Archive for May, 2011

Good Luck or Bad Luck Can Be in the Perception

My father was an artist/architect/carver.  He designed beautiful buildings that to this day are still city centerpieces, painted flattering portraits that still hang proudly in people’s homes, and carved a large variety of creative items.  His favorite, and my mom’s least favorite, was a statue of a Tiki god.  A squat, dark man with wild pointy hair, red eyes and a huge, pure white, toothy grin that was almost as big as the body itself.  My mother said it looked evil and it gave her the creeps.  My dad proudly sat it on the fireplace mantel “for good luck”, he said.

Shortly after he placed the statue there, he fell down the basement stairs and broke his leg badly in three places.  He recuperated slowly, but managed to get back to work.  Because he had just returned to work, he ignored stomach pains because he was trying to get caught up on a project.  He finally had to be rushed to the hospital and almost died because his appendix had burst and he had become septic. Whether he was going to live was up in the air for days.

He finally recuperated and returned home from the hospital, although he was still not entirely healed.  He had to get up every few hours to take pain pills.  Late one night when he got up to take medication, he found the kitchen of the house engulfed in flames!  He woke everyone up and managed to scoop my brother out of his bedroom next to the kitchen before the flames reached him.

The fire trucks arrived quickly and more than 1/2 of the house was damaged.  The house was burnt from the back bathroom, the laundry room, the kitchen, my brother’s bedroom, and all the way down the hallway up to the mantle of the fireplace in the living room where the fire damage had stopped.  After the firemen put the fire out and surveyed the severe smoke damage, they were struck by one oddity…the smile of the Tiki god was glowing bright white.  Everything around it was burnt or blackened by smoke, but the statue appeared to be untouched!

Our local newspaper did an article on this phenomenon and we were local celebrities for our 15 minutes of fame.   My mother insisted the Tiki statue was bad luck.  My father fell down the stairs and broke his leg.  His appendix had burst and he’d almost died.  And 1/2 the house burned down!  My father had another take on the situation.  The Tiki god was GOOD luck.  When he’d fallen down the stairs, he could have broken his neck instead of his leg.  When his appendix had burst, he could have gotten to the hospital too late and died.  And if his appendix had not burst, he would not have gotten up in the middle of the night to get medication and the whole house, including his family, could have burned!

The statue remained a fixture in my parent’s house as long as my father lived.  When he passed away ten years ago, my mom got rid of the statue, or so I thought…

Some of you may know that I have been dealing with the recent death of my mother. Cleaning out her house these past few weeks have been the saddest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.  How does one begin to decide what to keep, what to give away and what to throw away?  Cleaning the kitchen I found the grinder she used to make bologna salad with.  Cleaning the bedrooms I  tenderly sorted through pictures, mementos, costume jewelry and I not so tenderly threw away her clothes that had become threadbare and worn.

I had managed to finish cleaning most of the house except for the basement.  I put that off until last.  In a family like ours without any wealth in “things”, I could only expect to find in the basement “memories” not worth keeping, but too sad to throw away.  All of the old Christmas decorations, the threadbare sheets, blankets, chenille bedspreads and curtains that my mother thought might “come in handy one day”, old televisions with rabbit ear antennas,  8 track tape recorders, posters from the 60s that had faded and crumbled with the moisture,  and a whole lot of other worthless “junk” that would cause me further sadness.  I was dreading cleaning it out!  As a working mother with kiddos who I have to drive back and forth to doctor appointments, soccer practice, friend’s houses and such, I did not really have the extra time I needed to devote to this depressing task.  Plus, I hated cleaning my OWN house and I resented the fact that this task lay ahead of me.

