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A Decision Has Been Made

The other day, Irish Woman and I were discussing our plans for the yard this year. She wants to relocate some blueberry bushes and put in another vegetable bed.

I commented about how the lawn mower needed its annual service, and that we’d probably be doing our first cut of the year by the end of March.

That’s when the… discussion started.

It appears that since we moved to our current house, I have been monopolizing the time spent riding around on the lawn mower. I have, with malice and forethought, given up about 1/4 of my weekend to mow, trim, and clean up our yard.

How awful of me. To go out on a Saturday morning, gas up the John Deere, and spend two hours mowing the lawn. Then, I put a battery in the string trimmer and whack weeds and edge along the driveway and sidewalk. I oppressively make sure the areas around the mailbox, trees, power poles, and the still-unused basketball goal are neat.

And let us not forget the pure ecstasy of using a leaf blower to get all of the clippings and dirt off of the sidewalk and driveway so that they aren’t permanently stained green the next time we drive or walk upon them.

I am robbing, yes robbing my family of the enjoyment of having to take a shower until the water no longer runs green. I am denying them the joy of having a pair of shoes so nasty by July that I have to throw them out in September.

Why, I am even taking away the joy one gets when you are 30 feet away from being done and have the weed whacker run out of string or battery, or both.

To atone for these and other sins, I have made a decision, in keeping with my powers as Pater Familias.

This year, I ain’t mowing a damned thing.

Instead, I shall sit upon my deck, drinking coffee, and watching the grass grow on Saturday mornings. I shall refrain from purchasing lawn mower parts, not even the fuel needed to have the movable feast that is riding a lawn mower through clouds of gnats and straining grass clippings out of a beverage with my teeth.

Instead, I shall leave that pleasure to the ones I love. In fact, I will leave it all to them. Far be it from me to deprive my son of the lesson of getting out of bed at the crack of dawn on a Saturday so that you can start that mower up right at 8 AM.

My wife will know the joy of having to set a calendar event on Friday night to make sure the batteries for the weed whacker and leaf blower are charging before she goes to bed.

I, on the other hand, will know the shame of sitting in their usual spot, watching someone else toil. Perhaps I shall sip coffee, or maybe even iced tea. I shall, on occasion, take a cold beverage out to them, then get pissy when they neither see nor hear me trying to get their attention.

Oh, my family, how I have wronged you. Fear not, for I have recognized my sins, and will endeavor to not repeat them. Enjoy the chlorophyll tattoos on your calves and ankles, the chigger bites, and the sunburns. I shall do my penance by doing things in the air conditioning for a summer.

Overheard in the Kitchen

Her, making her breakfast before heading to her desk for the day – It’s Halloween. What spooky movie do you want to watch?

Me, finishing my breakfast and contemplating what to do on a rare day off – I don’t know. Did we have a videographer at our wedding?

Her – ………….

Not sure why, but the temperature in the kitchen just dropped 30 degrees in a few seconds. Send help.

Rules for Waking Up Your Husband

  1. Do not wake up your husband for inclement weather until the dude on TV is telling folks five miles from your house to get in the basement.
  2. Do wake up your husband when you hear something that may or may not be a home intruder, large critter on the porch, or ghost.
  3. Do not wake up your husband for a sick child until the child tells you it is sick. That is, of course, unless said sprog is an infant, in which case neither of you will be asleep anyway.
  4. Do wake up your husband if the child announces said malady by spewing like a shaken can of cheap beer.
  5. Do not wake up your husband because your alarm is going off.  He has one of his own.
  6. Do wake up your husband if his alarm is going off, has awoken you, and he is still comatose. Please be merciful.
  7. Do not wake up your husband because you are mad at him for something he did in a dream.
  8. Do wake up your husband if you wake up afraid or upset about something you dreamed.
  9. Do not wake up your husband because you are bored and want to talk about that thing you watched on TV last night that you know makes him want to shove his head in the blender and hit the ‘frappe’ button.
  10. Do wake up your husband if you just need a quick kiss or hug to let you know how much he loves you, because he does indeed love you more than he loves sleep.

