Binky Betsy (cookie77) wrote in binky_betsy,
Binky Betsy

January retcons

Okay, I see they've gone up, but I don't have time to check for any retcons to the retcons. Right now, I'll just put up the letters and my own commentary that I saved from before Christmas.

Hi folks - 2007 has certainly started off on a strange note! As you know, Mike and Deanna had their home devastated by fire just before Chrismas, and all of our lives changed in an instant. I say a prayer of thanks several times daily that we didn't lose Mike, Dee or the children. I've known parents who've lost children to accidents, and the pain is unbearable. I feel so fortunate to have been spared; we've come close a few times now - but for Farley's bravery, we could have lost April not that long ago also.

It was almost twelve years ago. Stop trying to keep her an infant. And learn to spell.

This year, our Christmas celebrations had a distinctly surreal flavour. Normally after the holidays are over, everyone goes home and some peace descends on the house. Nobody's going anywhere this year. The crowd that came for Christmas is still here. Now we have the grandkids sleeping on the sofabed in my sewing room, Mike and Dee have taken temporary possession of April's room (since she got a nice big bed earlier this year and her room is in one of the quietest parts of the house).

Okay, forget the bit about the bed that APRIL PAID FOR. What do they need the quietest room for? Do they intend to be sleeping when everyone else is awake? I would say that a married couple needs alone time for :ahem: or just to talk privately, but Mike and Dee are not in the habit of spending time together.

April's in the rec room on the pullout couch, and Liz of course is living here as well. This is the fullest house we've ever had! I'm not much of a poker player, but even if I were I would never have gambled on this happening.

John's still eyeing that little house down the street - but we can't seriously think about buying it. At least, that's my opinion. I don't think we have any option but to keep everyone under this roof until a new apartment can be found for Mike and Deanna and their insurance claims are resolved. It'll take some time for the cleanup crew to go through their apartment and salvage things, and they'll have to plan very carefully before they move somewhere else. They're both extremely busy with work, and with two little kids and one vehicle it'll be a challenge to find a place that's as well-situated and convenient as Lovey's house was.

In other words, they’ll never leave. John will get the tiny train house, of course, but soon you’ll get hit with this flash of insight: Why don’t Mike and Deanna...!

For now, they're here and I have to admit I love having my house full. I'm tremendously sorry that they lost most of their possessions in the fire. They saved a few things. In the heat of the moment (no pun intended), Mike, my foolish son, went into the attic to get his laptop and manuscript. He'd been emailing chapters to me and to his editor as he finished them, so at most he would have lost a couple of weeks of work, but he had to have his laptop and the manila envelope with his printed copy inside. Maybe I'd have done the same. Who knows. Thankfully he didn't die for his art, although I hear Dee nearly did him in after he was discharged from the hospital. The firemen were none too pleased, but they see this all the time. Someone has to have something and will risk everything on a whim. It's surprising how quickly smoke brings you down. They got to him in the nick of time. We can't thank them enough.

Sigh...Just because a lot of people do it, doesn’t make it right. A lot of people go to Vegas or Atlantic City and bet and lose everything. A couple weeks of work is not the worst thing to lose. If Mike is truly a writer, he’d be able to rewrite. Creativity is not a matter of channeling something, once and done. It’s a skill. You should be able to do it more than once.

In other news, Beatrice is off on a week's vacation from Lilliput's, so I've been helping Moira again. It seems I'm there for a few days every month, which I love because I still get to keep abreast of all the new titles being released. It's hard to find the time, but I love to read (it broadens my mind instead of my hips) and it keeps me refreshed.

Can your mind get that broad?

I need to get moving - I'm renting a storage space for Mike and Deanna so they can put their salvaged belongings somewhere until they have a place to live again. John has a patient who owns a discount furniture shop, and she's going to give us a great deal on some scratch-and-dent children's furniture so we'll be giving Mike and Dee a little assistance with rebuilding their household. Mira and Wilf, Deanna's parents, are also contributing - they are able to use their hardware suppliers to get a lot of building materials and housewares at wholesale prices, so the kids can start to restock their stuff at cost, which will be helpful for them. Their insurance should cover most of their losses, at least, but the process of replacing everything from armoires to vacuum cleaners is time-consuming and stressful. So we're helping.

