  . . . but I digress.

Craigslist Angels

Christmas Angels

After posting, I got an email right away from a guy wanting to know if I still had them.  I checked outside and they were still there.  He asked me to hold them until he could get to my house.

Alrighty.

I mean, they were pretty, but I didn’t know they’d be hot property  — in June.   I moved them to a more secluded place and told him where he could find them.   He came and got them right away.  I never saw him.

Cool,”  I thought,  “My stuff  is going.”  It’s amazing how you can’t sell something for a dollar but if you offer it for free —  it’s gone.

A couple of hours later I got an email from the man who took the angels.   He  thanked me for the them, telling me that they were for his mother who was going through Cancer treatments and having a pretty rough time.   She didn’t get out much, he said, hardly ever.  But when she saw the picture of my Christmas angels she  wanted them so badly that she rode with him to get them.

He said those angels made her so happy. He was thrilled to be able to make her smile.

He just wanted to let me know how much I’d done for the both of them.

I almost cried.  I’m lying, I did cry.

Oh wait, it’s Just Me With . . . tears in my eyes . . . again.

For what happened when I prepared the Marital Home for sale, see My Panty Drawer/Your Panty Drawer

For my purging of marriage related material, see:

My Wedding Album, Time to Reduce It — Perhaps by Fire

Wedding Leftovers — What To Do With The Dress?

and for what I wish would happen with Craigslist, see,  A Craigslist Fantasy.