Thursday, May 5, 2011

He Called Me Blondie

My husband Alex's Dad was a Marine.

I first met Fred at Alex's sister's wedding. I had heard a lot about him, but I didn't know what to expect. Fred was short like most Navajos, brown as a walnut, and nicely dressed in a suit and tie. When we were introduced, he grinned at me and immediately christened me "Blondie"!

Right after the wedding ceremony, Fred went inside to change into his jeans and a long sleeved flannel shirt, despite the heat. He came out with a smile announcing "I'm Fred again!"

Fred was already sick with cancer when I met him, but he was a tough bird. Fred walked everywhere in the 100 plus degree Arizona heat because he didn't have a car. If there was a cold beer waiting for him, he could and did walk 20 miles for it.

I'm not sure that Fred ever knew my first name was Linda. From the time he met me, he always called me "Blondie". Fred had an innocence and a sweetness about him, but he was very smart too. I see a lot of him in Alex.

Fred and his brothers (there were 5 of them) all joined the Marines at the same time. Alex was born at a Military Hospital in San Diego. A few years later, the military deployments were too getting too difficult for a man with a growing family, (by this time, Alex had 2 younger sisters), and Fred decided to get out of the service.

He went to work for the Police Department in Phoenix for a time, working in the animal control division, and in later years, Fred worked as a security guard.

Fred was quiet and usually reserved, but had a great subtle sense of humor. When he liked something, he would smile and say "horses", but nobody ever knew exactly what that meant. Fred was also a self-described "red apple", (red on the outside, white on the inside), and his wife drove him crazy because she clung to Navajo culture and "magic". She had a bag of "fetish shit" (Fred called it), and he would periodically try and throw it in the trash. Alex's mom always caught him though and recovered her "treasures".

Fred was undergoing chemo treatments for stomach cancer. We invited him to visit us in San Francisco. Between chemo sessions he overcame his aversion to flying and came up to see us for a long weekend.

We took Fred sightseeing and took the ferry across the Bay to Sausalito. He seemed to really enjoy it, but Fred tired easily. When we got back to the house, he and I sat on the front steps and shared a beer and a cigarette and talked while Alex did some homework.

Fred talked to me at length about being a Marine and what it had meant to him. He really loved the Corps. Fred also shared his feelings of great pride in his son because Alex was in college and getting close to earning his degree.

Fred was not formally educated, but he was an avid reader and had a very sharp intellect and a wealth of life experience.

That night after dinner, Fred was tired. He had a few beers before and during dinner. The beer with the lethal chemo cocktail in his system wiped him out.

My mom was at our house that evening. She and I waited until Fred was settled in bed, and we went in and sat with him.

Mom had a great voice and she sang to him for about an hour and Fred loved every moment of having both of our attention. We talked and laughed, my mom on one side holding his hand, me on the other, until he was ready to sleep.

I went to see Fred in the hospital during the last week of his life. Although he was drugged, he was the same funny, smart and serious man! Fred said to me "Blondie, if I had met you first, things might have been very different!" I kissed his lips and left the room as he fell asleep.

That was the last time I ever saw Fred. I still dream about him though. I still see him sometimes too when I look at my husband's face.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Have A Theory

I have a theory.

When my bathroom looks like this at 1:00 AM on a Tuesday morning, something has gone terribly amiss.

It all started on Sunday. I told Alex the upstairs toilet wasn't flushing completely. He looked up from his computer and said "really!" so I realized this was a job that I would have to do myself. I grabbed the plunger and went upstairs.

I plunged with all my might and flushed about 10 times while I continued to try and get the toilet cleared. Finally, it seemed to be all right. (Now I might mention that although our home has 4 bathrooms, only one is located upstairs where our bedroom is. Because I am a woman "of a certain age", it is likely I will get up in the night at least once to use the facilities.)

I spent the evening engrossed in CNN and forgot all about the earlier problem with the toilet. Osama bin Laden being killed was strongly on my mind. I didn't feel jubilant, I just felt sad, (or maybe sadder than usual), as I am always sad when my husband is leaving on a mission.

This morning I noticed the toilet bowl was overly full of water. I ignored it and came downstairs to perform my ablutions, figuring I would deal with it later. While having my morning coffee and watching CNN for updates, I learned that Osama had not only been killed, but he had also been buried at sea in less than 24 hours after his death. This is apparently in conformance with Islamic religious law. It made sense because while the US was not honoring the man, the country was showing admirable respect for the Muslim faith under the circumstances.

I went upstairs about 8 PM and remembered that the toilet had been hinky so I grabbed the plunger and tried again. This time, I miscalculated and water poured on to the floor at an alarming rate. I tried to pull the thingy up to stop the flow but to no avail. It finally subsided but not until the entire bathroom floor was flooded. There is a faucet under the toilet and I turned it off.

The clean up took about 3 hours and 25 towels. I brought up the mop and the Lysol to finish the job. I turned on "Nurse Jackie" and settled in my favorite chair to watch a couple of episodes although I was very tired. Hauling the wet towels downstairs was a lot like hard labor since they weighed a ton, and I really am not a fan of carrying heavy things.

Perhaps and hour later, I heard water. At first I thought it was the cat using the litter box and didn't pay too much attention to it. Then I realized if that was the cat using the litter box, I'd better get him to the vet right away. I cautiously approached the bathroom only to see a tsunami coming toward me.

The bathroom floor was covered in about a half an inch of water. Oh shit oh dear! I grabbed the remaining 20 or so towels, two terrycloth robes, and the contents of the laundry hamper and tried to soak up the water, but it was flowing out as fast as I could sop it up. I finally threw caution to the wind and yanked every tube in the tank out. What do you know! It stopped! Just like that!

I got a pail and started bailing water out of the bowl and the tank. I hauled the water out to the sink in the family room, making about 100 trips. I was still not confident it would not rise up again but so far it hasn't.

The law of political thermodynamics says that for every action, there is an opposite and inequal reaction (or something like that). I think tossing Osama in the drink is what caused the toilet to flood my house.

I can only hope nobody else is buried at sea in the near future.