Slice of Write

stories & jibber-jabber

It started with just one.  I noticed a single, tiny black ant on the kitchen counter.  I grabbed a paper towel, smashed it, and threw it in the kitchen trash can.  I made my way back to my original destination, the coffee pot, and started my daily routine.  I don’t have one of those fancy Keurig pots, or Nescafé whatevers that George Clooney and everyone’s mother raves about.  I have an old school, honest to God, coffee pot.  It doesn’t even have a timer on it.  Yes, I have to manually make my own coffee.  This actually shocks a lot of people.  No, I don’t go to Starbucks every morning and spend three dollars for a cup of coffee.  Now, that’s not to say I have never been inside a Starbucks, or any other coffee, latte, juice bar, hipster places.  I often meet friends or have the occasional meeting at one of these places.  The baristas are often baffled that I just want BLACK COFFEE!  No, I don’t want sugar, milk, cream, spice, or even a drizzle of honey.  The cashiers often ask again, “are you sure?” because apparently, they don’t believe me.  They should be thanking me for saving them from the grande, hot mocha frappuccino lite with coconut milk, add a dash of cinnamon, and an extra pump of sugar, standing behind me in line.  I grabbed my favorite coffee mug from the cabinet and smiled.  My brother bought me this mug years ago.  It reads “Don’t talk to me until this cup is empty.”  Yes, it’s all very well, and funny, but I really only like the mug for one reason…the size.  It holds about 2 cups of coffee in it.  I have often pondered about how useful this mug really is and how much time it saves me.  I normally have to go refill my mug every 30-45 minutes, give or take, but with this lifesaver, I’m good for over an hour.  All of those precious seconds of my life, every day, could add up to hours in a full lifetime.  I told my brother this one time, and his reaction was “you really need to get a hobby.”  Not that I’m surprised; it’s a typical David response.  He thinks he is a master of hobbies because he has one.  When he’s not working, he’s golfing or watching golf.  Maybe that counts as two.  Yes, the wild and exciting times of David King, ladies and gentlemen.  To answer your ever-burning question, he is not the black coffee type.  Yes, you guessed it, he is the grande, hot mocha frappuccino lite with coconut milk, add a dash of cinnamon, and an extra pump of sugar, standing behind me in line.  As you can imagine, our parents are ever so proud.  The coffee finished brewing and I poured the steaming, beautiful, dark liquid into the mug.  The smell already had my mouth yearning for that first sip.  My lips were pursed, ready to indulge, when I noticed a line of ants running along the back counter, behind my coffee maker, towards the kitchen sink.  “Seriously?”  I whispered to myself; irritated that my routine has been so rudely altered by these uninvited guests.  I gently lay the mug on the counter and go in search of more paper towels. 

As some of you may know, I started writing a book many years ago, but work, school, life, and my other hobbies got in the way of me finishing it.  During my COVID-19 furlough from work earlier this year, I went back to it and was able to turn this wonderful idea in my head into something tangible.  I wrote this book to make me laugh (and sometimes cry), and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. 

The Other Side of the Ledge is the story of Kara, a woman in her late 30’s dealing with the sudden death of her husband, Chris.  The book flashbacks into the life of their marriage and the readers get a front-row seat into their loving and complicated relationship.  The story not only delves into the stages of grief caused by the sudden loss of a loved one, but also explores the role mental health plays in our personal relationships, and how people use humor as a tool to help navigate hardships.  Through the love and comic relief of her family, friends, and new friends made along her journey, Kara learns how to finally accept Chris for the person he was, come to terms with his death, and embrace the new person she has become as a result. 

My goal is to release The Other Side of the Ledge on Amazon by mid-December!  I’ll keep you posted. 

Most importantly, a big thanks to my family and friends for all of their continued love and support!  Without you, none of this would ever be possible.  Cheers!

