So…being bored and locked away is not a good thing for most people. But I’m a writer. Gotta find some humor in the situation, I thought. This little story came to mind yesterday. Thanks to a friend who shared her ‘grandma’ story with me a while ago. I embellished and it may be the start of something new. Read on! What do you think?? Share my page if you like.
A NORMAL DAY IN THE LIFE
It began like any other day—a normal day, that is. I had gotten up early thinking that it’d be a nice treat for me, Grandma Josie, to fix a special breakfast for our “Grands”. Our daughter and son-in-law were soaking in the sun in the Caribbean for a week. Grandpa Hank and I were staying at their house in Wisconsin.
With three preschool children.
And two little, irascible dachshunds.
Actually, by that third day, we were all already a bit irascible! A winter lock-down with small children plus animals requires creativity, patience, and imagination.
So, I’d thought I’d do a blueberry French toast bake in the oven for breakfast. It’d be a nice treat, a nice way to begin the day. That’s how it started.
I’d gotten the oven warming when suddenly there was a swirl of gray smoke seeping out around the edges of the oven door. I peeked in to see odd bits of pepperoni baking—and smoking—in the bottom of the oven.
Grabbing a towel, I swatted at the smoke, hoping to diffuse it. Too late. The smoke detector screamed in warning. I quickly opened the front door and slid up the dining room window, and rushed back to the kitchen flapping the towel to disperse the smoke and quell the noise of the smoke detectors.
Unfortunately, in my panic and determination not to waken the house, I’d forgotten about secure home alarm system our daughter had installed. In all fairness, I must say, she’d told me. She’d warned me that I must enter the four-digit code to turn off the alarm system before I left the house each morning.
I’d forgotten about it. And I forgot the code, too.
That was probably because I was distracted when I saw two long, brown fur bundles racing to freedom out the open front door.
I knew I’d be in even more trouble if those little Weiner dogs got away. Excitedly yapping, they quickly slowed to begin gingerly tiptoeing through the belly-high drifts of snow they’d blindly plunged into. I clutched my robe close over my flannel gown, and pulled on the only shoes I could find by the front door…my granddaughter’s Minnie Mouse slippers that barely covered half my foot!
I had just taken three giant steps and stopped mid-calf in a pile of the white stuff, to retrieve one of the little mongrels, when I heard the jarring fog-horn blurp of an emergency vehicle, and looked up to witness a full ladder fire truck pulling into the circle. I stood frozen in spot, not only stunned by the cold, but also by pure horror. Of course, the truck came to a stop at the end of the driveway. I was mortified! There was no place to escape. An agile young man in black and yellow fireman’s gear jumped down and walked up to greet me with a semi-concerned smile.
“You doing all right, maam?” He was obviously trying not to display a condescending demeanor. Actually, he looked like he was trying to hold in a huge belly laugh. He wasn’t being successful, I’m afraid. He broke out into a grin as he ended his question.
“Yes! I’m fine!” I assured him. I shook my head, turned my back to him, and gathered up the second dog in my other arm, while trying to pull my robe closed around the two wiggly dogs.
“Your alarm went off. It notified us,” he explained, his voice rising in concern.
“Yes, I see,” I said, impatiently looking around to see my husband coming out the front door and pulling on his overcoat. “It’s all a big mistake. Sorry.”
It took another ten minutes while standing in the freezing cold, trying to explain who we were and why I’d forgotten the alarm code, before the young man and the truck slowly pulled away from the curb and headed back down the street. We settled back in to the house to salvage a normal breakfast with the children giggling about the exciting start to their day, and my husband carefully avoiding eye contact with me.
A DAY IN THE LIFE…Continued >>>
The remainder of the day was quiet by comparison. Three little ones needed to be occupied, and Hank and I did our best. We tried to follow the advice and admonitions our daughter and son-in-law had left with us before they departed:
Keep the children calm, plan a quiet time, limit television, only healthy treats twice a day, meals at designated times, and naps required each afternoon. “Structure, structure, structure, and quiet is most important,” Beth advised. She specifically said, “Don’t let Dad get them riled up!”