I'm thankful we're in a position to do that! Good to see that I'm starting 2007 off on a note of gratitude. My father's doing better, my family is all still close by, we've got a roof over our heads and people who care about us. What else matters?

...Aah, too easy.

Well, what a difference a month makes! Last month, we were in a mad rush getting ready for Christmas, and this month.. whew? every day is a mad rush! With Michael and his family moving in because of the fire, it's like a chaotic Christmas Day gathering, but each day I wake up and find that it continues! When I was a child, we lived in a very small house, but I don't remember it being anything like this! I have to say we have all worked hard to have good attitudes and to make the best of it, but the tension is always there, and up to now, we have been dealing with the day to day events with no end in sight. There's so much to do! Insurance, recouping any salvageable items, dealing with the kids' anxieties and comforting Mike and Deanna who are trying to keep a casual attitude despite their awful loss.

Everyone is tense, you say. But there’s only one person who’s not allowed to show it. We’ll hear about her in a minute, of course.

I guess we have to just be thankful that everyone is ok. All that was lost were material things that can be replaced, and everyone is still healthy. I had forgotten how busy little kids can be. I mean we have had them for short times, but then they went home, and we got a break. Yes, they are REALLY healthy and just never stop! Merrie and Robin are in the sewing room, Mike and Dee are in April's room, and there's a cat, two dogs, and a rabbit in the house, each of whom have to have their own space, but still have to express an opinion? and eat as well! April, bless her soul, (and her age) is quite grumpy about moving into the rec room. She was upset enough at sharing the house with Liz, but now, she is just over the top about not having the place to herself. Poor kid, we didn't mean for her to become a princess, but that's what happens when you are the youngest and then only child in the house.

Okay, for starters, a princess would have demanded that you buy her a bedroom set, instead of buying it herself with money that she earned. Is there something you’re leaving out here? Did April have a big meltdown and have to be threatened to get her to give up her room? If it’s just a matter of, she willingly gave up her room but now she’s irritated, well, it sounds like everyone’s irritated to some extent, and you’re just making April the identified patient. She doesn’t necessarily want the whole place to herself; she’s just not having a blast in the basement. Why are you picking on the Martian creature instead of Liz, who does not have to be there at all? If anyone’s a princess, it is Liz.

Beyond that, this is the second time you’ve sighed over April’s alleged princesshood. Well, you’re the one who turned her into a little tin god when she was a child. It’s astounding, really, that she’s as mature as she is now (and she is notably mature). Then, when she was 13 and 14, your comments about her were really disturbing. You sound like a guy who’s pissed because she won’t go out with you. You did display woefully unequal amounts of attention to April and Liz the last time they were both living at home, but dismissing April entirely now that her world does not revolve around you is...It’s the same thing you did to Liz, actually. I don’t want to think about the implications. Who writes your letter, and what are they drawing upon?

She was really enjoying all the chaos at first, as if it was a great adventure, but that wore off this week, and you can see she really needs her space, which is not forthcoming. All I can do is withdraw mentally a bit from the whole scene, become an observer, and try not to have any feelings about the situation.

Like father, like son.

That's worked well till now, but it's time for a solution.

Now that I think of it, this might be a good time for Liz to look for an apartment.


I can't believe she hasn't been looking, but I guess emotionally she is a bit upside down right now, and isn't thinking ahead.

Stop making excuses for her! For gossakes, a guy grabbed her shirt. She’s had a year to get over it. Quit making it sound like she was beaten and left for dead in the tundra.

Whoops, some small person just spilled the milk in the kitchen and is screaming their lungs out. You have to test that ability every once in a while.

I don’t believe for one second that Merrie or Robin, even with their wildly inconsistent development, would scream simply because they spilled their milk. There was probably something that led up to it.

Which reminds me, that as much as I pretend I don't enjoy the dogs that much, I think I REALLY need to take them for a walk right now.

Normally I have some deep philosophical thoughts about life, but notice that all my thoughts are simply about surviving this month! Hope it's more relaxed when I talk to you next month!
Chaotically yours.

