As My Parents Age

A whole week already since I’ve last written! I don’t know where my time goes sometimes.

Last Sunday afternoon, my parents hosted a family meeting. My dad had asked all of his kids to come talk with him and Mom about … Well, I thought we’d discuss living circumstances, for one thing. My parents’ four-level home is no longer suitable for either of them. They have great difficulty with all of the stairs and a single level situation would be much better. We didn’t resolve anything though. As always, we skated around the topic without actually making any progress toward really addressing this concern. However, I’ve long since resolved myself to the fact that they aren’t comfortable moving and it won’t happen until there’s no other choice. And at least my sister and I are nearby enough to come help when help is needed. Though I sure would prefer for them to be in a place where emergency help is close at hand.

StoleWe talked a little bit about their wishes for funeral arrangements. Some of this is documented, thankfully, although not formally. At least we have something. And my parents do seem willing to actually deal with these arrangements today. Dad, being a retired Catholic deacon, is concerned about which stole he’ll wear when he’s laid out in his casket. He said he isn’t really fond of any of his. At least we can find one he likes now, while he’s still here to express his opinion on it!

My dad wanted to talk about who wanted what. There are some old leather-bound books that were important to him. My dad played a part in the assembly of these books at one of his jobs long ago. As a young husband and father, he purchased and brought home a copy of each book he’d helped create. Coffee table books, I guess, is how I’d describe them. As kids, we took great pleasure in paging through them and admiring the colorful photos within. He sent a couple of books home with each of us that day. I got the Norman Rockwell book, which makes me happy. Norman Rockwell was a big part of our home decor while I was growing up and I have a nostalgic attachment to his work.

There was discussion about wedding rings and Christmas ornaments that have sentimental value. There are some old, old home movies and we talked about researching whether we can still get them transferred to DVD. Hopefully they’re not so deteriorated that they’re lost to us. Ultimately though, we agreed that while we could spend hours that day “divvying up” all of my parents’ stuff, it was more important for them to get a formal will in place. My sister has taken charge of finding the best options for that and hopefully we can check that need off the list soon. Besides, it just seemed a bit morbid to start laying claim to my parents’ things while they’re still here with us. And one sibling failed to show up for the meeting without explanation. So it was tough to make decisions that would have been best made while everyone was present and able to voice opinions.

I’m grateful that my sister and I finally got my parents to sit down with us and fill out health care directives. We did this the previous Tuesday evening. I’ve had the paperwork for a year, but haven’t been able to get my parents to agree to sit and complete it. Mom has had a few more bad days lately than usual. I think that prompted the agreement to finally tackle the paperwork. I’m relieved to have that under our belts.

The whole meeting left all of us feeling a bit out-of-sorts, I think. I’m struggling with mixed feelings. Part of me feels like I’m pushing my parents to think about and do things they’re not comfortable addressing. While my sister and I feel it’s important to deal with this stuff now, the other siblings don’t seem to feel good about discussing these things. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not being unfair. We’re only trying to take care of them as best we know how, and make sure we know their wishes while they’re still here to voice them. No one wants to think about the days when we’ll part ways with our loved ones. But the reality is, it can’t be avoided by simply refusing to think about it. I guess I’m more relieved than guilty. Once we get all of the difficult stuff formally documented, we can relax a little bit and enjoy the days we still have together.

On the bright side, I took my parents to the transplant clinic this week for my dad’s annual kidney health check. It was six years in July since the transplant operation and thanks to a daily buffet of medications, my dad appears to be doing very well. There was a slight increase in Dad’s creatinine level (which measures kidney function.) His doctor didn’t seem to feel it was cause for alarm, but said he would be scheduling an ultrasound for Dad in the coming weeks, just to be sure nothing’s going in the wrong direction.