However, when it came to dealing with a one-year-old with a soggy, dirty diaper, and a three-year-old desperately hanging on Grandma’s leg while sobbing, “I want Mommy”, plus a five-year-old slamming doors because she’s not allowed to watch a PG13-rated movie starring her ‘favorite’ monster, the wisdom of elderhood took precedence.
Grandma and Grandpa worked together to clean up the squiggly, stinky baby and then gathered the other two munchkins into the living room to take turns sitting in a clothesbasket. Grandpa had placed a fluffy towel in the bottom of the plastic basket, and looped a belt through the webbing on one end. After seating the child in the ‘in-house sled’, Grandpa pulled the basket and child at Mach 1 speed (for a Grandpa that’s fairly fast) through the kitchen, dining room and back into the living room with the child-filled basket careening around the corners behind him. Squeals of delight and demands of “my turn!” and “I’m next!” continued for several rounds. Even the dogs got into the action, chasing after the basket and nipping at the bits of towel trailing out the bottom webbing. After a few such runs, though, Grandpa Hank sank into the leather recliner panting.
“I can’t do anymore!” he explained. I handed him the “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” book and settled into the other chair with the baby and a bottle while the two older kids crawled into Grandpa’s lap to listen to the story. The picture was like a deceptively peaceful Norman Rockwell grandparent/grandchild painting. That was what it looked like. I knew it wasn’t going to last.
In those moments of comparative quiet, I got to thinking about the fireman who had called me Ma’am. I’d I wanted to hit him just then, but I had to admit it wouldn’t have set a good example for the children. My blood pressure rose a bit just remembering his look, and I took a deep breath as I tried to push the thought away. Then I remembered seeing not only the fire truck parked at the end of the driveway, but another pickup truck parked just beyond the drive. Someone had been sitting in that vehicle watching the entire debacle at our daughter’s house. That truck didn’t leave when the fire truck pulled away. I wondered who would be crazy enough to be sitting out in their vehicle in the middle of winter watching my humiliation? Why hadn’t they just left immediately? That had all happened more than two hours previously, but the thought of the pick up truck drove me to struggle out of the chair, baby and bottle clutched carefully to my chest, and walk to the dining room window that faced the street. The truck was still there! And so was the man sitting in the truck! I rushed to the front door, checked the lock and this time, remembered to reset the security alarm. I must have looked like I’d seen a ghost when I returned to the living room because Hank took one look at me and asked, “What’s the matter, Josie?”
The Schwann’s man arrived with an order just after I sat back down.
Hank needed to pay for the Schwann’s order, and left the man standing at the door as he went to the entry closet to retrieve my purse. At the time, I didn’t give it a second thought, being preoccupied with the baby I was holding while trying to corner and contain the dogs, Mel (for Hormel) and Oscar (for Oscar Mayer). I shooed them into the den and with an elbow, flicked the door shut. Mel and Oscar set up an even louder indignant ruckus, but at least they weren’t going to be escaping out the front door again.
When I returned, I found Hank handing some cash to the Schwann’s guy and accepting an armload of frozen pizzas, meats and ice cream. He turned quickly toward the kitchen. I supposed he was headed to the freezer. As he walked past me, he said, “You and I need to talk!” Well, the jig was up, I guess. He’d found the money stash in my purse, because he’d just been digging around in my purse. So much for the surprise I’d planned.
I watched him walk away and was just turning back to the door when a head with a green and gold knitted Green Bay Packer’s hat popped around the corner. It wasn’t the Schwann’s guy. I saw the Schwann’s guy beyond him climbing into his truck and pulling away. This Packer’s hat guy kept his head tucked, squatted down, quickly reached around the corner, and deftly grabbed the strap of my purse. He slid it toward the open door, gave it a sharp tug to flip it over his shoulder, and took off high-stepping it through the snowdrifts in the front yard. It had to be the man from the pick up! He zigged a bit to circle a tree, jumped over some low shrubs and headed straight for the truck. I had to admit, he might have made a good runner in the Olympics.
I screamed after him. I think I might have even called him a few names. The Grands were all present, so I did have to watch my mouth. I do know I used the “B” word, though, and I think the guy knew I was pretty serious! Hank came hurrying back and stood at the door with me. There we were, two inept grandparents, letting a puny Packer thief abscond with my savings. I was so angry! There was no way I was going to put up with that! I turned to Hank, and said, “You’d better get your coat, Grandpa!”
