Today our water heater died.
The day before Thanksgiving. The day before you’re supposed to scrub up and cook. Wash potatoes for mashing and celery for stuffing.
The day family you haven’t seen in a year comes to visit, and maybe you want a shower first.
Today was an excellent example of why, sometimes, I don’t get anything done.
This house has many issues, most of which don’t impede the average day’s living. Old linoleum is still good for walking on. The broken lid of the washing machine still latches. The toilet only leaks sometimes. But lacking hot water crosses into the realm of real poverty.
I was tweaking my resume to apply for a really cool position when Hubs turned off the power (and thus, the WiFi. The kids freaked out!) to examine the heating elements.
After some research, the only scenario that fit our situation was described as the death phase. The inner tank had rusted through and repair was not an option.
I have $1.57 in the bank, and that’s after canceling some things and getting overdrafts refunded. Your average water heater is about $400.
So I went to the cell network and applied for an emergency grant. We are struggling but it’s not because we don’t know how to work. We are trying to give our kids some kind of normal life while we dig ourselves out from under a decade of poor choices that seemed like good ideas at the time.
We are exactly the kind of people charity is meant for. Right?
Riffing on my idea, Hubs texted the pastor of our church asking if he knew of any charities we might talk to.
“Yes. I can give you what you need from the parish discretionary fund.”
We were blown away. We have only been attending this church since May. This man whose conviction I respect but whose faith I don’t share was willing to step up and give us our sense of normalcy back.
I guess I’ll definitely be going on Sunday.
Our friend Caleb and Hubs emptied and detached the broken unit. The church financial officer met them at Lowe’s and paid for a 50 gallon tank to replace our 40 gallon one.
While at the store, they ran into an old coworker of mine who now heads a department there. He said I should call, and I did. We talked about me getting in an application (again) and he would put in a good word for me. Even if it comes to nothing, it’s really nice to be remembered. To be considered someone worth sparing a thought for.
I was making dinner, the only adult left not fighting with plumbing. Two men and the homeowner, I was just extra hands. While the chicken and potatoes baked I started a new Lowe’s application.
The guys had to go back to the store once for a different size connector. From two and a half years working at Lowe’s’ only major competitor, I know they actually did pretty well. I was interrupted again when they got back. Then I served dinner. Then I tried to get the toddler to eat. I tangled with the 7th grader over helping finish clean up before relatives arrived. She didn’t want to do it.
“Yeah, well I don’t really want to cook but people gotta eat.”
She was not impressed.
Around 8:00 when my sister in law arrived with her two kids, the men were still in the cellar. I was tasked with watching the bathroom faucet until the water ran normally. This I did while using the toilet and keeping the toddler out of the trash can.
By this time he was very cranky. He got to stay up an hour past his bedtime.
Sis in law Misty is a hardworking nurse and took her mother and me to the store for holiday goodies. Somehow we were out until just after 10, and Caleb had gone home by the time we got back.
We unpacked the popcorn and paper plates, beer and wine. Hubs asked if “anyone would mind” if he took a shower.
You sweet thing. “You spent all day in the basement. I’d be surprised if you didn’t.”
“Yeah,” Misty agreed. “I’d be upset too!”
That man spent all day working on the hot water problem. I would say he earned the first hot shower.
It’s funny how they seem to feel entitled to so much – leisure time, women’s bodies – but sometimes don’t see the sensible reward of their work. My man is a fascinating amalgam of contradictions that I will probably spend the rest of my life marveling at and shaking my head.
We poured some drinks and sat down to watch a movie, like this was just another day. Hubs was obviously exhausted but insisted he wanted to stay up after the movie to listen to the conversation.
Now he’s snoring in our bed. Mother in law is sleeping on the couch while Misty and her twins use her bed. Just one more example of generosity that goes above and beyond. The kind that I long assumed existed only in stories. My mother is hard-pressed to share her orange juice.
I awoke this morning after Hubs got up to use the bathroom. Waking up to an empty bed always makes me sad. It taps some deep sense of loneliness that is buried when I am fully awake.
And lately I just feel like such a fuck-up. This Summer I came face to face with the gritty reality that neither of my parents cares much about me. No one in my family has made an effort to get to know my life as it is now. To keep up with where I’m at.
I feel like an emotional orphan, and sometimes I can’t fight off the sense that no one cares. I remember how many times I have seen people rationalize themselves out of perfectly good relationships because they aren’t getting what they want at the moment. If a situation isn’t fulfilling you, move on. Follow your bliss.
But real life isn’t always blissful. It can’t be. The most we can realistically hope for is a life where we sometimes get to relax. Where those close to us assume we are doing our best instead of nitpicking our mistakes.
Monday Hubs went to get toilet paper and came home with $40 of groceries and no toilet paper. I guess the rational response would have been frustration but my first thought was, That’s my man! “We really are soulmates, huh?”
Yesterday I called the temp agency again. The girl told me they are looking for clerical workers with recent experience, and my last office job was in 2005. Or they have 12-hour industrial shifts available.
I have resorted to applying for fast food crews. I need something for a few months until I actually make some money substitute teaching. Even if I can get all the available hours in December, I won’t see that money till January 20th.
I started out the day sad, dragged back to the feeling that everyone is temporary. No one really cares. The bitter frustration fell in uncontrollable tears and Hubs wrapped his arms around me.
“I have been where you are. I understand. It’s gonna be okay.”
It’s embarrassing that I still struggle sometimes to believe him when he says nice things. Not because I think he’s lying or doesn’t have the best intentions.
Because I watched my mother promise to stand by someone forever and then abandon them when things got hard. Three times. Because my father chews through people like gnawing on a turkey leg. Because I have had two long relationships of my own that began with someone telling me they loved me and ended with me crying alone in the dark.
And yet I still put myself out there. What choice is there? The only alternative is to give up and accept that a real sense of connection, of loyalty, is a fairy tale. But I flatter myself that I feel love in my heart, a sense of connection that doesn’t taper off because someone isn’t exactly what they seemed. That’s like putting a dog down because it barks after you take it home.
I can’t be the only one who cares.
Today I was shown generosity by four people who had no obligation to do so. Today I saw generosity that had nothing to do with me but that I have to admire.
Sometimes I don’t feel like I have a lot to be grateful for. The curse of emotional abuse is it wires your brain for a sad world. You simply don’t see the love you need so desperately. It just doesn’t compute.
But I am grateful to have been adopted by these people who drive 9 hours to spend 3 days together. Who give their child their bed. Who can listen to the paranoid ravings of a sad fuck-up and accept it when she admits he did nothing wrong but she can’t quite shake the fear. The fear that takes little things and condenses them into damnation like a rookie prosecutor.
Xmas music has been playing in the stores since Halloween. Thanksgiving has essentially become Xmas: The Dress Rehearsal. But tomorrow, when we are gathered around the feast we have cobbled together, I will push the pain of the last eight months out of my mind.
I am happy that at least I am celebrating with different people. Hopeful that maybe I have found some others who really care.
And when the time comes to clean up, I will be grateful for the hot water and the friends without whom it would not be.