Overheard in the House

Last Sunday –

Her, she of the flashing green eyes – I’m home from the doc in the box. Got a bad respiratory infection. How are you feeling? You just took your arthritis injections.
Me – Aw, you poor thing! I’m fine. Go, get some rest and get better! Don’t you worry about me! I’m a strong dude! Nothing to worry about.
Wednesday afternoon –
Me – I’m home from work. Feel like pond scum.
Her – You should go to the doctor.
Me – Woman, I’m fine! Just need a few hours of sleep and I’ll be ready to gnarfle the garthok!
Her – Uh-huh.
Me – Yep, nothing to see here, move along.  I’ll see you in 24 hours.
This morning –
Me – Hey sweetie! Guess what happened!
Her, feeling a bit better after a week of treatment – You went to the doctor?
Me, chuckling nervously – Well, in a totally unrelated, coincidental, and completely odd happening, I bumped into a doctor at the doc in the box today, and he says that I have a double ear infection, a sinus infection, and strep throat. He mentioned rheumatic fever, for some weird reason, and said that I need to make good use of this ruck sack full of prescriptions he gave me. What a great guy, carrying such a thing around on the odd chance that he runs into someone who doesn’t have one.
Her – And did this humanitarian ask when you’ll be human again?
Me – Well, he said that I should take another couple of days away from the office, for some odd reason, and that I should avoid contact with other living creatures until Tuesday night.  Something about the zombie apocalypse.
Her – tap tap tap tap
Me – Well, I’ll just take one of these rather large pills, one of these little pills that say “Have lots of pillows nearby and say hi to Aslan for us!” on the label, and a few of these little white pills.
Her – tap tap tap tap
Me – Well, that’s not a pleasant flavor.  Huh, feeling a little tired all of a sudden.  Perhaps I’ll lay down for a few mom……….zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Counting the Rings on the Old Family Tree

A couple months ago, I decided to take the plunge and get my DNA analyzed to see exactly where on this dirtball my ancestors came from.

From family lore, I’m supposed to be:

  • 25% Norwegian
  • 25% German (although that family branch came from Deutschland via the Volga River Valley)
  • 25% Irish
  • 25% …. Umm, yeah, about that.

So, 75% known, 25% unknown, although there’s a good chance that there’s a bit more Irish in that quarter of my genome.

So, anyway, I’m what you’d call a mutt, the alloy that the great American melting pot creates after a few generations.

So, anyway, I bought a kit, expectorated into a test tube, and mailed it off.  The results came in the other day.  According to the good folks who did the lab work, here’s where my ancestors hailed from:

  • 41% Ireland – Higher than I thought, but not surprising.
  • 31% Scandinavia – Again, not surprising, but I guess this means there’s a Viking or seven who settled down in Ireland somewhere in the woodpile, because my known Norwegian ancestor only contributed 25%.
  • 13% Great Britain – Well, that was unexpected, but honestly not surprising.
  • 8% Western Europe – I guess this is my German ancestor, although I thought this would be higher.  Maybe the Great Britain and and Western Europe are from a British guy who liked the Continent after defeating Napoleon.
  • 2% Italy / Greece – So now JayG and I have something to talk about.
  • Less than 1%  Iberian Peninsula – Hi, my armada just got burned to the waterline by the British.  Can I work on your Irish potato farm and marry your daughter?
  • Less than 1% European Jewish – Possibly from the German branch.   Maybe I can use this as leverage when I try to get spousal permission to buy a Galil?
  • Less than 1% Caucasus Mountains – Not surprising, considering that my grandmother’s family spent several generations one country over.
  • Less than 1% Middle East – I’m sure there’s a good yarn about how that happened.
  • Less than 1% South Asia (India or Bangladesh) – Huh?

So, there you have it.  Pretty white bread, with a few traces of things I didn’t expect.

And what does this all mean?  Well, in the words of my distant Jewish relative – Bupkis.