Yeah, that’s how you survive: by sticking your fingers in your ears and saying LAAA LAAA LAAA. Like father, like daughter.

Hi folks! It's a brand new year and I'm determined to take it for what it is - a new start. The latter half of 2006 was difficult, but now I've got some perspective and I'm ready to tackle the new year and make it my year. I'm convinced that it's going to be a good one, and knowing that is half the effort.

Is this more of your “trust in faith” bullshit? Deciding that you’ll have a good year means you will? Anyway, I’m betting you have a nasty surprise waiting for you.

I'll be heading up to Mtig to visit in a few days! I wanted to see the village, the school, my students and my friends. I think I already mentioned that Gary and Viv are putting me up, and Paul will be picking me up in Spruce Narrows and joining me for a few days. I've called Jesse, and I've taken a shopping list from various residents so I can bring some stuff with me when I arrive. I may as well be useful!

I’m not even going to try to make sense of this, or look for inconsistencies. The schedule changes every time she talks about it.

I got a scare at Christmas that shook me up and gave me a new perspective. To think that I could have lost my brother, sister-in-law and my niece and nephew gives me chills. I'm so glad they're staying with us.

“Us”? Who’s “us”? Is your name John or Elly? It is not. Your. House.

As much as I'd wanted to spend more time with my family when I moved back to town, it hasn't proven easy because of the trial and my job, but now they're right in the house and I plan to enjoy every moment.

See? It’s all falling into place. Now all you have to do is put one of those termite canopies over the house so no one can leave. Anyway, since when is this something to enjoy? Deanna could use your help, not just your unbridled glee.

I'm doing better now that I'm past my portion of the trial. There's still the final session and sentencing which I may or may not attend - and, there's still a minute chance I'll have to testify again. Man, they sure are giving the guy the benefit of the doubt.

Why shouldn’t they? How would you feel if it was Anthony on trial?

If the system is ever unjust, it must be rare! My counselor is still in touch and I still work with her, but my goal for the new year is to put the whole incident behind me - get it processed, experience the emotions required, get comfortable in my skin again and set my sights toward the future. It'll always be part of my past, but I've got a lot going for me and I need to concentrate on living my life again.

I want to be someone who's kind, giving, happy and driven. I'm throwing myself into my lesson plans, trying to make the most of the remaining school year. I'm honouring my promise to visit Jesse,

Well, at least there’s that.

and I'm spending as much time with family as I can. I did a lot of shopping when I returned from Mtig with two years' worth of saved cash, so my wardrobe was getting a bit unmanageable.

Deanna and I are close to the same size, so I've given her two weeks' worth of outfits and that way she won't have to worry about rebuilding her business wardrobe for a while. I don't have too much "business casual" stuff, but she wears lab coats all day anyway so it's really just a case of having nice pants and shoes. And I had way too many shoes.

You’ve got to be kidding me. Why weren’t you saving for an apartment?

I'm trying to hang out with April, but she's not a little kid anymore and she resents me coming back into her life acting and sounding like an adult. I guess I'm a reminder that she's not as grown up as she'd like to be, and I have been getting a lot of Mom and Dad's attention lately. April's been doing a lot of the chores and she's had to give up her room, so she's been a little hard to get along with.

Actually, I’m betting that it’s YOU who are hard to get along with. She probably resents you bossing her around, not just “acting like an adult,” which I haven’t seen you do much of. And how is someone who does a lot of chores hard to get along with? Can’t you just appreciate the fact that she pitches in, instead of critiquing her personality? She’s not there to please YOU, you know.

At the same time she's been very understanding of my mood shifts and difficulties,


and she's great with Shiimsa. We are sisters, after all, and we love each other, but we're not a perfect fit as housemates.

But, while I'm gone she can have my room and maybe that'll help her relax a bit.

I wonder who could get along with you. Even Candace got fed up with your preachiness at times. And so nice of you to let Apes change rooms AGAIN.