©Gail Lee Cowdin 2020
A NORMAL DAY IN THE LIFE continued:
“I am not getting my coat!” Grandpa Hank said in response to my directive. Then he gave me ‘the look’. I knew that the jig was up. It was Hank’s serious, no-nonsense look. He wasn’t going to let me do anything. I tried the stare down. Didn’t work.
“We’ve got the kids, Josie! We can’t just take off,” he said. “What are you thinking? What were you thinking? Where did you get that money? What were you going to do with it? Oh, good Lord, help us! That guy just stole our savings, didn’t he?” Hank’s normally calm voice got louder, more anxious, and then more demanding with each question. He looked from me to the grandkids, who had stopped what they were doing and were now sitting like little statues listening as their grandparents lost it. I looked out the open door. We could easily see the now departing pickup truck.
“Can you see the license number?” I asked thinking that was really the only reasonable thing I could say to Hank.
“NO! I cannot see that plate. I don’t carry binoculars with me, Josie!” Hank was good at sarcasm.
“I think we’d better do something quick. I have an idea,” I said trying to redirect Hank’s next comments.
Hank stared at me for a mega-second and raised an eyebrow. “You have an idea? I think you have a ton of explaining to do, Grandma!”
“’Splaining. ‘Splaining,” mimicked little three-year-old Jake. Caylen, our five-year-old-going on twelve, precocious granddaughter decided at that moment that it was probably a good time to jump up and free Oscar and Mel from the den.
Seeing the direction this was going, I handed the baby to Hank, grabbed my jacket from the coat rack, and did a quick run for the open door. I managed to slip out, and yank the door shut just before wiener-dog Oscar’s short, little brown legs skittered onto the entry rug behind me.
The sounds of the excited yapping of both dogs, and the boisterous shouts from Hank and the kids followed me out the door as I raced for our car. I pulled my coat around me, and dug in my jacket pocket. Yes! My car keys were in my pocket.
I was good to go! So to speak. I just didn’t know where I was going, yet.
I knew the direction the truck had gone. I was determined to catch up with that Packer Backer Thief. Grandma Josie was not going to be deterred. I set a grim, determined look on my old face. The thief would soon learn what it was like to deal with Grandma Josie.
The engine came to life with a bit of a struggle. It had been parked outside overnight, and didn’t like the cold temperatures. As soon as I got it started, I hit the gas, and the rear end of our little Ford Escape fishtailed spraying slushy snow behind me. This car wasn’t a racer, but the street was clear, and I sped on for several blocks checking each side street for that pick up truck. I’d been so consumed with catching up to the truck and retrieving my money that I really hadn’t given much thought to what I would do if and when I caught the culprit.
It was about a half mile down the road that I heard the siren and saw the flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I kept going, hoping that the cop had maybe been called out for another emergency and would turn off.
But of course, it didn’t happen like that. By the time I admitted to myself that the police were after me, I knew the jig was up and pulled over. I’d lost the thief. I was probably going to get a ticket, too. It just wasn’t fair. I wondered if I cried I might be able persuade the fellow to give me a break. I began working on pulling up a few tears. That was my thought process, until I saw the officer who was now walking up to my driver’s side window. Now, I really was in trouble! I slowly lowered the window.
He stood there for a long moment not saying a word. Finally, he spoke very slowly like I was hard of hearing or language deficient or something.
“Mom. What are you doing?”
A NORMAL DAY IN THE LIFE continued:
I looked up at my six-foot, four inch son standing outside my car door, staring down at me with a look mixed with concern, confusion, disbelief, but mostly love. At least, I thought it was love.
Standing there in his uniform, arms hanging limply at his side holding his ticket book, he was, after all, not a police officer stopping a lawbreaker, but suddenly stopping his mother. It was clear he was puzzled by my behavior. And perhaps a little upset. As his mother, I had repeatedly warned him over the years, of the dangers related to speeding while driving. Especially on icy, winter roads. I had not heeded my own advice.