It’s interesting to try to figure out where my (formerly) reddish-brown hair comes from, or why three out of the five kids my mother birthed have blue eyes, but it’s not that important.  Where our ancestors come from, with only a rare exception when it comes to health issues, makes no difference at all.  What matters is who we are now.

I am a citizen of the United States, as were my parents and grandparents.  I am a father, a husband, and a friend.  Nothing else matters.

Anniversary Gift No-No’s

Our anniversary is coming up, and like most husbands, I struggle to figure out what to get Irish Woman as a present.  While there is a lot of advice on what women want, here’s some friendly advice on what not to get.

  1. Unless your wife is a fitness nut, things like workout clothes, digital fitness assistants, or gym memberships.  Seriously, even if she’s been talking about trying to get into better shape, let these ideas die on the vine.
  2. Steak knives, butcher knives, cleavers, or any other dual use technologies, unless she’s a chef and you’re splurging on her.
  3. Kitchen appliances.  See above note about chefs.
  4. Other home appliances.  Seriously, she may say she doesn’t care, but I have yet to meet the woman who would rather have a new vacuum cleaner or dishwasher than something, you know, thoughtful and romantic.
  5. Self-help books.  See item 1 about fitness-related gifts.  If she wants to improve herself, she’ll do it herself.

Remember, guys, if you know your wife as well as you should, there are always fall-back gifts if you get stuck:  jewelry, guns, books, spa days, whatever.  Don’t step on your schwanz by getting her something on my list, and for heaven’s sake, don’t go for the “I don’t want anything” or “This necessary thing counts as my gift.”  She’s precious to you.  Indulge her when you can.

Living Room Sleep Out Checklist

  • Kids express wish to sleep out in the living room and watch movies.
  • Make family friendly dinner.
  • Serve family friendly dinner.
  • Take over-excited five-year-old to shower and hose him off.
  • Bring wet-dry vacuum to bathroom, along with mops, squeegee, and possibly a portable sump pump.
  • Get kids into pajamas.  Be prepared for the Spiderman top to be worn with the Scooby Doo bottoms.
  • Start sleep-out movie on TV.  Oversee negotiations between children over whether to watch Annoying American Animated Movie or Annoying Japanese Animated Movie.
  • If using air mattresses for the sleepout:
    • Search for air mattresses in the camping equipment.  They will be situated at the bottom of the stack of boxes, in the containers marked “Kitchen” and “Arctic Expedition Miscellaneous”.
    • Search for electric air pump.  It is in the trunk of a 1947 Packard that was last seen going southbound on FM 27 in Tom Green County, Texas.
    • After acquiring all of these items, attempt to inflate the air mattresses.
    • Notice the air mattress is making sounds like a bagpipe as air escapes at high speed.
    • Find a roll of duct tape.  You only own 28, so this should be easy.
    • Give up and go to the store to buy duct tape roll number 29.
    • Patch the myriad holes in the air mattresses, which surprisingly enough, appear to be feline in origin.
    • Inflate the air mattresses.
  • If using the pull-out couch:
    • Remove all of the cushions from the couch.  Try to put them somewhere that isn’t covered in pet hair.
    • Stretch and warm up.  You don’t want to do this with cold muscles.
    • Chalk up.
    • Place your feet one shoulder width apart, making sure to center your body over your feet.
    • Flex your knees.
    • Grasp the bar of the pull-out section firmly.
    • Take a deep breath.
    • Pull firmly, but with explosive force, on the bar of the pullout section.
    • Exhale as you lift.  If necessary, grunt or shout.
    • As the mattress starts to move up, push up with your legs. DO NOT lift with your back.
    • When the mattress reaches it maximum height, start rotating it down toward you.  Be careful to not get any body part you care to keep directly underneath the frame, as its descent can be quite fast and violent.  This can lead to some rather impressive bruises and stitches in the event that it comes down on you.
    • After the frame crashes down and gouges holes in the hardwood floor, fold out the mattress and frame to complete assembly of the fold-out bed.
  • Place sheets, pillows, and blankets on the bed
  • Retreat to the bathroom to put on either a truss, a back brace, or both, depending on your needs.  Feel free to partake of your anti-inflammatory / mood stabilizer / muscle relaxer of choice at this time.
  • Pass out.
  • Awake to the dulcet tones of children fighting.
  • Stumble out into the living room to find them arguing about whether to watch Death Fist XMIII or Blood Runs Red on the Highway XLV before breakfast.
  • Start the coffee maker and make breakfast for the kids.
  • Deny requests to eat breakfast in front of the TV.  It is impossible to get eggs and bacon grease out of a pull out bed or a vinyl air mattress.
  • As the kids are eating and arguing, put away the beds.
  • Notice that all of the bedding is now coated in dog hair, which may lead you to suspect that the dog and kids are ignoring your rule about dogs on the furniture.
  • Put sheets, blankets, pillow cases, and pillows into the laundry.  You will remember to do them 10 minutes before bedtime tonight.
  • If you used the air mattress.
    • Notice that the mattress is deflated before you take out the plug.
    • Inspect for new leaks.
    • Find a fun new pattern of claw-like holes on the top surface of the mattress.
    • Look around for your new roll of duct tape.
    • Give up on finding your new roll of duct tape and decide that you’re not going to the store for roll number 31 in your pajamas.
    • Fold up air mattresses and put them, along with the air pump, into box clearly marked “Air Mattresses”.  Return box to storage area in basement.  The magic aggravation elves will sort them back into their proper places at a later date.
  • If you used the pull-out bed:
    • Fold the foot of the frame and mattress down.
    • Reversing the process from the night before, lift the frame and mattress up off the floor and back into the couch.  This time, remember to lift with  your legs, not with your spleen.
    • Call your chiropractor for an adjustment.
    • Search for the sofa cushions.  One will be found behind the television, one has been stuffed up the chimney to the fireplace, and the other is in the washing machine.
  • Clean up the breakfast dishes.  No, I don’t know how so few children could make such a large mess.
  • Make another pot of coffee.  Apparently the little darlings are graduating up to bean juice from apple juice.
  • Get a cup of coffee, open up the laptop, and start making promises to yourself that start with “Never again”.