This annual appointment is actually a series of appointments including blood tests, bone density tests, a meeting with a nurse, a pharmacist and the nephrologist. Dad also has to fill out an annual survey about how he’s doing and feeling since his kidney transplant. The thing is about eighteen pages long, and since Dad’s vision is poor, I was reading the questions to him and filling it out for him. (Really loved getting to ask him about his sexual function! Gah!) Dad, being my dad, couldn’t just answer any question. He wanted to elaborate on every single question, which really wasn’t necessary. (Thankfully he didn’t do this with the sexual function question!) We might have been there for two weeks before finishing the darn thing. So as he was called back for various tests, I told my mom that we’d just keep going on the survey and answer the questions for Dad to the best of our knowledge.

We laughed at questions such as, In the past four weeks, due to your current health, have you felt stubborn or obstinate? There were always six response options ranging from Very True to Not at all true. Mom and I laughed, joking that there should have been an All my life option on this one.

And Dad, who is known for his weird sense of humor, but not necessarily for being truly funny, actually made me laugh out loud. While sitting with the pharmacist and reviewing the long list of Dad’s medications and dosages, he was then asked if he drinks alcohol.

Occasionally, he said.

Did he use tobacco? No.

Marijuana? Can’t afford it, he quipped.

Dad! I exclaimed laughing! The young pharmacist took it in stride and laughed along with us. She said it might not be long before it’s legal here in Minnesota anyway, at least for medicinal purposes.

Might be kind of fun to add it to Dad’s daily regimen. Might really ease that stubborn and obstinate thing! :-) (Don’t worry… I say that with love!)

Seriously, though, there are big lessons in all of this. Mark and I have realized the importance of addressing our end-of-life wishes now, while it still feels like a distant concern. I want to keep as much of this burden off my own kids’ shoulders as humanly possible.

Gratefulness

This week…

An actual phone call from Brad. Hi Mama. Just calling to talk. Mom is for getting my attention. Mama is his term of endearment and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. He renewed his lease on the apartment in Fargo for another year. Maybe this time next year he’ll look at moving closer to home again, he says. As much as I want him closer to home now, he wants to give his job at least another year and establish a good work history before moving on. Smart boy! He’ll be home for Thanksgiving. The old Brad is resurfacing after the heartache of the past months. I’m happy. And relieved.

2014-10-17Another phone call from a kid, this one from Kacey. She was pretty sick last week, with a fever, chills, spots in her throat and a rash on her body. And as someone who has rarely ever been seriously ill, she had to make her first all-by-herself decision to see a doctor. Her symptoms mirrored those of strep throat. It wasn’t strep throat. She was tested for mono and it wasn’t that either, thankfully. But she was treated with antibiotics and feels much better now. It was good to hear the energy back in her voice and know that she was able to get back to her old self, focus on studying again, and have a little fun with friends again.

Jake and his new girlfriend, Alysha. Introvert and private person that he is, it took him awhile to bring her around and make introductions. She’s sweet and he’s clearly enamored with her. She’s bringing out good things in him and I love the results of the ego boost he’s feeling. He hangs out at home a little more often, and talks to me more, giving a long-missing bit of insight into his world.  He’s maturing, realizing how good it feels to think of someone besides himself for a change. And he’s visibly happy. I love it!

Fall. The color of the sky. The smell of dried leaves. The red, orange and gold hues in the tree-tops. Geese in a V-formation flying over the house, honking, making Lucy stop sniffing one of the many invisible-to-me trails in the backyard to gaze up in curiosity. Temperatures just cool enough that Lucy is willing to snuggle again. Doggie snuggles are the best!

New guy at work – blowing me away with his skills and adaptability. New girl at work – provides frequent opportunities to remember my patience and shows me where my training skills need more work. And gratefulness that all three of our new teammates are so personable and willing to learn.

The weekend. So glad it’s here. While Mark is off on a hunting jaunt, I’m going with my sister to do some hunting of my own – for bargains at the new outlet mall.

Hope your weekend is happy!

Golden Landscape

I switched my hours at work. This was partly due to our newly expanded department. Change brings more change. When it was just the three of us, we had a little more flexibility. Start early, leave early. Start a little later, leave a little later. But ultimately, there was nothing to say any one person was required to start and end her day at any specific time. And we were usually all out the door no later than 4:30.

