Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Friday Night Lights

We had a pretty uneventful weekend for a change last weekend....well, at least that is how we thought it would be.  The highlight was to be a party our neighbors had on Saturday night.  They are great neighbors, always there to baby-sit the cats when we go out of town, to lend tools or a helping hand - you name it.  When we have parties, it's not unusual for Leroy to wake up in the wee hours to start preparing barbequed meats to bring over.  This time, we were the ones planning to return the favor by making trays of goodies and lending our keg-o-rator and yard games to the cause.

Knowing this was ahead, and relishing a little bit of down time, we took it easy on Friday night.  A friend came over for games and left around midnight.  Sheldon went to bed a bit before me, and I ended up falling asleep on the couch with the TV on (a guilty pleasure).

Just after 2:00 am, I awoke and decided to turn off the TV and head to bed.  When I turned the TV off, I heard a woman's screams coming from outside the house.  My heart started pounding.  I peered through the windows and the front door -- nothing.  I put my ear to the door and heard her screaming more.  I could tell she was yelling at someone, that there were words to the shrieks.  I opened the front door and stepped outside.  Then, the words became clear.  Over and over I heard her scream, "What did you do?  Oh God, what did you do?"  Now my heart was really pumping.

I looked around, still bleary-eyed from my slumber, and saw a woman in the driveway next door (not where cat-sitter Carol and handyman Leroy live; the other side).  She was the one screaming, but I couldn't see anything else.  There was a car halfway in the garage, like someone was getting ready to drive away.  I didn't understand what was happening, but I knew something was very, very wrong.  I felt like I should call 911, but had no idea what to report.  I felt sick to my stomach, thinking the words "What did you do?" maybe meant someone had killed someone, or themselves.

Afraid and confused, I went back inside and woke up Sheldon.  We spent the next few minutes trying to make heads and tails out of what exactly was going on.  Then we heard the sirens and saw the lights.  Immediately, there were two fire trucks and an emergency vehicle parked in front of our house, and a spotlight being shone around. 

Seeing the emergency lights in front of our house sent me reeling.  The last time there were flashing lights in front of my house, my husband was taken away dead on a gurney.  I've never been able to see the lights of an ambulance without having a flashback to that awful day.  If I'm driving and see one, I try to look away so it is only in the corner of my eye.  Seeing them in that kind of momentary setting is one thing -- my heart races, my chest gets tight, and then it passes and I can slowly come back to reality and normalcy.  Having it parked in front of my house was dreadful.  I was in tears and felt physically ill.  My head was spinning and my heart was pounding for what seemed like an eternity.  Sheldon went out to see what was going on.  I couldn't stick it out alone in the house -- it felt like the walls were closing in on me, and I needed him next to me.  I went outside and learned what had happened -- someone had driven into our neighbor's driveway, through the closed garage door, and halfway into their house.  As it turned out, it was their other next-door neighbor (who lives two houses down from us) who had done that, apparently drunk and confused about where he lived and which pedal was which in the car.  He plowed into their garage, hitting both of their vehicles, pushing their truck through the wall into their master bedroom.  Before going back inside, we made sure to find out whether everyone was okay (remarkably, despite the wall being pushed up nearly flush with the bed, and with debris everywhere, both our neighbors escaped unscathed).  I'm sure other neighbors on the scene wondered why I was holding my chest and practically mute, and why my face was so particularly panic-striken.

Once inside, I still could not get my body to calm down for a long time.  Sheldon went back to bed fairly quickly, but I literally had to pace around the living room and force myself to breathe slowly, in through the nose and out through the mouth.  It took time to get myself physically under control.  Finally, I was able to go to bed.  Still, I was up pretty early and that scene was the first thing I thought about.  Before I was even dressed in daytime clothes, I went outside to see things in the light of day and to verify with my own eyes what had happened and that everyone was okay.  I had to give our neighbors a hug right away -- it was like I needed to physically hold them near my body to make it believe that, yes, everything really was okay.  Only then could I feel normal again.

That morning and afternoon, we checked in with our affected neighbors (Arnold and Juanita) several times to see what help we could offer.  We made cookies for them and the handymen who were at work immediately cleaning up debris and boarding up the car-sized hole in their house.  Eventually, Saturday turned into a day more closely resembling the one we anticipated -- making dip, cleaning up the house, etc.  Our other neighbors went forward with their party that evening, and a good time was had by all.  Still, it ended up not being the biggest excitement of the weekend like we thought.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Friday Update

I have another post coming soon (not today) about things falling into place...looking forward to that one too.

In the meantime, just FYI -- I had another conference call with the IRS today.  Two, actually.  The first time, my accountant Jason (see his blog here: and I called and were on the phone for a total of 30 minutes before being informed that the person who we were speaking with couldn't access our file because her system was down.  We could try calling again and hope we got a representative in another location whose system was working.  No guarantees though.

So we called again.  This time, they told us we need to re-submit the Identity Theft affidavit -- something we submitted over a year ago.  The problem?  The last one was submitted with my name and my information.  It needs to be submitted with Brian's name and his information, with me signing on his behalf as a "surviving spouse."  Also, I need to scan, print, and send a copy of his social security card and driver's license.  Why no one told us of these requirements for the past 12 months on one of Jason's numerous follow-up calls, I don't know.  Once that is done (Monday), there will be at least a 90 day wait before I might get the tax return (for 2010) that is due to me.  Jeez. 