Another One from Irish Woman

It begins like any other morning. I am lying in bed… it is quiet. I am listening to the rain outside the window holding the Viking’s hand and snuggling with the cat. I am thinking, I am so glad I live where I live and grateful for what I have. “Happy birthday America”………..

Then in the distance I hear what sounds like the battle cry of an Indian war chief galloping on his mustang toward our bedroom. The cat starts to growl in my ear. Then in an explosive moment the bedroom door bursts open, Tater is squealing as he jumps and lands on top of me. Then right behind Tater is an airborne rain-soaked 75lb black lab pup who strategically lands in our bed on the 50 yard line. In all the excitement the cat digs her claws in my jugular vein while letting out a fierce warning howl.

The Viking rises and with the voice of Odin clears the room with a flash of lightning. ….. all is quiet… a gentle rain outside the window.

Like I was saying, it is July 4th. It is 7:58 A.M. EST. I am lying in bed grateful for what I have and that I live in a great country. Happy birthday America!

In case you were wondering, her nickname for me is “The Viking”, and her nickname for Boo is “Tater”.  Yes, we live on that ragged edge of madness.

Irish Woman Goes Galt

I recently found out that in order to afford the cost of implementing the things that are mandated in Obamacare, my employer is changing their policy for insuring spouses.  Because Irish Woman works and her employer offers health insurance, my company is not going to be cover her on my insurance.  I’m not happy about this, but I don’t blame my employer.  They aren’t a nonprofit, and the money to cover all of the new compliance issues and mandatory coverage has to come from somewhere.

Here is my lovely Irish Woman’s take 0n the situation.