Yes, I have turned into one of those people that I used to make fun of.  After New Year’s, I vowed to change my diet, actually use the gym membership I’ve been paying on for the past 18 months, and lose the 40 pounds that has permanently latched onto my body like a vice.  I do agree with the consensus that metabolism reduces to nothing after the age of 40, and me being chained to a desk all day, has contributed to my weight gain, but I’ll be the first to admit, I just love food. There, I said it.  Yes, I just love to eat.  What’s wrong with that?  If I want to eat a burrito, I eat a burrito.  Life is too short to deprive myself.  However, I do realize I can’t sustain this lifestyle either.  There has to be a balance and I am on a mission to find it.  On January 2, I wake from my winter slumber a few minutes earlier than normal to gather all of my necessary work-out items.  I grab my new, turquoise colored gym bag and carefully place my work-out clothes, shoes, socks, towel and, deodorant in all of the correct zipper compartments.  I drive to work and proudly walk in with the turquoise bag on my shoulder.  I want everyone to know where I’m going after work.  I practice my answers to pretend questions thrown at me.  Sorry, Nancy, I’m going to the gym after work.  Nope, Jason, I’m going to the gym after work.  Yep, I am feeling pretty awesome about myself as I strut to my cubicle and lay the gym bag under my desk.  Every so often my feet would rub against it and I would smile to myself.  Yep, going to the gym tonight.  I’m going to start this new life and it will be amazing. 

The day was going pretty well until the afternoon.  The morning had flown by, lunch was a salad and some crackers, but by 3:00 p.m., I was feeling hungry and tired.  I grabbed a tiny piece of 100 calorie chocolate and washed it down with some low calorie, flavored coffee.  I was feeling pretty confident to start my new gym life at 5:00 p.m.  By 5:15 p.m., I had changed into my work-out clothes and was driving to the gym.  The parking lot was filled by the time I pulled into the parking lot at 5:45 p.m.  I didn’t want to park that far away from the front entrance, but apparently, I was going to have to do so.  I finally found a parking spot, looked at myself in the mirror, and whispered, “you can do this.”  I grabbed my gym bag, keys, and water bottle.  There were groups of people in gym clothes talking in the parking lot, eating nutrition bars, and wiping their brows with their gym towels.  I smile as I walk by each group.  Sometimes they smiled back or nodded their heads in my direction.  It felt good to finally be a part of a group.  These are my people now.  Gym people.

I walk in the front door and swipe my membership card at the kiosk like a pro.  The place is packed.  I planned to start out slow, so immediately began searching for a treadmill or bicycle.  Crap.  All of my new gym friends are using the machines.  I reluctantly walk towards the ellipticals.  I like the elliptical, but I’m afraid I might not be up to it on my first night.  I look down the line of machines and see one free elliptical, in between a guy that could be my Father, who is killing it on the elliptical by the way, and a teenage girl that probably has never had an ounce of fat on her body in her life.  I look back towards the treadmills and bicycles, hoping one had magically become available in the last ten seconds.  Nope.  I then turn my attention to the rowing machines.  The four rowing machines were occupied by guys who looked like they were on the US Olympic team.  I decide I better make my move on the free elliptical before someone else jumps on it.  I speed walk down the row of ellipticals and fumble to get on the machine.  I tried to look like I knew what I was doing, but it was obvious I didn’t.  I struggled to turn on the machine.  My gym dad next to me saw my failed attempt to get this machine going.  He told me, in between deep breaths, to just start pumping and the machine would turn on.  I did so and the machine lit up.  I smiled and thanked him.  He half smiled and returned to watching the gigantic televisions screens on the wall. 

Two minutes in, I was still feeling good.  I got this.  My body was feeling great.  Muscles were moving in ways they haven’t moved in years.  About 6 minutes in, the burning started.  Wow, these muscles are really out of shape.  My pace was so much slower than my gym dad on my right and miss teen on my left.  I kept my eyes on the treadmills and bicycles to see when one became available.  Nineteen long minutes later, I was still waiting for a treadmill or bicycle.  By the time someone was getting off of a machine, there was already someone new taking their place.  I had wanted to get off this machine about 1000 times in the last 20 minutes, but promised myself I would keep going until I hit 25 minutes.  If I wasn’t going to get another machine, then I need to make the most of the elliptical…even if it kills me, which it might at this point.  Twenty-three minutes in and I can feel the sweat oozing from my back.  I imagine the nasty stains imprinted all over my new shirt.  I wipe my brow again and take a quick swig of water. 

