The Boots

by on October 23rd, 2014
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The most difficult week of my life ended much as it had begun, with me sitting in the middle of the livingroom floor crying all over a pair of men’s workboots. Wait. Did I say “crying all over?” Let me rephrase that. I was sitting in the floor sobbing… big, wracking, window-pane-rattling, elephant-trumpeting boo-hoos-the kind of cry that leaves your skin splotchy, your nose red, and your whole body exhausted. THAT kind of crying. Richter scale stuff.

Okay, I said it ended as it had begun, but that’s not to say that I was the same. Therein is the story. I will begin from the week’s first major-earthquake-in-my-world crying jag.

Monday did not start well. At precisely 12:01 a.m., I heard what sounded like a glass explosion and then our youngest, Marjoree, wail as if she’d lost a body part in the crashing glass. I bolted from the bed, pulling my quite worn (aka “rag”) blue chenille robe around me as I dashed toward the bathroom. Even in that Mommy’s-still-asleep stupor, I realized that the glass-crash came from the family bathroom across the house, and images of an injured child spurred me to near-record speeds.

Let me momentarily digress. We bought our home at a time when we had no plans for children, a time when the split-bedroom design sounded oh-so private and luscious and inviting. Yeah. And by the time I was barrel-round and couldn’t see my toes (when our oldest, Monica, was enwombed), I realized that the split-bedroom floorplan was-like bras-designed by a man. My digression leads you to understand, then, why I was leaping, bounding and hurdling: the distance between the small crying child and Rescue-Mommy.

In the semi-dark, one fateful mid-leap (or was it mid-hurdle?) found me hanging in the air like Wily Coyote, peddling my feet trying to find something solid beneath them before I came crashing down, twisting my left foot underneath me (and overneath my husband’s workboots in the livingroom floor). Let me share the sound effects with you: “Mommmmmmmmyyyyyyy…” … “Ayyyykkk” (swishing air)… “UMphf! Aw, SSSSSSSSSSSSShiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttt!—I’m coming, Marjoreeeeee! Stand still! I heard glass break!”

My head swam and my stomach churned at the pain. I thought I was going to throw up, but I simply couldn’t stop to hurl-my daughter was screaming. I did what any pained and panicked mother would do: I moaned, I cursed, and I hobbled as quickly as I could toward my “injured daughter.”

Arriving in the bathroom on what I now know was a broken ankle was an accomplishment. Keeping a crying 4-year-old from walking across the floor littered with glass shards was a miracle from God. Standing on one foot, I reached for Ree, hauled her up and wrapped her legs around my middle as I inspected her for cuts and contusions. Thankfully, there were none, and I managed to hobble back to the site of my mid-leap crash. I sank to the floor, cradling her and finally giving in to my throbbing ankle. That’s when the tears erupted. It’s also when Dan appeared, sleepy-eyed, tousled and confused. Poor Ree sat in my lap, stroking my hair and saying, “I’m sorry, Mommy, I was trying to be a big girl and get my water. I didn’t mean to break the glass.”

The softer she spoke, the harder I cried, and the more confused Dan appeared to be. Eventually, of course, Ree was tucked back into her bed and I visited the Emergency Room, where I gained a bright pink walking cast to wear for several weeks.

Tuesday became a blur of pain medication, my mother visiting, and Dan ducking out of the room-any room where he happened to be that I entered. I vaguely remember that I lambasted him about his boots-where they belonged (and it wasn’t the livingroom), where they would best fit him (it was a body part not meant for boots), and I think somewhere in the hydrocodone mist I mentioned his upbringing and a couple of incidents best left unmentioned from our early years. But of course, my pain medication and I didn’t leave those things unmentioned, and the next couple of days were strained. Very strained.

I was home alone on Friday morning and in no mood for the ringing phone, so I let the machine pick it up. It immediately started ringing again, loudly and insistently for 10 good rings while our antiquated machine rewound. They left no message, and again, the phone rang… and rang… With each ring, my level of agitation grew, until I was a screaming mess. I literally swam through my pain meds fog, and boy! was I ever pissed off to have my semi-slumber interrupted. In a very ladylike manner-okay, truth here-it was an angry growl-I answered the phone. “This had better be a freaking emergency for you to let the damned phone ring 45 times!”

The long pause that greeted me had me rethinking my telephone etiquette, and my anger turned into regret. “Uh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. Let me start over.” Still not a word was spoken by the caller. “Uh, hello?”

“Mrs. Kelly?”

“Yes.”

“Mrs. Kelly, this is Officer Long with the Crockett County Sheriff’s Office. I’m sorry to be calling you this morning, but there’s been an accident.”

Before the officer could get the final “t” in “accident” out, my heart lurched within my chest. I mean that-my heart literally LURCHED, felt like it was just popping out of my chest cavity. 900 things flew through my mind: my children, my mother, and then Dan. In that order. I couldn’t speak. The officer finally continued, “Mrs. Kelly, your husband is on the way to County General. You may want to have someone drive you there as soon as you can… I’m sorry to have to tell you this over the phone, but there wasn’t time to come tell you in person… it’s very serious.”

Frankly, I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I don’t remember getting my pursue and glasses and keys or getting into my SUV and driving toward the hospital. Really, the first thing I remember is seeing the fire truck in front of Thelma’s Flowers. There was a burned-out shell of a car-I couldn’t tell what kind or color-and they were still covering it with water. Next to the burned out car was Dan’s Jeep, the driver’s door standing open, a big bouquet of pink and white roses crushed on the ground beside the door.

Suddenly, car horns were blaring, and an officer was pecking on my window with his flashlight. “Move on, Lady, the show’s over,” he mouthed through the window. I remember pushing my door open and pointing to Dan’s Jeep. “That’s my husband’s Jeep. Is he here?”

I’ll never forget the way the policeman looked at me, then. Well, actually, he didn’t look at ME, the looked down, then away, his eyes sliding off to the right. “Your husband has been taken to County General, ma’am. Do you need someone to take you there?”

The next few hours-days, really-are crazy weird in my mind. It’s like things are fuzzy around the sides and bright and stark in the middle, flashes of fuzzy-bright-stark-fuzzy whipping through my awareness, and snips of memories of people grabbing at me, hugging me, trying to feed me, trying to entertain my children.

But one memory is very clear: a young mother-she couldn’t have been more than 19 or 20-holding an infant. She held her baby close, very close, and her big sad eyes looked at me a long time before she spoke four simple words: “He saved my Kaylie.”

Dan came out of Thelma’s with an armful of pink and white roses-my favorite. Just as he opened his truck door, the young mother screamed that her car was on fire and her baby was inside.

So I am here, sitting in the floor once again, beside the tired, worn out old workboots that were left behind.


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