On the bright side, I did recently get something else wrapped up that has been dragging on and on.  I had the last step of my massive dental work done on Monday.  I had a bridge (with three teeth) implanted on one side, and a crown replaced on the other.  I'm able to eat normally, on both sides of my mouth, again, and I no longer have a huge, embarrassing gap where I'm missing teeth.  This appointment took about two and half hours, and approximately seven Novocain shots, but that's it!  I am so relieved to be done with that.  The saga with my teeth has literally been going on since Brian was alive.  I am happy to keep getting things sorted out and put behind me.  Looking forward to the IRS debacle being one of them.  In due time, in due time....

Happy Friday, everyone!


Putting the Pieces in Place

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about how life is like a giant jigsaw puzzle.  Right around the time of that post, I had a few things happen that reaffirmed for me that I am exactly where I need to be, things that made me realize, "These pieces are falling into place perfectly."

First, I have two great friends in Austin, Kristen and Heather, who I would not have met if not for Brian's passing and, more specifically, this blog.  I met Kristen first, almost immediately after moving to Austin in 2010.  We connected through mutual friends on Facebook when I stumbled upon the realization that we had some mututal friends in common (she went to school with Brian's cousin and had met his two best friends from Iowa years before in Las Vegas).  On a whim, I sent her a friend request and a message introducing myself.  She didn't get the message (sometimes, I've learned, Facebook messages sent along with friend requests disappear if the request is accepted before the message is read).  Still, she looked at my page and saw a link to this blog and was intrigued by me and my situation, and the fact that we had three seemingly random friends in common.  We met for "happy hour"....which lasted about 4 hours, during which time we laughed our asses off, cried, shared secrets, and really bonded.  She was such a part of my integration into Austin, and she is now one of my best friends in the world.

About a year later, I met Heather.  She had just moved to Austin from New York after going through a heartbreaking divorce.  Like me, she was seeking refuge and a place to heal and put her life back together.  Funny how well Austin fits the bill.  (Don't tell your friends -- or maybe do...I need to keep the rental market hot to make the condo a good investment.)  Heather had started reading my blog on the recommendation of her sister, who felt she might be able to relate to someone trying to put the pieces of her life back together.  Eventually, she added me as a friend on Facebook.  The first time we met in person was when I interviewed her for a book I'm working on about Austin immigrants from all over the U.S.  We met at a wine bar downtown, me with my tape recorder, and started the interview over a couple glasses of wine.  A couple hours and several glasses later, I turned the recorder off and the interview became a heart-to-heart conversation amongst friends.  Like my first "face time" with Kristen, we bonded immediately and strongly over tears, laughter, stories, and alcohol.  It didn't seem possible to have that kind of connection and conversation with someone who, only hours before, had been a total stranger.

Four or five months later, I was having friends over at my condo in Austin, having just gotten it furnished and ready for renting.  There, Kristen and Heather met each other for the first time.  Now, they have hit it off and are close friends.  Recently, there was one night that they were together in Austin (while I was in San Antonio) that really cemented the feeling of "wow....this was all meant to be."

Kristen has had a rough go of things, relationship-wise, this year.  She met someone in March and felt an instant and deep connection.  She felt things she's never felt before, and he said he did too.  The problem?  He lived in Arizona and was just visiting Austin.  Still, they stayed in constant touch and some visits were made.  Then, the opportunity came up for her to spend the summer in Arizona.  He had lined up job prospects for her, she found a place to stay, and he was urging her strongly to give it a chance.  She went for it, following her heart west.  Their relationship was making them both happier than they'd ever been.  He declared his love for her and told her he had no idea he could be this happy with someone.  She became close to his friends and family, including his sister and his school-aged son.  In July, the two flew back to Austin to celebrate her birthday, and he met all of her friends and family.  It was clear that she was happy, glowing -- she looked and acted differently than I had ever seen her, and it made me happy to see that.  Then, they went back to Arizona and everything changed.  Abruptly, he decided everything they'd been doing was "a fantasy" and that he needed to get back to "real life."  He left her to go back to his ex-girlfriend, the mother of his child.  He and his ex had been on-again, off-again for years, and he decided he wanted to be "on again" with her for the sake of his son.  Not only that, but he had decided to stop the "on-again, off-again" cycle with his ex-girlfriend for good, and proposed to her.  She accepted the proposal, even though he had been travelling across the country to meet his girlfriend's family just a week before.  Naturally, Kristen was devastated.  She stuck it out in Arizona until she could tie up her loose ends and make it back to Austin, heartbroken and with her tail between her legs.

Making things more difficult, this man's family members continued to call Kristen, telling her they were shocked and that this "couldn't be the end" for them -- they loved her, they saw how happy he was with her, and they couldn't understand why he was doing what he was doing.  This made it incredibly hard for her to let go of him and the idea of them being together.  Even his best friend called her to say these things.  Adding insult to injury, the wedding was scheduled for the next month.  Kristen was still heartbroken when he was making his vows to another woman. 

The weekend of his wedding, there was a torrential downpour in central Texas.  I sent Kristen a text message saying, "Thinking of you this weekend.  Hope the rain this weekend feels refreshing and cleansing to your soul." 

Her response?  "I am with Heather right now, and she said the exact same thing!"  Eerie.  It felt like Heather was my proxy to support Kristen in her time of need as she had supported me.  She was literally giving Kristen the same words of encouragement as me.  I wrote back that Heather was very wise, and sent my love to them both.  That night, I went to bed feeling that so much was right with the world.

I honestly feel I am a kindred spirit with these girls, and so happy that they have become friends.  It is interesting that, although our situations were all very different, we all faced loss and heartache in sequence.  First me, then Heather, then Kristen.  Somehow, we all found one another and have been able to lean on one another for support....both emotionally and, sometimes after too much wine, in a literal and physical manner.  Joking aside, I do feel this connection between us all is a sure sign that things work out the way they do for a reason and I feel blessed to have shared my life's journey with these women.