The last two minutes feel like an eternity.  My sports bra is strangling me like a pair of tight panty hose on a hot day.  I look down and notice my left shoe is untied.  After some back and forth, I decide to press on and finish my last minute.  No need to stop and tie my shoe.  I just hoped I was able to hold my balance for the next 60 seconds.  I push my bangs out of my face for the millionth time and rub my brow again.  I look down and see I made my goal!  I gradually slow down over the next minute to give myself some time to cool down.  If I suddenly stopped, I probably would have fallen off the machine.  My legs were somehow numb, but burning at the same time.  I grab some disposable cleaning clothes that were left on the machine.  As I start to wipe my blood, sweat, tears, and dignity from the elliptical, my gym dad looks over, smiles, and says “good job, tonight”.  Before I have a chance to smile back, he turned his attention back to the large television screens.  I finish cleaning the elliptical and awkwardly maneuver myself off of the machine.  As I turn to make my way to the exit, Miss Teen smiles and gives me a thumbs up.  I smile and nod back at her.  That smile didn’t leave my face until I finally fell asleep a few hours later. I woke up the next morning, sore as hell, but excited to do it all over again.

Don’t feel sorry for me.  I didn’t ask for your pity and I certainly don’t need it.  Remove that sorrowful look in your eyes, and get your caring hand off of my shoulder.  I know you don’t agree with my choice to stay with Adam, but it’s my choice.  You think I’m some stupid, sheepish, stereotype of a broken woman that needs your help to save me.  Float on by with your pretentious lifeboat because I don’t want it.  I can swim on my own and make it to where I need to go without your help.  I hear about other women whose husbands cheat on them, leave them no food in the house, gamble their rent money, and all kinds of other horrible things. 

Adam has a quick temper and can say some cruel things sometimes, but he’s a hard worker, a wonderful father, and provides for our family.  He works extra jobs or overtime when asked, he goes grocery shopping for his mom every Sunday, and is a coach on our son’s soccer team.  He isn’t perfect, but no one is.  Yes, his harsh words can hurt more than his fists sometimes, but wounds heal.  I’m strong and don’t need anyone to tell me how to care for me or my son, Sammy. 

My parents don’t visit our house much anymore.  They attend all of Sammy’s soccer games and will take him out for pizza afterwards.  Mom and dad always ask me to come, but I decline.  If they can’t get along with Adam, then I can’t be with them.  I get tired of their lectures and always offering to “help me” get away from him.  There is nothing to get away from.  I am content.  I am where I need to be.  It’s been weeks since Adam has raised his hand to me.  I’ll admit, the last time was bad.  I think it scared both of us.  I remember I had fallen asleep on the couch waiting for him to come home from work.

“Hey, you didn’t have to wait up,” Adam said as he walked over to the couch and caressed my face.

“It’s ok,” I quickly sat up.  “Let me get you something to eat.”  Adam followed me into the kitchen.  He grabbed a soda out of the fridge and sat at the kitchen table.  I took the leftover meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and veggies from the fridge.  I positioned everything on the plate exactly how Adam likes it and carefully put the plate in the microwave. 

“How was your day?” I asked sincerely.

“Good.  Eric called in sick again which is friggin annoying, but I picked up some overtime,” Adam wiped his brow.

“That’s great.  Maybe we can buy Sammy his new shin guards this weekend,” I said as I walked over to the silverware drawer. 

“What?” Adam said in a disapproving tone.  I could already tell where this was going.

“Um, Sammy needs new shin guards for soccer.  His other ones are pretty bad.  We talked about it last week, remember?” I said soothingly.  I remember not wanting to escalate the situation, especially with Sammy asleep in the house.