Just found out today that I will no longer be able to use my spouse’s healthcare benefits starting next year.  Corporate America is going to have to find a way to cover the costs of Obama’s socialized world. What does this mean? As hard-working “Mule Middle Class” Americans, our household healthcare cost will increase about $400.00 dollars a month…It will cost as much for me to carry healthcare on myself than it does for my spouse to cover healthcare for our entire family today. So if you are a multi-generational lazy American (You know who you are) or non-American citizen (we know who you are) in our great country here is my promise.

I will keep working my A$$ off as long as I am physically healthy enough to do so for your free benefits, food, education, and utilities. My kids will grow up with a strong work ethic, will have morals, and will be well educated. My kids will feel obligated to work their A$$ off while your next generation of social dependent tenants drain the resources of this great country that took generations of dreamers to build and only 3 generations to erase. My children will be true Americans with a sense of pride not entitlement.

Enjoy all the soda, ice cream, chocolate milk, and crap food one can consume using an EBT card. Keep buying the beer and cigarettes, because your insuline, O2 tanks, CPAP machines, organ transplants and all the meds you need will be FREE to you but not free for me, and I will pay for yours. Buy a few lottery tickets and a body tat with the extra $$. I don’t smoke and rarely drink but as a working middle class American a chunk of my pay check buys crap and then my pay check pays for the medical care you require because of the lifestyle you choose to live.

I love this country! I am proud to be an American. I was born in 1966, was orphaned at 5 yrs old, and lived on assistance as a child when it was needed. At 17 I went to college, got a job, went back to college, and retrained myself so I could get a better job. I have been employed since 1987, sometimes working 3 jobs and going to school full-time at the same time. It seems like the more successful I am and the more money I make for my family, the less I actually bring home. Funny……Life isn’t always easy, but more and more people are making it harder than it needs to be.

I am sad because I am afraid Americans have quit trying…. I feel like so many folks have given up. Americans are better than ObamaCare. I remember an America where Americans did a damn good job taking care of themselves. Seriously people, having the government take care of you is like being in a dysfunctional dead-end relationship. You will never have more than you do today and eventually you will settle for a whole lot less. Look around the globe… there are many countries that are defined by their government…. I’m thinking that the boat load of pilgrims that settled here were hellbent on not conforming to any government social system. Americans have always been able to help each other out.

Our government measures its success by the number of people it has on its welfare system. It wants as many people on welfare as possible. People who need the government for everything…. that does not sound like a FREE country to me.

This is where I point out that until about 2009, Irish Woman was pretty apolitical.  She had her opinions and beliefs, but something has brought this out of her in the past four or five years.  Talk about waking a sleeping giant.  There has been a lot of talk about people ‘going Galt’ in the past few years, but I don’t think it’ll be the industrialists or financiers that quit first.  It’ll be those of the middle class who have busted their tails and are seeing more and more of their wealth going to those who not only don’t work, but actively refuse to try.

10 Years On

It was about 4:30 or 4:45 on a Tuesday morning.  Irish Woman and I were sound asleep when my phone rang.  I didn’t get to it in time, so it flipped over to voicemail just as my hand hit it.  Clearing my head and vision, I saw that my ex had called.  “What could she possibly want at this hour?” was the only thought in my head as I hit the redial button.  After a few rings, it picked up, but it wasn’t my ex on the line.

“Hello?” said a deep male voice.

“Yes?  This is my ex-wife’s phone, and she called me.  Who is this?”  I answered.

“Sir, I’m XXXX.  I’m an EMT with the Zoneton fire department, and I just took this phone from my patient.”

I was immediately wide awake.

“What’s going on?”  I asked.  In the background, I recognized the voice of my ex yelling and arguing with someone.  Irish Woman noticed the change in the tone of my voice, and sat up, giving me a questioning look.

“Sir, it appears that your wife and the children have been hurt in a fire.  She asked us to call you and tell you what is going on.”

“My God.  Where are the children?  How are they?”

“They just left here in another ambulance.  They’re on their way to the burn unit at Kosair.  We are just getting rolling with their mother.  She’s going to University.”

In the background, I heard my ex yelling even louder, demanding that the children be brought to University Hospital to be with her.