Enter three new team members and the boss now thinks it makes sense to have someone covering all the bases until five. We all get it, but no one was chomping at the bit to take that 8:30 to 5:00 shift. At a team meeting, the six of us tossed around ideas. Take turns. Rotate weeks. Rotate days. Rotate months. While one person argued for rotating weeks, another was pushing for rotating days. And as this was going on, I was thinking to myself that maybe I wouldn’t mind having a little more cushion in the morning. Maybe I’d just volunteer to be that five o’clock person. While the discussion went on, largely unresolved, I finally spoke up and said that I would possibly volunteer to just cover the later end of the day.

My two long-time team mates were a little taken aback. Clearly, neither of them wanted to make any serious commitments to working until five. They asked if I was sure, and I said I just wanted to run it by Mark to make sure he had no issues with me making the change, but I would probably let them know the next day that I had it covered.

As we walked back to our desks after that meeting, they continued to ask if I was sure. They suggested I try it for a little while, but then speak up if it wasn’t working out and we could go back to the idea of rotating responsibility. And I agreed that I would, but assured them that I might actually like having that extra half hour in the morning. I like to go to the gym a few mornings a week and always feel like I’m rushing home afterwards in order to clean up and get out the door to work on time. With the later start time, I can relax a little. And truth be told, I’ve been at work until five for the last several weeks anyway. Why not shave that extra time off of the front end of the day? Our new team mates all have children of varying ages, and are tied to daycare, school and activity schedules. Those days are behind me. And I didn’t want to add stress to their lives by making them take a turn with the late shift if it was just as easy for me to adjust my hours altogether.

So I did. And here’s the thing. It takes me for-ev-er to get home after work! I don’t know why the five o’clock rush hour is so much worse than the 4:30 rush hour, but criminy! Granted, much of this is due to some major road construction near my office (I think) and when it’s complete, it should be much easier to get through the local streets and over to the freeway, (I hope.) Over the few days I’ve been making the later commute home, I’ve found that there’s no getting around the congestion. And even once I get through the road construction, or through the alternate route that everyone else is taking too, there’s that stretch of freeway on my home stretch that’s just always so jammed up. Last night, it was almost six o’clock before I walked in the door. A 17.2 mile drive took me nearly an hour and I could just feel every last one of my nerves fraying as I inched my car toward home. I walked in the door and Mark asked, “How was your day?” And I replied, “This five o’clock shift is bull shift!”

‘Cept I didn’t say bull shift.

He laughed, and I reminded him and myself that I should try that other route that would at least help me avoid the home stretch traffic jam.

Tonight I tried the other route and it shaved ten minutes off my drive. I realized I was much, much calmer than yesterday, singing along to the radio and recognizing that the view was so much prettier than the one I get on the freeway. I looked ahead of me as I drove the road to home tonight and saw that the fall landscape was just golden. And the fall sky is such a deeper shade of blue than the summer sky. Everything around me seemed so warm and beautiful. It brought me back for a moment to my grade school days, and shuffling home through dry leaves along the sidewalks that led to home. I have always loved fall and still do.

So I found my perk for now. And I suspect I’ll soon grow accustomed to the change in hours and drive time and it will be no big deal.

2014-10-15b

And what? No! I wasn’t snapping photos while driving… Shush! Okay, maybe just one. Kids, do not try this at home. Do as I say, not as I do, etc.

Really, though. Isn’t that just the prettiest?

Overcomers

Growing up, my family attended mass every weekend. My parents were then, as they remain today, very active in their church. Faith and God were their highest priorities. And they attempted to instill the same values in their children by requiring weekly attendance at mass and encouraging our involvement wherever there were opportunities. They accomplished their goals with varying success, but no one can accuse them of not giving it their all!

Having always been an extremely shy child, I refused to do anything that would make me the center of attention at church. My brothers were altar boys for a few years. My sister, being the oldest and more cooperative offspring, became a lector in her teenage years. I’d watch her walk up on the altar, stand in front of the lectern and recite the weekly readings as I marveled at her confidence. At some point, my dad tried to coerce me volunteer in the same capacity. In words that were slightly more acceptable coming from my youthful mouth to my stern dad’s ears, I basically informed him it would be a cold day in hell.