“Goddamn.  We spend more money on that kid than anything.  I work my friggin ass off and have nothing to show for it.  Between you and him, there is nothing left for me.  For once, I would like to have something for me!”  Adam slammed his fists against the kitchen table.  The sound was louder than I expected.  I hope it didn’t wake up Sammy. 

“I know, I’m sorry,” I said as I took the plate out of the microwave and walked over to the kitchen table.

I gently placed the dish on the table and took a few steps back.

Adam shouted, “Fuck!  Meatloaf.  Seriously? We just had meatloaf last week.  Can’t we get some different food for once.  You need to work on your cooking skills.  I work 12 hours a day and can’t even come home to a decent dinner!”  He threw the plate against the wall.  “Fuck!”  Adam yelled and walked into the living room. 

I followed him. 

“I’m sorry.  Let me make you something else.”

He turned around and just stared at me.  Adam’s eyes looked black and his mouth was quivering.  His appearance startled me.  I almost didn’t recognize him.  Sweat was gathering at his brow again and his hair looked like it needed to be washed.  I felt like a gazelle staring at a hungry cheetah.  I was frozen; careful not to make any sudden moves to provoke him.

“Don’t fucking bother.  I don’t ask for much and you can’t even make me a decent dinner!”

We stared into each other’s eyes. 

I regrettably broke the silence.

“I’m sorry.” I held my head down in shame.

“You’re always sorry.  I’m tired of your sorries; I’m tired of your cooking, and I’m fucking just tired of you!”

Tears started to uncontrollably flow from my eyes.

“Oh, great.  Here come the water works.  I’m the mean son of a bitch.  I know.  I have to feel sorry for you and then that will be it.  Stop crying.  Stop your fucking crying right now!”

I wiped the tears from my face as fast as I could.  Adam suddenly grabbed each of my shoulders and pushed me into the wall. 

“Am I a good husband?”  He spit in my face as he asked his question.

“Yes, of course,” I mumbled.

“Am I a good provider?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Then why do you treat me like this.  Why can’t you just take care of me like a good wife should?”

I stood there trying to hold back the tears again.

“Why!” Adam shouted as he hit my head against the wall. 

“Tell me why you are such a bad wife.  I treat you well.  You don’t work.  You do whatever you want to do all day while I bust my fucking ass!”  Adam slammed my head against the wall again.  This time it felt much harder and an incredible headache was setting in.  Adam grabbed my throat and started choking me.  I struggled to keep my eyes open as I felt myself losing consciousness.  All of the sudden I heard “Mom!”  Hearing Sammy’s voice hit me like a cold shower.  I opened my eyes and saw Adam staring down at me with rage I had never seen before.  When he yelled at Adam to go back to bed, I summoned all of the strength I had left, pried my hands free, and scratched the hell out of Adam’s face.  He stepped back and yelped in pain like an injured animal. 

“Fucking bitch!”  Adam took a step closer like he was going in for the kill, but changed his mind and walked to the kitchen instead.  My sweet Sammy helped me to the bathroom.  He retrieved the first aid kit and helped assess my injuries.  He was only 9 years old, but has done this too many times to count.  He wants to be a doctor so he can help people.  I encourage him and tell him he can be whatever he wants to be, and I will always love him. 

“Mommy, it was bad this time,” Sammy whispered as he helped me put dressing on my wounds. 

“I know, baby.  I know.  I’m sorry.  You were supposed to put your headphones on, remember?  I told you to put them on whenever you hear daddy yelling.”

“I’m sorry mom, I know.  But even with the headphones on I could still hear him.”