I thanked the gentleman and ended the call, promising to be at Kosair Children’s Hospital as soon as I could.  I explained what was going on to Irish Woman, who was already getting dressed.  She’d heard me use the words “children” and “My God”, and was already two steps ahead of me.  On our way out, I grabbed two stuffed animals for the kids, a Twinkle doll that Girlie Bear loved to sleep with and a Beanie Baby that Little Bear had named “Daniel Striped Tiger”.

I honestly can’t remember much about the drive to the hospital.  As we got to the emergency department at the children’s hospital downtown, there was already someone waiting to escort us back to the kids.  They were in a treatment room that was as close to chaos as you can have and still see people doing their job.  Girlie Bear was being taken care of by two nurses, while it took two nurses just to hold Little Bear down.   She was pretty much in shock, and hardly flinched as they worked on her, while he was thrashing from the pain and fear.  I motioned Irish Woman over to Girlie Bear, knowing that she’d be the best at soothing her.  I headed over to the head of the bed that Little Bear was lying on, and tried to help hold him steady and calm him down.

As I talked to my son and tried to calm him, I glanced down at the foot of the bed.  Nurses were soaking gauze in cold saline, then applying it to the burned soles of his feet.  As I watched, one of them gently peeled back an old set of gauze, taking with it patches of soot and skin.  Each application of cold gauze brought Little Bear a small moment of peace, but only for a moment before he cried out from the pain.

Irish Woman and I swapped places several times.  The kids were still being worked on, but were clutching those stuffed animals that I brought and the teddy bears that the hospital chaplain had brought down with her*.  As hard as the shrieks from Little Bear were to get through, the silence and far off expression on Girlie Bear’s face were worse.

After about an hour, my ex’s mother came in.  She hadn’t been over to the other hospital to check on her daughter, but wanted to see what was going on with the kids.  I guess you can say that the point in our relationship where we went from “I leave you alone, you leave me alone” to outright hostility was the moment when, as I came out into the hall to let her know how things were going, she demanded that I check the kids out of the children’s hospital and send them to University to be with their mother, and also demanded that the children be sent home with her once they were discharged.  I am truly proud of myself in that I didn’t even raise my voice as I replied that the kids were staying exactly where they were, that we would discuss what would happen after they were discharged once I had some idea how long they would be in the hospital, and that since she didn’t have anything better to do for the kids than to harass me, then maybe she should find her way over to University and take care of her daughter.  I later found out that she had taken the opportunity of Irish Woman slipping out to make a couple of phone calls to try to pressure Irish Woman into getting me to do as she wanted.

Eventually, what could be done for the kids in the emergency room had been done, and they were transferred up to the burn ward.  By then, the kids were extremely medicated.  Girlie Bear went to sleep on the way up, and didn’t wake up fully for three days.  Little Bear surprised us by getting hyper.  He was stoned, and wasn’t making a heck of a lot of sense when he tried to talk to us, but he was bouncing off the bed rails.  We settled into our room, where we would spend the next few weeks trying to entertain the kids between dressing changes and debridements.

Both children had second and third degree burns on the entire soles of both feet, with more damage between their toes.  I had one doctor remark that it was a good thing that we allowed them to run around barefoot so much, as the callouses had provided at least a little protection for the softer skin underneath.  In addition to that, Little Bear had a bad second degree burn on his arm, and both kids had small dime sized burns on their faces and shoulders.

What had happened was that one of the wall sockets in my ex’s living room had shorted out during the night, and the fire had burned its way up inside the wall to the attic space of her apartment building and spread laterally from there.  Basically, the building burned from the roof down.  My ex lived on the top  floor of the building, and it was one of those where the stairs and landing are on the outside of the building.  This complex had metal mesh stairs and landings encased in plastic, and to get to ground level, you had to walk down about 50 feet of landing to then go down six flights of steps.