I looked at him and found I had no words. What could I say that he would understand? What could I say that would explain all of this in less than five seconds? I needed to take off to catch that thief and get my purse back!
I took a deep breath, and said what most mothers say when the going gets tough. “You’d better go talk to your dad!”
With that, I slammed the gear into drive and floored the accelerator. As I sped away, I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw my son standing there, still puzzled, probably in shock, but definitely looking indecisive. Thank heavens!
I sped three blocks before turning down a side street. I believed it was that street where I’d last seen the pick up turning off the main street. With no sirens following me, I sped on, slowing only at intersections to scope out the side streets for that darned pickup truck.
Soon, it was evident that I was leaving the city limits. The distances between homes were now filled with fenced land corralling horses and in some cases cattle. The street had turned into a narrow county highway that was straight and slightly hilly. As I neared the top of one hill, I saw a flash of that white pickup several hilltops ahead of me. Of course, I accelerated! I needed to catch that guy.
My mind was racing almost as fast as my little Ford Escape. What would I do when I caught that yellow beanie-wearing culprit? He wasn’t a big guy. I remembered that. But he was definitely wiry. Could I grab him and hold him? The little weasel. I got mad just thinking about him. He just needed someone to straighten him out. All of that was passing through my mind, when I found myself suddenly catching up to him. Either he had slowed down, or my speeding had surpassed my expectations. I really had to make a decision. I had no idea if he had a weapon. I certainly didn’t carry a gun. But then again, he didn’t know that.
Maybe I could bluff him. I think most women my age have experience with bluffing. We can run a bluff on a lot of things, number one being with our grand kids. “You stop that right now, or Grandma Josie will make you eat spinach for dinner!” I really wouldn’t do that, but I can make it sound like I mean it.
Or, we run bluffs with our husbands all the time. “Don’t worry honey, I can paint those walls in the bedroom today.” At which point he will show up in five or ten minutes with paint, brush, and roller in hand, roll his eyes, sigh, and say, “Never mind. I’ll do it.” I’m pretty good at getting things done like that. I’ve even bluffed with our daughters. “I’m fine,” I’ll say. “I can fix that tire on the mower. Grandpa Hank isn’t up to it. Don’t worry about it. I can take care of it myself.” I really could do it, but within a few minutes, I’d have a son-in-law on the doorstep. It’s worked almost every time.
Almost…Now the question was could I bluff this guy? I scanned the floor of the car and tried to see if anything was sticking out from under the seat. Nothing. But then, I remembered that little hammer in the glove compartment. It’s supposed to be for an emergency, in case we need to break glass to escape our Escape. We’d always joked about that.
Well, this was an emergency! I could use that hammer. Somehow. Maybe.
By the time my brain had processed all of this, I was pulling into a farmyard and stopping right behind that white pick up truck. There was no one in the truck, though. I looked around, scanning the yard. The place was quiet. It almost seemed deserted. There was a small clapboard farmhouse with an unattached double garage. The garage door was open. Then, I saw that familiar Green Bay Packer knit hat bobbing around inside. He was in there!
What I did next was probably the bravest and stupidest thing I’ve ever done! I got out of my car, slammed the door, and yelled, “Hey you chicken-livered, purse-stealing Packer backer! You’d better get out here before I decide to shoot first and then call the cops! And bring my purse with you!”
A NORMAL DAY IN THE LIFE continued:
I really was not afraid at that moment. What I was was darn freezing cold! I hadn’t taken time to put on my boots. I was standing in what felt like ten inches of that white, frozen, melted, and refrozen stuff called Sneet! That’s like sleet and snow put together. It’s not a pleasant thing to dip your dainty toes into.
The rest of my attire didn’t speak to my normal talent of dressing in the current fashion trend. I looked down at myself and did a full inventory of my get-up. I was wearing my Dr. Seuss knee-highs (The grandkids love ‘em) and my high-top bumper tennis shoes with daisies embroidered along the sides and top. (Again, the kids thought Grandma was kind of funky). Not only did my footwear leave room for a moment of skepticism about lapses in my mental health, but also the rest of my attire wasn’t much better. I had rolled up my blue jeans to mid calf to show the kids my socks and never unrolled them. My purple sweatshirt and the royal purple jacket that I’d pulled on as I’d rushed out the door were my personal tribute to the Minnesota Vikings. A stern Viking visage in a gold football helmet with horns adorned the front of the jacket.