I hugged Sammy and we just held each other for a few wonderful, quiet moments.  Sammy helped me to bed.  He fluffed my pillows and gave me the water bottle from his room.  He was afraid to go into the living room or kitchen in case Adam was still on the warpath.  It was silent now, so Adam probably fell asleep on the couch.  Sammy gave me a kiss on the cheek and went to bed.  I felt like he was the parent tucking me into bed.  Adam would never hurt Sammy, but I do worry about when Sammy gets older.  Sammy has already shown signs of wanting to defend me from Adam.  If Sammy gets in his way, I don’t know what Adam will do.  Hopefully, it will never come to that.  The next morning Adam came into the room before sunrise and sat on the bed.  He gently grabbed my hand and apologized for last night.  He had tears in his eyes and expressed his wholehearted regret.  Later that day, I received flowers from Adam.  He also texted me from work that he loved me and would pick-up pizza for dinner tonight.  We ate pizza, played a board game, and watched the news before bedtime.  Adam read Sammy a bedtime story and then came to bed with me about an hour later.  Those are the best nights.  The nights I look forward to.  I love Adam and Sammy more than anything, and all I want is to be the best wife and mother.

My mom is the most difficult person to buy for.  She never wants anything or needs anything, as she tells us, or gives us an iota of a clue of what she may like.  My mom’s hobbies include playing bunco, drinking white Russians, and yelling at tv commercials.  We have bought her countless bunco playing sets and bottles of expensive vodka. Despite all of this, her hall closet is full of new bunco sets, and kitchen cabinets are overflowing with vodka bottles.  She prefers to use the old bunco set she has had since I can remember, and buy the cheap bottle of vodka that literally just says “vodka” on the label.  I don’t know how she does it; just smelling that stuff gives me an acid reflux attack.  The last few years my brother, John, and I usually end up getting her a gift card to one of her favorite restaurants or clothing stores.  Her 60th birthday is coming up in a few weeks and we purchased a 7-day cruise in the Florida Keys.  We also bought an extra ticket so she can take one of her friends along.  Initially, we thought about buying tickets for all 3 of us to go but could never decide on a date that worked with our schedules.  John said mom would probably rather go with one of her friend’s than us anyway.  I see his point.  She could hang out and do whatever she wanted, without having us tag along.

Her special day finally came.  We had a party at her house with her closest friends, bunco buddies, and her sister that lived in the area.  They don’t always get along, but we had to invite her.  It would have been rude not too.  The party was swinging by 6:00 p.m.  We had music, lots of delicious food, and pics of mom blown up and placed throughout the rooms.  It’s funny, I never realized mom has pretty much had the same hairstyle since I was a kid.  Short hair with a hint of side bangs.  Her hair has always been a deep shade of auburn.  She tells me it will always be that color no matter how old she gets.  Years ago, mom made me promise to make sure her hair is still auburn even at her funeral.  I had laughed, but she grabbed my hand and made me swear.  I couldn’t believe how serious she was about her hair.  She scared me so I agreed with no questions asked.

Mom opened her gifts in front of everyone and seemed to really enjoy the cruise tickets.  John and I hugged and patted each other on the back.  The present curse is over!  About an hour later, John, mom, and I were cleaning up the house.

“You guys really shouldn’t have gone to all of that trouble,” mom said to John and me.

“Mom, we love you.  It’s your special birthday,” John smiled as he was washing dishes in the kitchen sink.

“Yeah, mom.  We want you to have a great time,” I said as I placed more dishes on the counter.

“Would you guys be mad if I didn’t go,” Mom said in a soft voice.

“What?” John and I both asked simultaneously.

“It’s a wonderful gift and all, but I can’t do it.”

“Mom, why not?”  I asked while trying not to sound irritated.

“You two must have forgotten I get deathly seasick.  Remember the time we went to Catalina and I spent the entire boat trip in the bathroom.  Not to mention half the rest of the day in the public restroom.”

John and I stared at each other.

“Mom, they have the bracelets, the pills, and patches that help with all of that,” I said as I walked over to her.

“Right.  Plus, it’s one of those gigantic cruise ships.  You won’t feel a thing,” John said as he turned away from the sink and wiped his hands on a kitchen towel.

“I can’t do it.  I’m sorry.  I think it would be better if you kids went,” Mom said curtly and then walked into the living room. 

I whispered to John, “What the hell, seriously?”

“Well, the curse lives,” John smirked and went back to washing dishes.  I grabbed a dish towel and started drying.  We could hear mom yelling at the tv from the other room.