He couldn’t make me stand up in front of the church and read from the Bible, but he could force my involvement in other ways. The Catholic mass holds much opportunity for communal prayer and response. As I sat in the hard pew amongst my parents and siblings, Dad would silently assert his authority by reaching for a missalette in front of me and placing it in my hands. There was no question what was required of me. Participate. I know Dad hoped for enthusiasm as well, but he’d take what he could get.

I would recite the prayers and respond according to the routine and flow of the mass. Singing, though. That was another story. Those church hymns were so ancient and boring. And the notes were often too high for me. And we Catholics weren’t as openly spiritual as some other faiths. There was no dancing in the aisles, no raising of the hands in praise, no spontaneous shouts of “AMEN!” or “Halleluja!” And as I recall, not a lot of loud singing from the pews. Mr. Teeters always lead us in song at Saturday mass while Mrs. Mrozinski accompanied him on the big church organ. On the rare occasions we went to Sunday mass, there was a choir with a handful of members. And for those of us in the congregation who didn’t sing with confidence, there was no hope of being drowned out among a sea of other voices. There were always a few voices that rose above the others, some in tune, some not. More power to them, I thought. Not me.

I was already a self-conscious teenager. I wasn’t about to add my voice to the few who could be heard. I mouthed the words to the songs. This did not escape Dad’s attention. On more than one occasion, I stood in the kitchen at home after mass, at the other end of one of Dad’s famous lectures. The scene was always the same. Dad insisting that next time, he’d better hear me singing. Me standing stubbornly, angry, refusing. He couldn’t make me sing, I’d say. He’d find a microphone and hold it up to my mouth if I didn’t start, he’d reply in anger.

These stand-offs with Dad only made me feel worse and the poor quality of my voice only magnified in my mind. I knew I was a terrible singer and Dad couldn’t make me sing at church.

Around those same years, I started high school. Somehow I fell in with a group of kids who were involved in theater. I worked as part of the stage crew on many productions and watched in admiration from the wings as my high school friends stood confidently on stage performing. Musical productions were fun and full of energy. And each one needed a bigger cast of performers than the non-musical plays. The star performers could really sing, but they needed a supporting choir for the many musical numbers. Somehow, someone convinced me to try out. I don’t know how that happened, but I’m sure there was something to the fact that one of my peers expressed belief in my ability to sing. My friends carried a lot more weight than my dad at that time. I began to believe I could do it.

With shaking legs and frayed nerves, I found myself up on stage during tryouts and somehow forced myself to sing … in a manner in which everyone could hear me. I was mortified inside, but I think I shut my eyes and just made myself keep going. I hated the sound of my voice, but I carried the tune until finally it was over. A boy I knew from the school bus stop patted me on the back and said, “You did great!” I didn’t believe him, but I now felt as if I’d taken a few steps toward conquering the feeling of self-consciousness that constantly floated around inside of me. I figured it could only get easier from here.

And when the cast list was posted, I saw my name on it! I’d never been so elated in my whole young life!

But when I informed my parents at home that evening of my accomplishment, my pride was crushed. There were many reasons given. None of them seemed fair at the time, but the bottom line was that I would not be performing in the musical. And mostly what I remember from that conversation was, “If you can’t sing in church, how do you think you’re going to sing on a stage in front of an auditorium full of people anyway?”

It didn’t matter that I thought I could do it because I’d be surrounded by friends who would also be singing, loudly, in front of an auditorium full of people. It didn’t matter that this tiny, little part in the school musical might help me grow a little bit and take a few small steps toward overcoming my fears. The conversation was over. I was told to inform the theater director the next day that I would be dropping out of the cast. I never thought I was a good singer. Never had hopes of being great. I just wanted to be part of something at school and this was one way I could do that. But it wasn’t going to happen. I think that was the end of my involvement in the theater group. I was embarrassed at having made a cast only to have to quit the next day. And there also ended any thought that I could be confident enough to put myself out there in front of others, in any way.