That’s what the Packer thief saw when he popped his head out at me around the corner of the garage door. I knew he saw me, because he flinched and quickly ducked back out of sight. He may have noticed my gray hair, and crazy attire, but I hoped that wasn’t the only thing that stuck with him. I wanted him to know that I wasn’t going to give up. He probably thought he was dealing with a crazy woman.
And maybe he was! I didn’t like to think that people thought of me as that grandma who was unstrung, but putting it in perspective, people had to realize that having a $10,000 cashier’s check plus another $2000 in cash stolen would likely be enough to drive anyone over the edge! I summoned my courage and yelled at the guy again.
“Get out here this minute! I have a gun, and the cops are on the way!” Now neither of those things was true. At least, I didn’t think the cops were on the way, but he didn’t know that. I pushed that hammer handle forward in my pocket and raised it up a bit, waving it at the garage door.
I took three steps forward and stopped. I’d stepped onto the thin ice surface of a frozen puddle, and it had broken. Cold ice water seeped into my sneaker. I suddenly had momentary visions of frostbite, my feet turning blue, and losing several of my toes. Lifting my sopping foot, I gingerly wiggled my sopping toes, tested the next spot in the snowdrift, sunk through the fluffy stuff, and came down on solid ground.
From that point, I hopped foot-to-foot, snowdrift-to-snowdrift until I was standing about fifteen feet in front of my car. My Escape was still running behind me. I really wish I hadn’t slammed the car door. I needed my own escape plan, just in case.
I called out again, waving my ‘gun’ at the perp, making my demands. Then I saw a quick flash of movement. My purse came flying out the open door directly toward me. It landed several feet in front of me in one of the deeper snowdrifts, of course. My first instinct was to run up and grab it, but a small voice told me to wait and be patient. What if he was just trying to lure me closer so he could shoot me? I waited.
“There it is! What else do you want lady?” He demanded. “Go get it!” His voice was sort of whiny, and I knew I had him! Pretty scrawny and just a kid, I thought. I could use my angry mother tone on him.
“I want you to come out here this instant. You need to apologize for what you did! You took advantage of a senior citizen. What kind of person did your mother raise you to be? Didn’t she teach you to show some respect?”
“My mother’s not around. She’s been gone a long time. I just needed some food! Besides, you’re obviously just a loser yourself. I saw your jacket. You Minnesota Vikings never could win anything!”
That did it! The purple rage was dripping down my eyes when I began my charge toward the garage. I’m pretty spry for my age. I do my yoga regularly. He actually looked shocked that I could run. He was standing like a frigid statue when I tackled him. Just like a real Viking player. I head butted him, too, and that really hurt. It knocked him off-balance, and we fell into a heap in another frozen puddle at the edge of the door.
We were both lying there dazed, when two police cruisers pulled up behind my car. I lifted my head to see my son climb out of his patrol car, shake his head, and heard him call, “Mom!?” He sounded worried.
He and another officer soon pulled up the little twerp and me. My son took me aside, and I looked over my shoulder to see the other officer ushering the thief to his patrol car. My son was busily brushing the snow and slush off my jacket while berating me for not listening to anything I was told to do or not to do. I seemed to remember that same speech from mother-to-son years ago.
A NORMAL DAY IN THE LIFE
Our son was definitely not happy with his mother, but when ‘said son’ deposited me back at our daughter’s home to be greeted by the family, husband Hank’s reactions ran the gamut from overjoyed, thankful, relieved, upset, to fairly angry—in that order. Hank hugged me, checked me all over for injuries, helped me remove my soggy jacket and shoes, and then began a more serious scrutiny.
Hank put a hand under my chin, pulling my head up, so that I was forced to look up into his eyes. The ‘Hank stare’ meant serious business. I knew after fifty plus years of marriage that it meant I had better listen.