I need to go - I have to call Paul and make some more travel arrangements. I can't wait to see him. We have a lot to talk about - especially his transfer which he says has come through! I know he'll have some adjusting to do. City life won't come easy. Even though he's lived down here (police college, courses etc.) it's not the same as "making the move". We haven't talked about marriage yet. We have talked about our futures! I think my parents are totally accepting and will get along with his family really well. Paul's mom and dad are exceptional people - very involved with their community. They're good to me and I think they'd be wonderful in-laws...when and if. But - I'm not going into wedding mode. Some of my friends totally focused on gowns and gala events, maybe more than they focused on the seriousness of the ceremony. When I say "yes", it'll be because I know it's going to be a working, long-term partnership. The ceremony is secondary. Security and commitment come first!
So much for not getting ahead of myself! Happy new year, everyone. I hope you fulfill some of your dreams! Until next month.

Again, I don’t know what to make of this, and I’m not going to try. After your arc is over, I’ll go back and parse it.

Hey peeps. April here. I've been displaced, so I'm writing from my "bed" in the rec room. I've got a desk and a pullout couch in here, plus my stereo, so I guess this is home until Mike and Dee get things sorted out.

In other words, you’ll never sleep upstairs in this house again. When your parents move to the tiny train house, you’ll probably be in the basement there, too. Or does it have a basement?

It's like having my own apartment, I guess, but I prefer my own room. Going in there just to get stuff out of the closet feels like I'm in their space! Also, there's no can down here, so sharing the dumpster with a crowd totally sucks, sorry!

“Dumpster”? Lynnions, please stop. And I know how you feel, being forced into a situation where they probably end up resenting you. Which would not happen if you’d stayed in your established room, and they took over the uncharted territory of the basement.

I don't mean to sound crabby about the deal with my room?I was so scared to hear Mike was in the hospital (he breathed too much smoke going after his stuff), and I can't imagine how bad it would be to lose your home right before Christmas. I don't even mind having four more people in the house, really. I just wish it wasn't me who had to move out of my room, you know?

Especially since you are the only one of your siblings who had squatters’ rights. And see? It’s not their mere presence that aggravates you, contrary to what some people say. It’s being pushed around.

I liked having quiet space to practice my music, and to have my own desk with all my stuff in it for when I was doing homework. I think Liz should have been the one to switch rooms, since she rents and could just move out if she wanted to, but I had the ensuite bathroom and I guess that Mike and Dee do need it. Sigh. I just hope this doesn't last too long.

They don’t need the en suite baahth anywhere near as much as their kids need to be close to them.

I'll probably get in trouble for saying this in my letter, but I'm annoyed. Everyone will probably be too busy to read it anyway! I'm making the best of it. I've got my tunes, my bedspread, my guitar, and Buttsy down here with me. I spend the weekends with my friends, and stay over at Eva's quite a bit. She's got a queen sized bed, so we can crash there and have plenty of room. We stay up late; it's cool. She's got a really big house so we can play music and sing at midnight if we want and we don't wake anyone else up. Her 'rents are in a different wing!

At least you have that option. I wonder how long you could stay gone before anyone would notice.

I guess life's okay. I was thinking about it the other day - Gerald and I have been "dating" for about three years now.

Four years in January.

We have some drama; I don't get to see him very much because both our parents don't want us to get serious, but we talk on MSN a lot and we're close. We don't want to be one of those couples at school who are all glued to one another like some people are so you can never talk to one of them on their own. We don't hold hands or anything at school, and we sure don't get caught kissing under the stairs like other couples do. Eva and Duncan are sort of together too, and they're soooooo cute.

You sound like a voyeur.

Duncan's a sweetheart, and he appreciates a very smart woman. Eva's got a good brain, and she's gorgeous. They look good together, they treat each other really well and they're friends. I just hope it keeps going well for all of us - it's not a great idea for bandmates to date, because we could totally screw up the dynamics if any of us broke up, but for now we sound good, and we're all "together'. Luis' girlfriend isn't a musician, but she's cool with the band thing.
Ok, I gotta go. It's cold down here and I need to find the space heater so I can warm up my cheeks. Ha!

I said stop it!

Ciao for now!


The Delicate Genius:
It was 2 am. I had just finished my book and I felt like celebrating. Not that I know anything of the physical pain of giving birth, but I was comparing this feat to something equally agonizing - and, now it was done.

Oh, trust me, it was agonizing for us too.