That lack of confidence continued to stay with me to some degree for the rest of my life. Of course, I grew up and learned in many ways that if I put my mind to it, I could probably do it. But I never got over that fear of singing in front of others. In all of my church-going years, I quietly refrained from singing. Didn’t sing to my kids unless it was in silliness. My cars have been the only ones to ever hear me belt it out.

2014-10-11bBut I have this sister, and her husband who’s in a bunch of bands. And they love to go out and sing karaoke. And I love to go out with them. And I’ve sung – but always with others. Always letting someone else take the lead. Always holding the microphone a ways away from my mouth. Always embarrassed, though I’ve learned that most people go out to sing karaoke because if they were good enough to be in bands, they’d be doing it there instead. And some people sing well at karaoke, but most people don’t. And no one cares because it just feels good to sing. And usually everyone has at least a good buzz going on anyway. I mean, look at this guy dancing! He didn’t care what anyone else was thinking. He was just living it up!

And so there we were again last night at the karaoke bar, my brother-in-law, my sister and me. My sister suffers a similar feeling of trepidation about getting up there and singing, maybe not quite as much as me, but still. A few people who were there the last time were there again. And they came over and told us all that they remembered us from two weeks ago – mostly because my brother-in-law and his band mates made a pretty good impression then. But they told us all they were glad we were back and hoped we’d all sing again.

My sister and I made a pact. We said we were going to do it. Not as a pair, not hiding behind each other. We were each going to go up there and just sing. Alone. Not because we think we’re fabulous singers. We’re not. But we can carry a tune and it just feels good to sing. And because as many years as have passed, we’re each still letting this feeling of self-consciousness hold us back to some degree.

There was no big challenge to the songs I sang, but I did it! My sister did too! People hooted and cheered and clapped. And my brother-in-law at one point said, “Nice job!” And we knocked knuckles. And I think he summed it up so well when he mused that people just want to do the things they enjoy doing and have someone encourage them for having done it. So simple, but so right.

And you know what? I’m still not going out and singing to the world, but I did sing in front of a bunch of people I don’t know and it was fun. It felt good. And next? Who knows? Maybe I’ll tell everyone I know that I’ve been writing a blog on the internet for the past eight years!

But probably not just yet. :-)

Crazy Days and Lipiness

I’m particularly happy to see the weekend! Crazy week, it was!

Most of the craziness was work-related. Over the past year, our small department of three employees has become increasingly busy, sometimes to the point of  being overwhelmed. We were thrilled when it was announced a couple of months ago that we were finally given the budget to hire additional staff – two new Account Analysts, like us, and an Support Specialist. We were getting help!

The newbies started on Monday and there was a plan for getting them acclimated, which was swept aside when one of our automated processes decided to act up at the same time. We didn’t realize it at first. I was looking for reports that should have generated for some of my clients but they were nowhere to be found. This odd little quirk soon revealed that something bigger was amiss. We spent all of Monday researching what had gone wrong and how to fix it. Thankfully, the newbies could keep pretty busy completing their Human Resources requirements.

By Tuesday, we had a better idea of how to get our process back under control and the newbies could start getting their feet wet. As might be expected, with the doubling of our department staff, we had to change a few things. The seating arrangement was one of those things. We three seasoned veterans used to sit in close proximity to one another. It was an easy way to maintain communication and teamwork, but it also occasionally contributed to a lot of unnecessary conversation. I’m all for friendly chatter, but with as big as my to-do list often was, this became a dilemma for me. I mean, there’s really no nice way to say, “Please go away. I don’t have time to hear about your son’s new tattoo right now.” I developed many coping mechanisms to discourage casual visits to my desk when I really couldn’t afford the time for them. But there are some who just can’t seem to take a hint.

Before the new staff joined us, we were informed that there would be some rearranging of our cubicle assignments. There was some dismay about this, because two of us would have to relocate to an aisle that’s somewhat of a main thoroughfare. I wasn’t concerned. I can tune out general noise. It’s those direct interruptions I have trouble combatting. I was happy to move, or stay put. I was only hoping that the changes would give me a small bit of distance from a frequent distraction. I sent an email to my boss saying that if it made the decision easier, I would happily relocate to one of the new locations if it allowed one of my less willing associates to stay put. In the end, I was the only one to remain in my existing “home” while the others were moved over to the busier aisle. All of the new people would be located in my aisle. I’m not sure if any of the assignments was intentional or entirely random, and not everyone was happy about it. But I got my wish, so all was good with me.