Someone saw the fire from the street and immediately started shouting and beating on doors.  My ex heard someone pounding at the door, realized that the house was on fire,  grabbed the kids, and ran.  The small burns on the childrens’ heads and shoulders came from pieces of burning ceiling falling onto them as they made their way out.  By the time my ex got out of her apartment and out onto the landing, the plastic that the metal landing and stairs were covered in was on fire, and as she ran across it, it burned her feet.  Her legs came out from under her, and she dropped both kids onto the hot metal and plastic.  This caused the burns on the bottoms of their feet.  Her fall burned not only her feet, but also the length of both legs up to the small of her back and on her arms.  The burn on Little Bear’s arm probably happened when he was trying to get down the stairs to safety and rubbed up against the railing.

Luckily, they were the only people hurt in the fire.  The fire marshal later found that the cause of the fire was someone putting improper fixtures on aluminum wiring.  I didn’t know this at the time, but a lot of the buildings built in the 1970’s or so have aluminum wiring due to the difference in cost, and in this particular instance whoever had refurbished the building hadn’t used the proper, but more expensive, light fixtures and power outlets that are necessary with aluminum.  The fire marshal, along with the fire chief and the principal of the kids’ school, came by that afternoon to check on them, and I have rarely seen anyone as angry as that fire marshal was.  He didn’t give me any details then, but I later read his report, and found that the same complex had had an electrical fire a year or so before, but no-one had corrected the issue.

That night, once Irish Woman had gone home and the kids were in a deep, opiate-induced sleep, I fell apart.  I’d kept it together for 18 hours, and once the lights were out and everyone else was either unconscious or gone, it was safe.  I pretty much rolled up in a ball and cried for quite some time.  The silent prayers I’d been saying all day were whispered.  I thanked whoever was listening for the lives of my kids, for the men and women who had saved them, and for the hospital that was only a few minutes away.  I prayed for their recovery and for the strength that both Irish Woman and I would need to help the kids get through this.  I eventually drifted off into what was both a deep sleep of exhaustion, but also one of the lightest sleeps I’ve ever had.  I woke up rested in the morning, but I also woke up several times in the night at the slightest change in their sounds.

We spent the next month in that little room.  Girlie Bear came around to being herself after a few days, and outside of when he was getting worked on by the nurses, Little Bear was his normal, chipper self.  We’d eat, read books, color, watch movies, and wait for the next round of wound cleaning, and new bandages.  Through all this, Irish Woman was my rock.  We weren’t married yet, and truth be told up until that morning I’d have given even odds on us staying together for the long haul.  The way that she was there for my kids and me through that whole ordeal showed me just how special she was and how undeservedly fortunate I was to have her as a friend and love.

We got through it.  After a few weeks, the kids went home to our house, and we continued their care there.  I got pretty good at changing dressings and spreading silvadene onto their burns.  The kids were restricted from walking and sunlight, and had been cooped up in the hospital for weeks.  We did what we could to entertain them, and having our libraries of books and movies available was a godsend.

Eventually, the kids healed.  We had to let them gradually start walking again, but it was another month before they could wear shoes.  Their mother got out of the hospital and stayed with friends until she could get back on her feet.  After a few months, everything was back to normal, or almost so.  The kids both woke up in the night for months, crying and screaming about the fire, and Girlie Bear still has the occasional nightmare.  I guess they’ll always have nocturnal memories bubble up every so often.  Both kids’ burns scarred them pretty badly, but the worst of it is on the bottom of their feet, and they report no long term ill effects there.   Little Bear has a patch on his arm that is the only part of his body that doesn’t turn brown as a nut in the summer, and every so often I’ll notice a couple of the small burns standing out against darker skin.

I look back now and, as I have for 10 years now, realize how lucky we got that morning.  The fire chief was pretty much convinced that, if not for the actions of that random guy on his way to work who saw the fire and ran to help, my children would be dead.  As I drove to the hospital that morning, I was imagining just how bad it was, and I will always be grateful that instead of picking out little coffins for them that week, I picked out several sets of pajamas for them to wear in the hospital.  Instead of two graves to talk to, I have two wonderful children.  Yes, they have lived through some things that no person should, but they’re also vibrant, loving, beautiful young people, and for that, I am eternally grateful.


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