I sauntered down the stairs

Jeez, you even admit that you put on airs.

into the living room and my eyes began to burn. The smell of melting plastic and a blue haze of smoke was beginning to curl into the apartment. The alarm on the hall ceiling went off, a high-pitched whine that pumped the adrenaline like a syringe.

This is not something that needs to be described poetically. And your metaphors don’t even make sense.

I woke Deanna and told her to get up. Fast. We dressed the kids, herded them into our room and onto the fire escape. Until now, it had been our balcony and a convenient route to the back yard. Now, it was a welcome exit from an apartment rapidly filling with smoke.
With Dee and the kids outside and the emergency fire crew alerted, I impulsively ran back into the apartment, up the stairs to my office and grabbed two other things I had to save: my laptop and my manuscript.

It’s your use of the word “impulsively” that intrigues me. Did you really remember the laptop right that second? Or were you, as some people suggest, anxious all along to retrieve it as soon as you’d done what you thought of as your duty (getting them to the door, but not down the steps)?

It took seconds to get both, but by the time I reached the bottom of the stairs, the acrid smoke burned my lungs. I couldn't see. Trying not to breathe, not to panic, I moved towards the hall. I'm strong, but not strong enough. Smoke is a killer and I could feel myself falling forward.

You don’t even know enough to CRAWL at a time like that? And you calling yourself strong is like John calling Granthony smart and hardworking. You’re as much stronger than Deanna, Merrie and Robin as the average guy is stronger than his wife and kids. Granthony has enough brain to have gotten his accounting license, and enough dedication to do his job. But neither of you are outstanding.

From the door of our bedroom, two masked firefighters appeared. I was given a breath of oxygen and another as they carried me like a doll to the exit, closing our bedroom door behind them. They continued to carry me down the two flights of stairs leading from our second floor apartment to the back yard.

I think the gratuitous reference to the closed bedroom door speaks volumes. Did you get the guy’s name, who carried you?

Two pumper trucks were in the lane. Lights from a police car and a rescue vehicle were like fireworks as my eyes adjusted to the scene outside. I was safe, but seeing Deanna and the children in the care of the fire crew brought me to tears. I had only just called emergency. They had come within minutes. My family was safe and I had been pulled out of a building now billowing with smoke. I could taste it and feel it in my lungs. A paramedic had me lie on a gurney and I was taken to the hospital emergency ward. Deanna followed in our car with the kids, leaving the sight of our burning building behind them. Although it all happened in less than twenty minutes, the image is unforgettable. The neighbours' bedroom window was broken and water was being forced into the room.

Yeah, other people saved your family. And water does not have to be “forced” into a room, not from a fire hose. You just turn the fucker on and it blasts. Or were you talking about the force OF the water pressure?

Firefighters moved like clockwork

I’m not sure that’s the appropriate metaphor either.

using tools to gain entry and, wearing sophisticated gear,

What? Sophisticated? You mean like Versace? How would you know how their gear stacked up against that of other departments or earlier eras? Oh wait: you’re an editor and a writer so you know everything.

went into the lower apartment through the front door where they found Melville and Winnie unconscious in the alcove. Like myself, they had inhaled smoke, but weren't lucky enough to have been rescued as quickly as I was.

Because Pattersons are always priority one, right? Did Deanna beg them to save you first, and they only realized later that there were other people in the building?

All three of us lay in a curtained area near enough to the reception desk to hear the voices of police, medical staff and family. An orderly checked my vital signs and gave me oxygen. My chest was clear. I was lucky.

More people were working on our downstairs neighbours, who had suffered burns and damage to their lungs. I listened to the urgent voices. Someone was taking notes. "Careless smoking", someone said. "Plastic lampshade and nylon curtains". Apparently Melville had been drinking. He'd "put out" his cigar in a soup bowl which contained used paper napkins. The flame ignited the lampshade and the fire rapidly spread from there.

You can’t even punctuate. And since when do fire investigations take place in a hospital? Did you hallucinate this? That would explain the leap from “soup bowl” to “smoking in bed.”

After a thorough examination and a stern but reasonable lecture from the medics, I was released. Deanna had called my parents from the waiting room. They had room for us and were waiting!