Of course, new staff means lots of questions. And since I’m the closest of the three “experts,” many of those questions were addressed to me. It was a challenge to maintain focus on my projects while trying to accommodate the new staff’s needs, for all of us. But it was a good problem to have. The new people are already proving to us that we made the right choice in hiring them. The week was intense, but I’m sure next week will settle down some, and soon we’ll all be in a new groove.

2014-10-09In non-work news, I had a spot on my lip taken care of on Tuesday this week. I noticed the spot about a year or so ago and first thought it was a blood blister or something. When it didn’t go away, I ignored it. Because that’s a good plan of action with weird facial stuff, right? Few others could see it, but a couple of times recently, someone noticed and asked about it. Suddenly, it seemed bigger, darker, and I was now certain it was a cancerous mole in my lip. I couldn’t stop looking at it and worrying. Finally, I had my doctor check it out and I was relieved when he assured me that it basically was a sort of blood blister. He said I probably bit my lip somewhere along the way. I’ll bet my hyper dog was responsible, considering the number of times she’s chucked me under the chin in her excitement to welcome me home after work. He told me I could have it lasered off by a dermatologist. And since I have some old HSA money in a use it or lose it account, I decided to do it.

At the dermatology clinic, I was treated by the youngest looking doctor I’ve ever met. Couldn’t help thinking, “Doogie Howser.” Though he was definitely more of an adult than Doogie was. And if he’s not already married, I’m sure he experiences no shortage of attention from the opposite sex, if you know what I’m saying. After he presented all of my options, we agreed to the laser treatment and I got three relatively painless zaps to the lip. Dr. Doogie told me to expect a bit of bruising and slight swelling, but that the spot would likely fade within a week to ten days. And if not, I could come back for more zapping.

For the first few days, I felt like I had an elephant sitting on my lip, which is funny, because I took this that selfie at the height of the elephantness, and clearly, I might have been overreacting just slightly. And I’m happy to say that the spot is definitely fading. But if it doesn’t completely disappear, I’ll be happy to go pay Doctor Hottie Doogie another visit.

 

Chalk Season

Tee! Yay down!

Logan motioned for me to stretch out on the driveway. His mom had just finished making Chalk Logan. Several Chalk Logans, actually.

Logan1a

Now he wanted to make Chalk Terri. He’s the only one who could even make me consider sprawling out on my back on our asphalt driveway – even if I was wearing my new boots and was at risk of scuffing them up. He’s just so dang cute!

In the end, he decided he would be the one to lay on the black top and I should make another chalk outline of him. He wanted this version to have his arms raised up high above his head. I happily accommodated and added my drawing to the collection of Logans already populating our driveway. Logan added his own flair to the outline I’d created.

Logan3b

Our driveway’s always covered in chalk these days. Mark introduced Logan to the idea of making chalk people a couple of weeks ago. And as tends to happen with toddlers, this fascinating new idea is to Logan, the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now we have two containers of sidewalk chalk in our garage, which is usually open if someone is home. Logan knows he’s welcome to help himself to the chalk whenever he’s outside. He knows exactly where to find it and knows that either Mark or I is always willing to come outside and pway chalk with him. In fact, I think Mark takes a special pleasure in making sure Logan’s clothing is covered in layers of multi-colored dust before sending him back next door to his own house where bath time is Logan’s parents’ problem!

Oh, but if Kacey is home from school for a few days, the rest of us are chopped liver. Logan loves Kacey!

Used to be there was a time when Logan was so shy that he would only converse with us while holding his mom’s or dad’s hand, and hiding behind their legs. Over the past summer, Logan grew more comfortable with us. I think the chalk had a lot to do with it. We all have now earned our own special Logan names – Mahk, Tee, Jake, (that’s an easy one,) and Kee. (Brad isn’t around often enough and I’m not sure he has earned a nickname yet.) Every one of us, at some point, has been beckoned to pway chalk. And we’ve been rewarded. Logan has opened himself up to us and has found his way into our hearts.

