“My kids will tell you that there were lots of words and phrases heard around my house as they were growing up. ‘Did that really just happen?’ ‘I can’t even.’ ‘I’m done.’ ‘Don’t touch that.’ ‘Don’t put sunscreen on the cat.’ ‘Get the food out of your room before we get rats.’ ‘Yes, you have to go to school.’ ‘No, you can’t microwave aluminum.’ ‘Actually, no, you’re a guest in my home.’ ‘The amount of hairspray you’re using is causing it to turn to glue on the walls.’ ‘A two hour shower really isn’t a necessity.’ ‘Oh-My-God, just go to bed.’ ‘Why is there spaghetti sauce on the ceiling?’ ‘I’m not a taxi.’ ‘I brought you into this world and I promise I can take you out.’ ‘Go ahead and call the cops. Dare you.’ – you know, all the usual stuff you hear in every American household.
But, I never thought I would have to say, ‘Now, kids, don’t go jumping around in the attic because, well you know, you might fall through the ceiling one day.’ And while I never thought it was necessary to explain that, it probably should have been at the top of my list. Because when you’re at work one day, minding your own business, literally trying to bring home the bacon for a bunch of teenagers and all their friends, and you receive that picture on your phone – oh yes, you immediately go back and search your memory banks wondering why you didn’t incorporate that lesson into your daily routine. I guess I could have questioned it more. You know, tried to figure out why there was a gaping hole in my hallway. Maybe it was an unexpected meteor shower. Could have been faulty construction, right? Maybe an earthquake. Some kind of explosion? Yes, I suppose it could have been all those things, but the minute my phone dinged and I saw it – I knew. I just knew. And while I shook my head and bit my lip to keep the tears of fury from coming, I actually did try to convince myself for a brief moment that it was a tsunami, but I instinctively knew what happened – teenagers. That’s what.
When my husband was alive and my kids were little, I used to joke that we needed our own reality TV show. If my husband hadn’t been camera shy, I totally would have looked into it because in hindsight, so many of our conversations now start with, ‘remember that one time?’ ‘Remember that one-time mom lost her sh*t and took away all the dishes?’ ‘Remember that one time we tried for three hours to take a group Christmas picture?’ ‘Remember that one time we all got locked out of the house during a snow storm?’ ‘Remember that one-time Shane fell through the ceiling?’
Oh yes, that one time.
Yes, my lovely momma sisters, if you haven’t received the phone call that your kid has fallen through the ceiling, then your parenting life is just not complete. I’m sorry, but I am just of the opinion that at some point while raising kids, you need something to happen that’s so off the charts that you have built in ‘you’re never going to believe this’ stories ready to go to tell your Grandkids because after-all, it’s the long term pay back that is going to make all this bullsh*t worth it someday. I promise. It may not feel like it now, but one day, when your grandkids come to you complaining about getting in trouble for something silly, you, yes you, will be able to say, ‘well, why don’t you ask your dad about that one time.’
Alas, when I got the picture, I knew what it meant. My son and his friends were no doubt exploring the attic. I mean why not? I’m sure there were lots of untold secrets up there like pirate treasure and the Holy Grail. Why else would teenage boys be crawling around in the attic of a brand new house? Certainly they weren’t looking for ghosts or spiders or dust or anything like that. Anyway, the mom in me did have some fleeting concerns. Like, did he come out head first? Was he still dangling? If he wasn’t dead, what exactly broke his fall? Were the dogs ok? I quickly convinced myself that one of the culprits on scene would have surely told me if an ambulance was on the way, so I dismissed any fear I had and went straight to the one emotion I knew was real. A-n-g-e-r. Because, yes, when your kid purposely screws around and falls through the ceiling, it pisses you off. I know there are accidents in life you have to laugh off but jumping over the insulation to see where you land isn’t one of them. Incidentally, I recently asked my now adult son why he jumped over it. His answer? ‘To get to the other side.’ Yep, still pissed.