Of COURSE they had room for you! Shit, your room is a shrine as far as Elly’s concerned! And waitaminut...Is that supposed to be clever? Waiting, waiting?

She also called her parents. Not wanting to upset them, yet knowing they'd be hurt if they weren't told about the fire when Elly and John were (family politics), she calmly explained that we were all safe and there was nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.

Oh, so when they want to be in the loop, it’s neurotic and greedy. When your mom forces herself on you, it’s wonderful. You know, Deanna used to love her parents, before she hooked up with you.

We arrived at John and Elly's house at about four in the morning.

I see you call your parents by your first names. I guess that’s because you’re such a grown-up, leaf-raking, baggage-carrying, wife-and-kids-abandoning guy. And did you bend time or something? The fire started at two a.m. It took twenty minutes to get out. The ambulance took you to the hospital, where apparently a quick listen through a stethoscope was all it took to give you a clean bill of health. (BTW, did anyone examine your wife, or your very small and vulnerable children?) Then you booked out for Milborough, which is what, an hour? Hour and a half? Two hours? Well, I suppose it’s possible to get there by four if you really only spent ten minutes in the ER, but I don’t see how that could be.

Anyway, why drive all that way when you were already overwrought? Or was this yet another case of “Mom, there was a fire. We had to go down the fire escape and---“ “I’ll wake April up right now and tell her to go sleep in the basement! And I have your story all ready for you!”

The children, still overwrought from the experience, had a bath, a bite of cereal and bedded down on the folding couch in the rec room. They fell asleep instantly.

And, if the 12/24 strip is continuity, woke up two hours later and went looking for Santa. Anyway, I would imagine they’d be pretty wired, not falling asleep instantly. But hey, now you know another way besides “magic” to get them to sleep!

Deanna and I, still unable to relax, retold the tale of the fire and our escape until we were all satisfied it was over. April moved into Elizabeth's room and gave us her bed. Deanna cried, and I felt guilty. I felt so guilty.

Just guilty, eh? How about stupid? And selfish? And ashamed?

The laptop and manuscript were safe on my parents' kitchen table. Deanna had left Merrie's favourite blanket and two photograph albums on the fire escape. She'd dropped them so she could carry Robin.

Oh man...That makes my heart hurt. She had all the responsibility, AS USUAL. She had to take her two kids to safety while not knowing if she’d see you alive again. And by now, we know that even the blanket and albums have been resurrected. So now you’re completely off the hook.

And, where was I? I couldn't believe I'd been stupid enough to go back into the building. My mother had almost every chapter. I would have had to rewrite the last one. But I didn't want to. I didn't think I'd be able to do it as well! Actually, I wasn't thinking at all.

You’ve got to be kidding me. You risked your life, and your wife and children’s future, for ONE CHAPTER?

It was Christmas Eve. Just as Ebenezer Scrooge had, I marveled that so much could take place in just one night.

But what have you LEARNED? Anything?

We had a happy Christmas Day. In my parents' living room, the tree was decorated with the same ornaments I remembered from when I was a child. Parcels were opened and the kids watched TV as we prepared lunch and Mom got the turkey on. It was as if nothing had happened. It was like any other Christmas day except we had no home to go back to. Well, we had a home but we had no idea what was left in it.

Parcels? And you had a whole lunch on the same day as a turkey dinner? Is that part of your mom’s plan to keep you guys from leaving: make you so obese you can’t move under your own power?

Convincing Meredith and Robin that everything had changed was difficult. Treasured toys, blankets, furniture, and many other things would be ruined. There was no question. We would have to move to a new place.

Duh...I wonder where?

Deanna's parents came by later on in the day. They brought more stuff than their small sedan could safely carry. They had blankets and tea towels, cutlery, clothing. They had emptied every closet of extraneous household goods and were kindly bringing them to us.

Did you thank them, by any chance?

We carried it in shifts to the rec room

Does this really need to be made note of, that you carried it “in shifts”?

and piled it around, beside and on top of the rabbit hutch, the bookcase and the television.
Grandpa Jim and Iris, knowing our world was in chaos, wisely changed their plans and declined our invitation to share the yuletide feast.

What?! So Jim doesn’t get to have Christmas with his family, because of you. Iris doesn’t get a break, because of you. You’re Scrooge, all right.