“Shit!” I yell as I hit my head on the overhang above my staircase.  I finish climbing down the stairs and stop for a second to make sure that I’m still functioning in a “normal” capacity.  I run through the questions of asking myself my name, date, and occupation.  I correctly answer the questions.  Okay, good, hopefully that means no concussion.  However, if I really was answering the questions incorrectly, would I even know?  And if not, then this whole routine would be moot anyway. 

I have lived in this apartment for over three years and I still hit my head on that damn overhang at least once a month.  One time I really do think I gave myself a concussion.  I was carrying the laundry basket downstairs, rushing to grab my cell phone in the living room, and then knocked myself pretty good.  I felt like one of those old cartoons where the character gets knocked in the head and the audience sees stars around him.  I always wonder if there were stars floating around my head that day.  I was left with a massive headache and a nice bump on my head.  At first, I told people the true story, causing their eyes to glaze over with boredom within seconds. 

A few days later, I met up with some old co-workers for drinks and told them I was in a snowboarding accident.  They were pretty impressed, then disbelief set it in, and then laughter.  It was hard for me to keep a straight face when telling them anyway.  Let’s just say, I don’t have the typical snowboard physique.  Years ago, some friends convinced me to go snowboarding with them.  I should have kept with my gut reaction of no.  Peer pressure set in and I finally said yes, knowing that I would probably regret my decision.  I was right.  It was a miracle I survived.  I used muscles I didn’t even know I had – muscles that never should be used in that way.  I was sore for over a week and cursed snowboarding the entire time.  The physical bruises healed but not the emotional ones. 

I check my watch and realize I’m running late as usual.  I grab my cell phone and I’m out the door.  Hopefully, the morning will go better than it started.  It’s Monday so I don’t have high hopes. 

(I was feeling a bit murky this week and ended up experimenting with my Edgar Allen Poe side a little bit more than usual. Hope you like it! The End…)

It’s an early Monday morning in August.  The streetlights still shine through the curtains in the exquisite master bedroom.  A hot wind blows through the single open window closest to the bed.  The man knows it’s his time, but he’s not ready to go.  He’s not a religious man; he never was.  Unlike many of his friends who found God as they got older; the man felt they only did so because they were scared to die without purpose, without an afterthought. What does that matter?  It’s not a legacy. Just another obituary in the Sunday morning newspaper. 

After the tears, the memorial, the selling of whatever large or small possessions, it’s only a matter of time until you are forgotten.  Nietzsche had it right.  Why live in fear?  Why live your life as if there is an afterlife to prepare for?  Wasting your years on Earth, longing for an afterlife that probably doesn’t exist; not enjoying the actual life you were given.  That is the real shame.  But, as the man kneeled beneath the reaper, begging for his life, he felt remorse.  He wasn’t ready to go yet.  Yes, he had a family, a fulfilling and profitable career, seen parts of the world most have only dreamed of, and had never wanted for anything, yet, he still wasn’t ready for it all to end.  The man had lived more than two men combined, but he still wanted more. 

The reaper laughed at the man’s selfishness as he wept before him.  The man realized pity was not working on the reaper so he turned to bargaining.  He promised the reaper money, power, whatever he wanted, the man said he would get it for him.  The reaper grinned down at the man and whispered something in his ear.  The man’s eyes grew large and a look of utter shock melted over his face.  The reaper leered into the man’s bulging eyes, smiled, and softly caressed the man’s right cheek.  The man drew his last breath and fell to the ground.  Though his body now lay motionless, the man still had that same surprised look on his face.  Energized and full of smite, the Reaper moves on, and the man is already a distant memory. 

