I’m not making this up

Posted by on Jan 13, 2006 in Just for laughs, Mother in Laws | 0 comments

I’ve had several requests for stories about the further adventures of my stepmother in law, and I must admit, she provides endless amusement. I’ve not always felt that way, because in the early years I made the mistake of taking her seriously. I didn’t actually have an epiphany that moved her into the “annoying but entertaining” category; it came slowly, over many years. One of her most recent zany escapades occurred in late March, and coincides with the equinox ceremony of my first-born. I feel compelled to report the facts now, less they disappear, just like my father in law’s right shoe. It was the Saturday before the big event when Carl and Margaret headed out from the retirement home in Roanoke, on what may be their last trip to Mechanicsville. Margaret described her personal misfortune surrounding the nuptials as “the worse thing that has ever happened to me”, a remarkable statement coming from someone who lived through the death of her infant brother, World War II, divorce from her first husband, and the suicide of her step-son. I’m not sure how her rating system for disaster is calibrated, so I just took it at face value.

Her adventure began innocently enough with a stop at the local Sheets station, to fill up the gas tank before the trip. Pop is very feeble now, so I don’t think he got out of the car, but he evidently did at least open the door. By some strange quirk of fate, while they were filling up, one of the dress shoes he was wearing managed to fall off his foot and onto the pavement. Curiously enough, this loss was not discovered till much later in the day. He sat in the car in diddle-diddle-dumpling mode for many hours, totally oblivious that he had one shoe off, and one shoe on. Now in case you’re wondering, the tragedy Margaret described was not the missing footwear, but the flat tire they had many miles later. Startled and frightened, Margaret guided the damaged car off the road and came to rest on the interstate median, certainly not a pleasant place to spend a Saturday. She sat there helplessly till a man stopped and came up to her car. As Margaret tells it, she rolled down the window and he said, dramatically, “Mrs. Haley, I want to help you.” I hope there was some introduction before this statement, unless everyone on I-81 already knows her from her previous trips, where she barrels along in the left lane at 50 miles an hour. I’m sure the state policeman who pulled over behind them still remembers the incident. Pop and Margaret immediately quizzed him on his entire family history, just like they do with each new acquaintance, trying to find a connection between him and their Methodist church family. This perfectly acceptable habit, that served them so well in greeting parishioners, has become their custom regardless of the gravity, drama, or turmoil of the circumstance. I somehow imagine them walking the plank on a pirate ship while chatting amiably with the captain about his relationship to the Bluebeard family they knew back in Nelson County.

Their new friends, the almost Methodist officer, and the kind, chivalrous stranger, changed the tire post haste. The police car then escorted them to a local merchant, where they could purchase a replacement tire for the temporary donut they had put on the vehicle. It was at the tire store that Pop decided to get out, and finding his steps more unsteady than usual, noticed his missing right shoe. If he had realized it during the roadside incident, I’m confident Margaret would have tried to persuade the officer to go back to the Sheets and retrieve the shoe. Once the car was repaired, they continued on their way to Richmond, landing at my house much later than planned. Everyone in the house was in frenzied preparations for the ceremony, but Margaret insisted on repeating her tale of woe to each and every occupant, and many strangers that entered the house that day. I do want to assure everyone that the delay in starting Ben and Joriel’s ceremony the next day was in no way related to the tire or shoe, but as many of you already know, we were waiting for the notorious grandparents. We did not allow enough time between the three o’clock nuptial meal and the 7 o’clock ceremony for them to return home for their car. Why none of us though to ask them to bring their car to the meal, we’ll never know. I think I can be excused, as I was trying to make sure the hundreds of pounds of food and the three cakes arrived safely at the site, not to mention taking a few minutes to put on my dress. My long suffering husband will not be surprised that I lay the rap on him, since he was responsible for the travel arrangements. I rather wish my wonderfully funny son-in-law had taken the opportunity to tell the shoe story to the assembled crowd while we waited, but of course, without the ending part that came much later, it would not have been nearly as much fun.

I’ll save the tale of the beautiful and amazing ceremony for another day, skipping forward to the departure of the Haley grandparents. Clearly, we are all a marvelous bunch of planners, since no one had anticipated the logistics of their exodus. If their suitcases had been put in their car in the afternoon, they would not have had to return to my house, after dark, to pack up before they left. As they are unaccustomed to climbing stairs, Pop managed to fall backward into the shrubbery while ascending the 5 steps that lead up from the driveway to the sidewalk. Although he was not injured, Margaret later told me that they would not be visiting us again until egress into our home meets the standards she is accustomed to, which I guess means I will not be starting a rest home at my house anytime in the near future. But I digress. They spent the night with a friend along the road home, and arrived at the Sheets station the next afternoon to inquired about the shoe. The harried manager told them that they indeed had found a black shoe, and went to rummage in the back room. He returned, empty handed, and admitted that after several days, someone must have thrown it away. He apologized, but Margaret was not having it. How could anyone throw away a perfectly good right shoe! She informed him that the pair of shoes had cost $120 and unless he compensated her $60 for the one that was lost, she would sue the station for poor customer service.

I can easily imagine the chagrin and amazement that went through the mind of that manager, because I have experienced identical feeling so many times. There was the time when I was carrying my middle son and mentioned I was awakened with leg cramps. Margaret, who has never had a child of her own, explained to me emphatically that pregnant women do not have leg cramps. I also recall being told that it is cheaper to run your dishwasher after 10 at night, even if you do not have an off peak meter for your electricity. The electric company magically knows when you’ve been good or bad and adjusts your bill accordingly. In the interest of brevity, I just won’t get started on her interpretation of all the physician’s instructions she had been given over the years, but suffice it to say that all the “top” doctors in Virginia would be startled to hear her version of their orders. I can almost see the play of emotions that passed across the face of the confounded Sheets manager. If he or she were quick witted, they might have suggested that they would provide matching funds for any amount Margaret was offered for the other shoe. Being polite, and dumbfounded, the manager could only stammer that the station couldn’t take responsibility for items dropped in the parking area.

I haven’t been so bold as to inquire about how the lawsuit is getting on. I let my husband do most of the checking up on his father, which usually involves a lengthy conversation with Margaret, who is now almost deaf. She has obtained a hearing aide, but other than emitting a high-pitched screech throughout our conversations, it doesn’t seem to serve any function. Margaret, being deaf, can only dimly hear the noise that sends the rest of us running from the room. Pop, who has habituated himself to Margaret’s vexing habits, sits smiling and oblivious during the ear splitting noise, just as he does through all her verbal tirades. Like people who live near a jet plane flyover, or in mosquito infested swamps, he no longer hears or feels that which is so trying for the rest of family. In a sense he is the ultimate Zen master, if one can master Zen unconsciously. I suppose a lost shoe now and again is fair compensation for the elimination of all irritation from your life.

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