Exhausted, we all went to bed early. Dee's folks, courteously, went home.

Where they belong. Far, far away from hallowed Patterson ground.

The following day, reality set in. Elly put sheets on the day bed in her sewing room and we assembled a borrowed crib for Robin. April took residence in the cluttered rec room and gave her bedroom to us. We charted carefully our bathroom routines according to everyone's schedules. Connie next door agreed to take Merrie and Robin for the mornings and Mom would take them for the afternoons.

How the frack is this Connie’s responsibility? Your mom is RETIRED. And she wants so badly to have your kids around all the time, so she can feel like a MOM again.

Fortunately, Deanna works in the same building that my father does, so together they made travel arrangements, leaving me the car. It will be an hour and a half commute to my place of toil; longer if the weather's bad. Fortunately, I can do some things from "home".

You said “fortunately” twice.

Already, the fire insurance people have called us. A team will go into our apartment once it's been safety-inspected and take away anything that's salvageable. They will clean dishes and glassware, pots and pans. They will likely discard all of the furniture, and anything else that's fabric. Then it will take some time to make the building habitable. I'll go there tomorrow and see what remains. If I can go inside, I'll go up into the attic. I'll see how many steps there are to safety

What’s that supposed to mean? Christ, I wish you’d never come down from the attic in the first place. I wish you’d been trapped up there.

and I'll be thankful all over again that I'm alive. Life is good. We're here to see a new year begin, and we're going to make the best of it.

So any solutions? Like putting your family ahead of your Art?

Hope you are all safe and well!
Happy 2007.

Aah, blow me.

Hello! Apologies for the short letter again; life is upside down at the moment and I can't collect my thoughts well enough to be coherent, I'm afraid.

My home is gone, but my family is safe. I'm thankful and devastated at the same time, and I'm finding it hard to hold it together. I like to do my grieving in private - and I can't find the time or the space. I have to work, watch the kids, and make sure we're all on our best behaviour while we're at Elly and John's house, but what I really want to do is have a total emotional meltdown and then sleep for three straight days.

I can't do that, though, since my children need me to set an example for them, and to create a sense of stability now that they're not in their regular environment.

You can’t do that because ALL the responsibility for your kids is on you. I do give you props for not taking things out on your kids, though.

I did have one emotional eruption, which was inevitable. As soon as Mike and I were able to be alone for a few minutes, I lost my temper in a way I never have before. He could have died getting his book from the attic, and I told him in a very straightforward manner that I didn't appreciate him taking risks like that when his family needed him.

This is not an emotional eruption. You talk about it as if it’s something you should be ashamed of. And according to the strip, it either never happened, or it had no effect on him.

I told him that it's time to reassess his priorities if he wanted to be a proper husband and father, and it seems to have sunk in.

Really? He hasn’t said much about it; just a vague “I feel so guilty.”

He was determined to save his laptop and manuscript when almost all of his work had already been sent to his mom and to a publisher. He wouldn't have had to rewrite much at all! He was quite rattled by the fire itself, and as much as I hated having to express myself so harshly he needed to hear what I was saying. His creative life needs to be balanced better with his family life.

Once I was done shouting at him (I actually don't shout so much as hiss), I was able to express how happy I was to still have him alive, so that took some of the sting out.

Does that mean what I think it means? During broad daylight even? And the idea that you “hissed” instead of shouting indicates that you were afraid to make a scene. Sometimes a scene has to be made.

We're closer than ever now, and we're looking at each moment with our kids as a blessing since we could have lost each other so easily. Things are in much sharper focus now.
Everyone's been great; I'm feeling too shellshocked to appreciate it fully. My co-workers took up a collection and set us up with a huge box of kids' clothes.

This might actually be a good thing. You have said more than once that you had too much stuff. This time, go easy on the balls of yarn and lemon zesters.

Mike's taking my car to work and I'm driving with John when I can since we both work in the same building.

What do you mean, when you can? You mean, sometimes John makes you take the bus or catch a ride with someone else? And for that matter, I don’t think I fully took this in before. You were commuting all this time? And now it’s your husband who has to make that drive (in reverse), and he’s acting like it’s some huge sacrifice?