Public goodbyes are always awkward, especially with your parents.  No matter how many times you come and go, say goodbye, or see you at the next holiday, wedding or funeral, they never get easier for a mother, even when her son is 36 years old.  Twelve kisses, and a billion hugs from my mother, and a handshake and one manly hug from my father later, I was off to the security gate to undress.  Standing in line, holding my belt, shoes, and dignity, I debate to myself if I left my razor in my carry-on, or remembered to put it in the checked bag.  I try to keep my panic attack to a minimum as I quickly throw my stuff in a plastic container and wait my turn to go through the metal detector.  The lady in front of me, obviously an 80-year-old, blue-haired drug smuggler, sets off the machine.  After 30 seconds of searching, it ends up being her necklace that sounded the alarm. 

I slickly walk through the machine and thankfully do not set anything off.  I await my bag, which also passed the test, and then stumble over to a bench to reassemble myself.  Either my razor has been overlooked, or I had remembered to put it in the other suitcase, either way I was excited to be on my way to gate C23. Now the gauntlet begins.  The journey from the security area to the boarding gate can be a tricky maze.  I admit, I’m more of a defensive walker.  I’m traveling alone, have one carry-on, and no allies.  I accept the fact I am outnumbered by large families, strollers, and couples who refuse to unclasp their hands when walking in crowded places, no matter the fact it may cause the death or paralysis of a stranger or two. 

My heart starts to race as I begin my journey.  I try and stay on the right side of the walkway since I am slower because I have a habit of looking at the shops and restaurants as I pass by.  Yes, I know this is dangerous, but I can’t help myself.  The newsstands, candy shops, and fast food restaurants are the only entertainment I will have for what feels like will be an eternity.  I stop to buy a cup of coffee and find a seat at gate C23.  Two cups of coffee, one trip to the bathroom, and 45 pages later, the boarding call is finally made.  People rush into line like its one minute until they start charging dinner prices at the buffet line. 

On the way to my seat, I help an elderly gentleman put his suitcase in the overhead bin.  I was feeling pretty good about myself until two seconds later a short, scary lady almost knocked me over when she backed up into me with what I can only imagine is a bag carrying a large child or very small adult.  After I shake off the concussion, I finally sit down.  The couple next to me are arguing over what time the rental car place closes.  I put on my headphones, close my eyes, and start to relax.  Just when I was about to fall asleep, I remember I left my razor at my parent’s house.  I put it on the dresser so I wouldn’t forget it.  Obviously, that worked out as planned.  Damn!  I heave a big sigh at myself and try to relax again.  I wonder if I my electric razor is charged.  My mind wanders the rest of the plane ride home. 

Dad worked as a limo driver six days a week.  However, when someone called in sick, or we needed the extra money for my braces or to repair the leaky roof above the garage, then Dad would take the overtime and lose his one day off.  Dad is the hardest working person I have ever known.  He was never late to work, that I know of, and rarely called in sick.  I remember one time he had the flu and he was sitting at the kitchen table with his hands over his eyes.  He looked so pale and exhausted.  Mom called in sick for him and helped him back to bed.  At first, he tried to fight her, but gave up quickly and allowed her to help him back to their room.  The next day dad was back at the kitchen table.   He still looked pale and exhausted, but at least he could hold his head up without it looking like it was going to fall off. 

Dad instilled a great work ethic not through his words, but truly through his actions.  I don’t remember a time that I didn’t think my dad was the greatest man alive.  I still do.  He loved my mom and I, and always provided for us.  I always feel safe when my dad is around.  Even though dad is now retired, has snow white hair, and carries a cane, I still feel like he is my greatest protector.  I know that may sound silly to some at my age, but it’s true.  On the rare Sundays when dad didn’t have to do chores or work around the house, he would take mom and I on these glorious drives.  Dad knew all of the great picnic areas, parks, and lookout points.  I never understood how dad could stand driving us around after driving 6 days a week for work, but he loved it. 

I remember my dad in the driver’s seat wearing his gigantic sunglasses with a big smile on his face, listing to mom singing along to the radio, and me watching the cars pass by, making up grand stories of where everyone was traveling.  Dad said he enjoyed being out and about whether it was in the city, suburbs, or the country.  This is why I have been dreading today.  Today, I am taking away dad’s car keys.  Unfortunately, his eyesight and perception have gotten worse over the past year, and there is nothing more the doctors can do.  The conversation with dad about not driving anymore was heartbreaking.  Dad sat there with a knowing look on his face and sadness in his eyes.  I held it together until we finally agreed on today’s date and then I started balling.  There I was, taking this beautiful man’s freedom, and he ended up comforting me that rainy afternoon. 