“Josie, you scared the life out of all of us. The Grands were crying up a storm; I was shaking with absolute fright. You could have been killed! We didn’t know where you went. We didn’t know how you thought you were going to catch that robber. It was a very dangerous thing you did, Josie! Thank God our son is with the police department and could follow you! So, we are going to have a long talk. Right now. Whether you want to, or not. I need to know exactly what was going on with you, and all that money, and that thief!”
He ushered me into the living room, sat me down in the big recliner, handed me a cup of coffee (which I discovered after one sip, had been laced with a bit of brandy). Hank sat on the sofa opposite me, two Grands climbed into his lap, while our son settled in next to them holding the baby. The small group waited in silence and stared at me.
I took a long slow sip of the spiked coffee, heaved a huge sigh, settled back in the chair, and began.
“It all began a few months ago when I began to think about our upcoming fifty-second anniversary, Hank. I wanted to do something special. We never really celebrated our fiftieth. I thought it was now or never. We’re not getting any younger, you know.”
Our son looked at Hank, and broke into a coughing spell. (I think he maybe choked a bit.) I knew what he was thinking. He was dealing with a bat-crazy old woman who just happened to be his mother, and a father who couldn’t handle her either. I just stared at my son with my not amused Queen Mother look and continued before the moment was entirely lost.
“I looked into several possibilities, Hank, and decided Hawaii would be nice. You know I always thought “Can’t Help Falling in Love” was our song. Do you remember? And Elvis sang that in the movie “Blue Hawaii.” So, I checked into what it would cost to take a cruise to Hawaii, and then I looked at what we had in savings. We could do it, Hank! We’ve never been to Hawaii. We could go on a cruise ship, enjoy ourselves, see the sights, and then I pictured you singing that song to me on some beach there over moonlit waters. Don’t you think that would be romantic, Hank?”
I glanced at my son and could read his mind. He was running through Kenny Chesney’s beach songs and Blake Shelton’s “Some Beach”! It’s better to just ignore kids when they get like that.
There was a long moment of silence with Hank simply staring at me, interrupted only by our son’s clearing his throat and humming a bit of one of those beach tunes he’d been thinking of.
Hank’s first words, preceded by his own throat-clearing noises were, “It would really cost that much?”
I smiled. I knew I was off the hook. I’d turned the corner so-to-speak. Hank was talking about how much it would cost, and not saying, “Definitely not.” We talked some more, and I explained how I’d explored all the choices and had come up with what seemed to be the best option. I’d made a down payment. But I’d drawn a cashier’s check to pay the travel agent in full. I hadn’t wanted to put it on a charge card, because I’d wanted to keep it all a secret from Hank and make it a big surprise. So much for that idea!
Hank was beginning to soften. I could see it. Then he said, “But what about that guy? The thief in the Packer getup? What’d he do with the money?”
I looked to our son for an explanation of that one.
“He didn’t get a chance to spend any of it, Dad. Mom got to him before he could even take it out of her purse. It’s all there, Dad. And the young fool has been arrested, but I think he’s going to get off. He’s not even twenty-one, and he’s got a sob story that will help him with a judge. Besides, Mom has offered to give him a few hundred to help him out. He was in pretty dire straights, it seems.”
Hank looked at me and raised his eyebrows again. “You gave him more of our money? After he stole your purse? Josie!”
“I felt sorry for the kid. What can I say? You’d want to help him, too, if you heard his whole story, Hank. He was in the bank when I made the withdrawal and overheard one of the tellers talking about the big cashier’s check. That’s why he went after me. He was desperate. He’s a college student, out of food, unemployed, and down to his last gallon of gas. What I gave him will only make a small dent in our savings. I thought if we could help him out a bit, it might change his life.”
Hank sighed and nodded. “I suppose, it’s okay, if you both think it will do some good.”
Our son nodded and stood to hand the baby to me.
“I’ve got to run, Mom. Are you okay, now?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. We’ll be fine. Don’t worry. I’ll be a little stiff tomorrow, but I think just planning that trip will take all the aches and pains away.”
He gave me a hug, kissed me on top of the head, and headed out the door. I think he was humming Jimmy Buffet’s “Five O’ Clock Somewhere.”
Hank looked at me and said, “Josie, if this was a normal day, I don’t think I can take many more!” We both laughed at that one. It was a good day, after all.
©Gail Lee Cowdin 2020