Connie, Elly's friend, has taken on some of the babysitting duties when we need the kids watched, and Elly and John and April especially have rearranged their entire lives to help us out. My parents put a large sum of money into my account after the fire, and they're helping us to start over. Andrea, my sister, calls me every day to keep my spirits up. My family is incredible, and I'm so happy to have them.

I hope you’re letting your parents know that.

Truth be told, losing our "stuff" is the least part of this ordeal. My time in Honduras taught me that I can live without everything except food, shelter, and love. It may be inconvenient to be without our own living space, and it may be frustrating and painful to have lost some of our possessions (like my wedding dress, for example - but I don't want to think about that right now!) but we're all still here and that's what matters.

Keep telling yourself that as your will to live dribbles away.

The Olds:

Not much to say here, except that it appears Jim and Iris are no longer part of the family in any real sense.

So it seems we have even more to be thankful for - we've made it to another new year, and despite Jim's grandson losing his home everyone is doing pretty well. We had a nice Christmas, with a visit from my daughter and son-in-law, and we got to do so much socializing that we're "topped up" for quite a while now and prepared for some quiet time.
Jim's doing well. There was a "do" in the common room downstairs. We brought pot luck and there's a wonderful young man who is a "DJ" for old folks like us! We celebrated the New Year with a bit of dancing; Jim was always an excellent dancer and while he can't actually get up and groove, he puts his arm around me and we sway in our seats. Music is something he still has a passion for, and strangely enough, it makes him "normal". He smiles and relaxes and can even string a few words of a song together. They tell me that music and poetry are stored in the undamaged area of his brain. This helps tremendously, as I said, to keep him from getting too depressed.

The rumours of his incapacitation are greatly exaggerated. Although speaking and writing are not returning as quickly as we'd hoped, he's getting quite a few of his abilities back. The brain can heal (and the undamaged parts can pick up some of the work from the damaged areas) but in older people it's a slow process and he probably won't ever be his old self.
He's able to get around again, with the help of his walker. He's part of an aphasia support group which meets every week. He's getting to know other people with the same disability. All are at different levels, some less able to communicate than Jim. There are eight to ten people in the class, more men than women. The therapists use pictures and some hand signs to help them express themselves. Those who can draw a little use this skill. One therapist draws very well herself and Jim will come home with "sketches" of their conversation. His vocabulary is still limited to "yes", "no" and "good". He knows what he wants to say, but can't find the words. He'll say "bottle" or "big" when he's trying to say something else entirely. He's good natured about it usually, but he goes into some awful depressions. I never saw him cry before this. He cries often, now and I cry with him. It's not good for either of us.

The doctor prescribed some antidepressants to help him deal with all the adjustments he's having to make. Generally his spirits are still good, and he's happy to be alive, but his environment and living conditions have changed so abruptly that it's difficult to adjust - and that's where the depression comes into play. Humans are animals, and we need to care for our environments in the way you'd care for an aquarium filled with fish - throw too many things out of whack, such as the pH of the water or the quality of the food, and things go downhill. Do it too fast, and the fish don't make it!
Jim's losing some weight because he has trouble swallowing. As much as he's been getting quality food on this diet, it takes him much longer to eat and it's not the steak and potatoes he's used to. Fortunately I'm good with a blender and I can make breakfast shakes, smoothies, fruit drinks and blended desserts to die for. I'm gaining weight myself, in fact, so I've taken to going down to the fitness center for a quick swim while Jim's at his therapy appointments. I have to take care of myself too - it's a hard lesson for a caregiver to learn, but we can very easily burn out if we get under the weather, and I'm no spring chicken!

We manage, though, and we have love, so things still look pretty bright in our little corner of the city. We have guests fairly often now; Liz and April drop by, Elly's here with food at least once a week, and we have our support workers coming in. My daughter and son-in-law bought us a housekeeping service as a Christmas gift, so I don't have to worry about keeping the apartment clean - what a blessing! I was never a sloppy housekeeper, but I'd still rather read a book or run an errand than wipe down the window sills and scrub the floors! Now, Jim and I can focus on what's important - enjoying life and making the most of the time we have!

Take care of yourselves.
Tags: retcons

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