I am meeting dad at the house at 9 am and he is going to take me on our last Sunday drive.  I promised I would continue our tradition, but we both knew it wouldn’t be the same.  I finished packing our lunch, grabbed my purse and keys, and started walking to the front door.  I stopped at the entry wall and gazed at the photo of my dad standing in front of our old Chevy.  He had the same boisterous look on his face and gigantic sunglasses sitting on top of his head.  Dad was holding mom is his arms and I stood in front of them squinting because the sun was so bright with a funny grin on my face. 

I wish mom was here to join us on our last drive.  Mom passed away from a heart attack over 7 years ago.  She went to bed and never woke up.  The doctor said it was painless, but that still didn’t ease our grief.  I remember the first drive we took after mom died.  It was awkward sitting in the front seat.  That was always mom’s spot.  It didn’t feel right to be there.  I wanted to be in my normal seat, right behind my dad.  I never thought that I would have to take the keys away from the man that raised me; the man that taught me to drive.  I took one last look at the photo and forced myself out the front door. 

The long day was finally over and now I was ready to start my commute home.  On a “good” day I can get home in 45 minutes, but I could already tell from the back-up on the freeway onramp it was going to be a bad traffic day.  I sigh as I wait in line to hit the light just to get onto the freeway.  Not sure why it’s called a freeway?  Most times I am going 60 mph or less.  As I complain in my head about traffic, and too many people and cars on the road, I chuckle to myself.  I’m starting to sound like my parents!  I find my driving playlist and I am ready to go.  I’m singing along to Footloose when I finally get merge onto the freeway at 5 mph.  Woo hoo! 

About 30 minutes in and I am now completely stopped.  According to google maps, the 91 freeway is completely red for another 7 miles.  UGH.  I wish I hadn’t forgot my driving shoes this morning. Usually I’ll wear my tennis shoes or sandals when I’m driving, and then change into my heels when I get to work.  I had been running late this morning and forgot to bring my extra pair.  I have done this before, and tried driving home with bare feet, but that didn’t work out so well last time.  I need to just keep an extra pair in the car.  That would make the most sense, but I like to do everything the hard way.  I open the visor and look in the mirror to check the status of the pimple on my chin.   Every time I inspect the dumb thing, I swear it has grown.  Yep, there it is.  In all of its beautiful red glory.  My concealer has rubbed off again and the red menace beams. 

I smile into the mirror and notice a speck of something sitting between one of my front teeth and the tooth next to it.  I try and pop it out with my fingernail, but it’s not budging.  Stubborn little bastard.  I continue to keep my eyes on the road.  Nope, nothing new to report.  Some guy in a creepy minivan fires off his horn every couple of minutes.  I guess just to let us know he is still there and still an asshole.  We know guy, we know.  I grab my purse on the passenger seat and find my floss in one of the zipper compartments.  I knock the annoying piece of whatever out with the floss on the first try.  I carefully examine the floss to identify the foreign object.  It’s a tiny black dot.  A flake of pepper maybe?  Oh, maybe it was from my sandwich at lunch today.  Or, maybe remnants of the oreo cookies I had for dessert? 

Oh my God!  I’ve had this crap in my teeth since after lunch.  I had that 5-minute conservation with the cute new guy in the copy room after lunch.  I was flirting and smiling.  I thought he was smiling and laughing with me, but it was probably at me.  How embarrassing.   He was probably thinking, why is this girl with the grotesque teeth and gigantic pimple talking to me?  I’ll just avoid him until the pimple goes away and then start over.  Maybe he’ll forget.  Or maybe he is telling all of his friends the story about the witch that was flirting with him at work today?  I hate traffic!  I just sit here with too many thoughts in my head.  I find Footloose again on my playlist and start singing along.