Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who Keeps Turning On The Heat?

If you ever, while living in Florida, during the heat of mid to late summer:

1) Have a 6-month-old living at home;
2) Have a teenager living at home;
3) Take in Hurricane Dennis refugees (even if it is your stepson, daughter-in-law and grandson);
4) Start to suffer peri menopausal hot flashes; and then
5) Agree to take in two other teenagers for the summer,

RUN, don’t walk, but RUN to your nearest shrink, because that’s a sure sign you’ve completely lost your mind.

I got a call from my oldest and dearest friend from grade school, D, who was going through her own personal family crisis. She and her hubby were divorcing, and she was traveling quite a bit for her job, and asked if I could take her 15-year-old daughter for the summer. I’m a sucker for kids, especially kids in crises, so I said yes. Little did I know the adventures and mayhem that lay ahead of me that summer. Little did I know I was edging into “The Change!”

So Chirpy (as we came to call her, because she talks nonstop, like a bird chirping outside your window all day) arrived and she and Adrian became fast and furious friends. I think Adrian liked playing the role of the older sister, for a change.

I quickly noticed that Adrian’s “trash the place” bedroom motif is not just her own personal preference. I never did figure out if it was a girl thing, a teenage thing, or a teenage girl thing, but Chirpy gave Adrian a run for the title in the leave-the-bedroom-and-bathroom-like-a-cyclone-hit-it department. I honestly don’t know how they function in that mess. And this is a bitter pill to swallow for a neat freak like me. I’ve always been a neat, tidy, clean person. Marrying a true slob of a man was hard enough. Then, having a baby in the house just necessitates living in a mess, but add a couple of teenagers on top of it? I was ready to lose my mind.

Then there was Richard. Little Richard as we came to know him. A friend of Adrian’s who also had fallen upon hard times. A high school drop out who lost his job, he was Adrian’s boyfriend’s best friend, who had at one time dated Adrian’s best friend. So he starts to hang around our house, all summer long, pursuing his huge crush on Chirpy. Well, to make a long story short, his family and home fell into a crisis that summer as well, so he moved in for the summer, too. Little Richard is exactly that: little. Short, skinny, freckle-faced, glasses, but with a gargantuan ego to boot. Yes, Little Richard was quite the handful that summer. There was some kind of frenzied, panic-stricken melodrama every day and every night with those three teenagers. It never ended. Boyfriends, girlfriends, hookups, breakups, late nights, late mornings, loud music, messy rooms, never enough food in the house, laundry piling up, MTV, VH1, you name it, and our house endured it. That, and the fact that every major electronic device and appliance we owned broke down over the course of the summer. TVs, VCRs, DVDs, the microwave oven, the washing machine, and plumbing problems. Our house was like a frat house.

And then, just when I stupidly thought it couldn’t get any worse, just days after the joyful news of my stepson's return from his tour of duty in Iraq, he makes it back home to his family in Biloxi, Mississippi, just in time to get hit with Hurricane Dennis. Within about four days, he and his family had to evacuate. So they headed here. Head count = 9. An infant, a toddler, 3 teens, two twenty-somethings and hubby and me. I now have a mob living in my house.

It was frustrating, to be sure. And there appeared to be no end in sight. It was hot, muggy, crowded, and I honestly thought I was going to die. Who kept turning up the heat? What am I sweating bullets when everyone else is wearing long pants and long sleeve shirts? Why am I so mad all the time? Why do I feel like crying all the time? I complain about the heat, and everyone tells me to put on a pair of shorts. It’s not my legs that were hot. It’s my head, my neck, my face, my chest, my arms, my back. Not my waist or hips or legs or butt. It’s roasting in here, and no one notices it but me! The AC is cranked down to 60, everyone else is complaining about the cold, and I'm roasting!

I did something, I don’t know what I did, because I can’t remember. I’m sure I was in a heat-induced frenzy when I did it though, and I must have done it good, because hubby went to my mother to talk to her “about me.” Fine with me. I have one less person in the house that way. I began filling every bottle, carton and container I could find with water and putting them in the freezer. My thought was that I’d just make me a nice, frozen bed of ice to lie on all day long.

Mom shows up, full of motherly care and concern. I get defensive and upset and angry, start crying. Mom took my hands, forced me to face her, looked me right in the eyes and said, “honey, you feel all the time like there is a shelf of fire burning right at your boobs, don’t you? It’s like someone has stuck your upper body in an oven. You’re burning from the chest up and it’s all from the inside, isn’t it? “

“Oh, my God! Yes, yes, yes! That’s it! That’s exactly it! What is it, am I dying?” I ask my mother, the nurse.

“No,” she replies. "You’re having hot flashes and hormone surges. You’re in pre menopause. You are NOT dying.”

“What? That’s what this is? I’m not losing my mind? I’m not dying?” I ask.

“No, you just will feel like you’re dying, and sometimes will wish everyone around you would. Welcome to the change, honey.”

I can’t even begin to put a finger on what I feel. Relieved, actually. I’m just glad I’m not dying or losing my mind. So I demand that my mother explain the whole thing to “my idiot husband” because he doesn’t believe me when I tell him it’s hot as hades in here. Mom is trying so hard not to laugh, while I stand there panting and rolling frozen water bottles all over my neck, and plant one to rest, sitting right inside my bra, resting between my boobs.

Finally, my stepson and his family left to return to their home in Biloxi after about a week at our house (only to have to face Hurricane Katrina a month later). Then, Chirpy’s mom came to get her (but not without first inviting her ex-in-laws who live nearby to an afternoon mini family reunion: at my house! Picture it: there are about a half dozen people in my house, in addition to the ones already living there permanently or staying on a temporary basis, and I don’t know a single one of them. But they had no qualms about fixing a plate of supper and grabbing a can of Diet Coke and gathering on my back porch, while I, the grand dame of this whole shindig, hacked and coughed and sneezed and snotted with a good old-fashioned summer cold that weekend)!

The summer from hell....that’s all I can sum it up as. I don’t know when I ever felt so overwhelmed and exhausted and worn out.

OK, ladies, anyone care to describe their entry into this wonderful time of life known as The Change, or your own summer from hell?

1 comment:

sarahdsain said...

The people in your life are so lucky to know you. You really have a heart of gold taking in all those people who needed a helping hand. Hey, it is fall now, so maybe a change of season will help!