At work my husband called me frantic!  The water heater had burst in my mother’s basement and there was 2 inches of water everyplace!!!  I had no time to be bothered with yet another unpleasant task, I thought as I left work early to take care of the situation.  As I opened my mother’s basement door, I could hear the water gushing, and see items floating freely in the water.  “UGH!!!!”  I thought, as I started to cry, overwhelmed by the task ahead of me.  Now I not only had to clean, but I had to mop up the mess! When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I surveyed the damage…everything was dank, dripping wet and depressing.  Then, a familiar face smiled out at me through the dampness…the Tiki statue!  It was up on a shelf on a wall way across the room, but even through the darkness I could still see its smile!  I stopped crying in amazement.  It made me think.  I finally realized that this was NOT bad luck, as my mother would have said, but GOOD luck, as my father would have said.  With my mom’s basement flooded, her homeowner’s insurance company would pay to have it cleaned up!  I called them and they sent over a cleaning crew right away. With everything ruined, it would have to be thrown away, not by ME, but by the company which would haul it all away.  Suddenly the dismal vision of me standing in a foot of water and bagging after bag after bag of old, wet memories disappeared, replaced with a sense of giddiness! I don’t know why, but just the fact that this huge daunting task of cleaning her basement had been taken care of by this flood lightened my mood. Isn’t life strange?

Although some of our old stuff MAY have been salvageable, I knew it would just sit in my basement and become more junk for me, so I asked the clean up crew to clean it entirely because everything was “moldy from the water. They went in and scooped everything away and cleaned the basement spotlessly!  The thing I saved from the basement was the Tiki god.  Not that I “believe” in him, but I believe that sometimes luck is all in how incidents are perceived, and life is a whole lot less stressful if you can look at the lucky side of things!  I know my spirits were lifted that day…


She Took Off with the Man in the Red Truck

A neighbor ran to my door the other day and screamed “Marie just got in a red pick-up truck with a man and he sped away.”  Bad information for any parent to hear.  I immediately called 911, and by the time the police were at my door minutes later, Marie, who is profoundly deaf and very precocious, came strolling down the street to our house.  Of course I was overwhelmingly relieved to see her, but also slight embarrassed by the 5 police cars at our doorstep.

“Where WERE you?” I asked.

“I went with man to find dog” she answered in American Sign Language.   We all gasped at the “reason” she got into the red truck, a reason notoriously used by men who kidnap children.  She said she jumped out of the truck and came home, giving a description of the truck and the man. Then she nonchalantly mentioned that she knew him and where he lived.  Walking, she led the police cars two streets over and pointed to a house. Completely disinterested in their investigation, and stubbornly unwilling to discuss it any further because her favorite television show was on, she walked home.

Knowing Marie and her friendliness and impulsivity, I thought she had willingly jumped in his truck, thinking of him as a friend with no harm intended.  After all, he simply drove around the block and parked at his house.

He turned out to have a record for drugs, but no history of child abuse or violence.  Even if he “let her go”, the police argued,  he would still be guilty of “child enticement,”  so they dutifully put him in handcuffs and brought him down to the police station.  Something about the situation just did not sit right with me, so I sat Marie down and delved further into her story.

According to her, the neighbor’s dog got loose from its leash and she was chasing it trying to catch it but it ran up the street.  When the man in the red truck drove by, Marie, recognizing him as a neighbor, frantically flagged down his truck and asked him to stop. Without him making any comments or motions, she jumped into the front seat and pointed at the loose dog.  Understanding what she wanted, he sped down the street in pursuit of the animal, which eventually turned around and ran home.  He had driven around the block to his home, at which point she jumped out of his truck to come home.  She was completely confused as to why the police were there.  Using this as an opportunity to reinforce to her the dangers of getting into someone’s car, the lesson did not register with her.  She KNEW him, she insisted, and he was just helping her.

Knowing that this man, who only responded to his young neighbor flagging him down and jumping into his car, was being held in handcuffs at the police station, I immediately called the station to give the explanation.  It was the same explanation the man was giving the police, but which they somehow did not believe.  With my corroboration, they let him go. Gracefully, there were no hard feelings from him as he completely understood why they thought he committed a crime.  He did learn a lesson, though, as he reportedly keeps his doors locked now when he passes our house. 

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