Last week, Logan helped Mark dig up onions from our fading vegetable garden. Mark loosened the soil with a shovel. Logan pulled the onions out and then hurled them out into the grass in the backyard, rotating his arm above his head and letting go, baseball style. He doesn’t have enough strength yet to do any damage to a bunch of onions! When they were all pulled, he and Mark collected all of the onions in their arms and brought them up on the deck. Logan knocked on the patio door that day to get my attention and proudly held up an onion with dirt still clinging to the bulb. I came to the door and signaled my approval from the other side of the glass. Logan’s little chubby cheeks beamed with pride.

Yesterday after a chalk session with Mark, Logan wanted to come inside our house and check things out. This would be a first. His comfort level with us has thus far been limited to interactions out in the yard. Coming inside the house would be a big step for him. He wanted his mom to come inside with him, but she refused, clearly worried that we were encouraging behavior that might later become a bother to us. (We’re not worried.) Mark told Logan he could come in without Mom if he wanted to. Logan was hesitant at first, but curiosity got the best of him. Soon he was climbing the half flight of stairs to our main level and pulling Mark down the hallway and back, asking him to explain whose bedroom was whose and where the snack cupboard was. Logan sampled a variety of crackers from our cupboard before his dad came to bring him home for dinner.

Logan wasn’t happy, and he clung to Mark in protest. Mark laughed but told Logan he had to go home for dinner because we had places to go. Logan crumpled his eyebrows and pursed his mouth. He crossed his arms over his chest fiercely, but allowed his dad to carry him home for dinner, his little body held stiff like a toy soldier against his dad’s embrace. Even in tantrum-mode, Logan is cute!

I think we’re going to have to plow a path in the snow this winter between Logan’s house and ours.

Flash Drive

Somewhere in the last year or so, I was riding in the passenger seat of Mark’s truck as he drove us along one of our local freeways.

Incidentally, in North Dakota, if you say that you drive a truck, they think you’re referring to your eighteen wheeler. If you want someone in North Dakota to understand that you drive a four-wheel drive vehicle with a bed for hauling stuff and maybe a topper, you should say that you drive a pick-up. Thanks, Brad for that bit of Fargo insight.

So as I was saying, I was riding in the passenger seat of Mark’s pick-up. A semi-truck driver was signaling his intent  to merge into the lane in front of us. Mark flashed his headlights, let off the gas to make some room, and the truck eased into our lane.

The semi-truck driver flashed his truck lights off and on several times in quick succession. I didn’t think much of it until Mark asked, “Did you see that?”

“See what?”

“The way he flashed his lights after I let him merge. He’s saying thank you.”

I studied Mark for a moment, trying to decide if he was pulling my leg. But he seemed serious.

“Thank you… For real?”

“Seriously,” he assured me. Mark sees a lot of truck drivers come and go where he works. Guess he knows these things. Since that day, there have been various other drives involving merging semi trucks. Apparently there is … a code.

(Did everyone else know this? Or is it just me in the dark about big truck merging etiquette?)

Now that I knew the code, I wanted to get flashed too.  And I’m a courteous driver. I frequently make way for truck drivers to merge into my lane. But I never think to flick my lights to let them know I’m making room. Still, I keep hoping I’ll get flashed. Never do.

I mentioned it to Mark one time, how I share the lane and make way for the trucks to merge, but they never flash me.

“Do you flash your lights at them?” he asked.

“No.”

“You have to,” he insisted.

Well, it never occurs to me to… you know… send the signal. So I’ve pretty much forgotten about the code.

Until this morning.

There I was, in four lanes of bumper to bumper traffic, making my way to work. Slowly. There was a semi truck in the lane next to me and his left signal began to blink. I was feeling gracious, so I eased up, failing as always to flash my lights, and let him merge in front of me.

And then… it happened! I got flashed!

Totally made up for having to drive behind the pick-up with no brake lights during my afternoon drive.