While I didn’t exactly know how I was going to handle this situation, I did know I had to call my husband. And, just a quick little background: he was the step-dad. Not that it really matters but the man was a saint for the stuff he put up with raising kids that he didn’t have to. Especially since, shortly after he met them when they were 2 and 4-years-old, he still wanted to marry me even after they locked him out of the house for not taking them to Burger King. It wasn’t that I didn’t think he wouldn’t handle it well. I knew he would. I knew he would walk in and look up and see the hole raining insulation and just stand there and blink a lot. I was sure he would quietly tally the bill in his head as he made a list for Home Depot. I knew he wouldn’t yell or scream or anything of the sort. No, he was too patient for that. Over reacting, crying, talking with my hands and writhing on the floor was my job, and I did it well. But, man, I just wanted to go like maybe a week without some kind of catastrophe that I had to confess to. I mean, I could hide a lot of stuff but hiding a hole in the ceiling was not exactly something I thought I could get away with, even if my son did tape the damn thing back up with masking tape. By the way, he was really proud of himself that he thought of that. You want to know how I know? Because there’s video of the aftermath. Yes, friends, 6 years later I only now have the whole visual and let’s just say the kids were scared, and there was a lot of yelling about finding the vacuum.
Anyway, back to having to call my husband. I wanted to craft my words carefully. I wanted to explain and try to find the bright side. After all, we had been talking about opening up the attic and creating space up there with one of those pull-down ladders so maybe this was a blessing in disguise. Right? RIGHT? If you think about it that way, then it’s a win-win. The hole is already there. Saves him some work. Of course, it was on the wrong side of the house, but whatever. Small details. I just had to be careful. That’s all. I had to be delicate. Gentle. Just explain it the best I could. I toiled with how to do it. Should I meet him at the door naked with a bottle of tequila maybe? No, too many kids around with camera phones. Maybe I could fix it before he got home. Um, yeah, no chance of that happening. Avoid it. Yes, I could avoid it. No, that would work about as well as the time I avoided telling him I backed his truck up into a pole in a planter. There was no damage, so of course, I did get away with that one for six months until he found the dead plant material in the undercarriage.
On this day, I contemplated banging my head on the steering wheel until I blacked out. I thought about running away to a country with no extradition policy. No, I was just going to have to face it head on and tell him exactly what happened and roll with it. I drew in a deep breath before I dialed his number. I gave myself a pep talk. I told myself I could do it. I reminded myself over and over what a strong, capable woman I was. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it. Just say it really fast. Just get it out.
He answered on the third ring. Immediately, my mouth went dry. My vocal chords seized. I think I had a mini-stroke right then and there. I opened my mouth and the words fell out.
‘Thanethellthroughthetheeling.’ I spit out the words. Literally. I wiped my mouth.
There was an awkward pause. ‘What?’
‘Thanethellthroughthetheeling.’ I frantically searched for a bottle of water. Most days there were at least 27 half full water bottles in my car and on this day, I couldn’t even find one.
‘Are you ok?’
‘Are you trying to tell me Shane fell through the ceiling?’
I swallowed hard. Not once, but four times. ‘Yes.’
He laughed. ‘Oh yeah, I know.’
‘What? How? Are you home?’
‘No, he called me.’
‘He did? What did he say?’
‘He asked me if he should move out before you got home.’
‘You told him he should, right?’
He laughed again. ‘No. I told him that’s what he gets for being dumb. But, he did find my Snap-On flashlight I lost up there once.’
And, just like that, all was right in the world. A missing flashlight found, and all sins forgiven.
The hole eventually got fixed and to the best of my knowledge, nobody ever climbed up there again. But then again, maybe they were just smarter the next time. Who knows. But what I do know is that I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Not only did my kids give me really good material for my book, but they grew up knowing what a house full of laughter was like, because each one of those ‘you remember that one time?’ stories are funny. Even this one. I hope you have them tucked away in your memory and if you’re still raising your kids, I hope you get them. You may not know it at the time, but you’re creating a lifetime of little moments that will eventually be the best moments of your life. My husband is gone now. We miss him fiercely – every, single day. I miss having to confess, I miss having him to laugh with and I miss having him scratch his head and give me that look. Don’t take life too seriously, friends. Love hard, forgive quickly, write this sh*t down, and above all – laugh. You won’t regret it, I promise.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “My Kid Is an Asshole, and So Is My Dog” are now available in print and kindle. You can follow her work on her author Facebook page.
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