We All Fall Down

surviving setbacks in the joyous time of the year

The holiday season is upon us so put your head between your knees and brace for impact.

Ouch — that sounded negative, didn’t it?

You must think me a real downer, don’t ya?

Well stop rubbing the pumpkin spice on your gums, homie, cuz -

Something Wicked This Way Comes.

*thunderclap*

Don’t get me wrong: I LOAVE the holidays.

Festive lights.

Autumn aromas.

FOOD!

Such an exhilarating carousel for the senses.

Just glimpsing The Swiss Colony* catalog sends me to the floor in a giddy Winnie the Pooh tuck-’n-roll.

(*Have you seen the size of their pistachios?)

But the holidays can be an ornery nest of possums pickled on peppermint-flavored bathtub gin.

Metaphorically speaking.

The holidays signal the close of another year, and if cosmic forces detect a deficit in your annual tough luck quota, you better believe you’ll be served a crises cluster to make up for it.

And they’ll hit ya when you least expect.

They wait until you’re good and inebriated with the delights of the season: drinking a warm dark beverage, cannonballing into a pile of crunchy leaves, window shopping, crocheting an adorable character

eating bratwurst…

with mustard…

on a brioche roll...

bratwurst…

bratwurst…

ACK! IT’S GOT ME!

Must.

Neutralize.

In the summertime when the weather is hot,
you can stretch right up and touch the sky…

deedle deedle dee, doodle doodle doo

*phew*

Again — Mungo Jerry for the save.

While I still have my wits, let me share this cautionary tale of the first bump in the road my family encountered just as leaves turned brilliant.

And in the spirit of Ray Brat —

DAMMIT

BRADbury, prepare yourselves.

There be storms ahead.


October 16 began like any other day:

I woke at 4:00 a.m., ate a sensible teriyaki breakfast and was joined promptly at 6:00 by triplet daughter №3*.

(*youngest by one minute / strange how they get out of bed in a total reverse from birth order / I suppose it’s a symmetry thing)

Me and 3 proceeded with our routine.

  1. she said “good morning”
  2. I said “good morning”
  3. she slipped into her favorite red hoodie as I kicked on the furnace
  4. she squiggled behind the couch to warm up over the heating vent
  5. I started the oven to make her breakfast of 4 Pillsbury crescent rolls
  6. properly cooked, she emerged to visit with Dudley the parakeet
  7. she then visited the guinea pig sisters, Nutmeg and Nibbler
  8. she turned on the TV to watch America’s Funniest Videos
  9. I served her 2 crescent rolls
  10. when the first 2 were gone, I served the other 2

Thus began our day.

October 17 began like any other day:

  1. she said “good morning”
  2. I said “good morning”
  3. she slipped into her favorite red hoodie as I kicked on the furnace
  4. she squiggled behind the couch to warm up over the heating vent
  5. I started the oven to make her breakfast of 4 Pillsbury crescent rolls
  6. properly cooked, she emerged to visit with Dudley the parakeet
  7. she then visited the guinea pig sisters, Nutmeg and Nibbler
  8. she turned on the TV to watch America’s Funniest Videos

8. she turned on the TV to watch America’s Funniest Videos

8.

“What’s wrong, Nutmeg?”

October 23(AM)

From her first diagnosis of heart disease, Nutmeg didn’t last more than a few days.

I took time from work to shuttle her back and forth to the vet, attempting what we could just in case they were wrong.

They weren’t.

My wife and I made the hard decision.

Before her last trip, we explained things to the girls.

Sadness, tears, anger, tears, denial, tears, hugs,

goodbyes.

October 23 (PM)

We held a quiet service under the shade of the magnolia tree, taking turns to share fond memories of Nutmeg.

[Full-Disclosure: Nutmeg and I did not get along. While she was sweet and lovey with everyone else, I’d elicit a Psycho shower scream if I came within three feet of the her cage.]

[Fuller-Disclosure: Nutmeg was a spoiled primadonna who used cunning and manipulation to get what she wanted. She didn’t much care for me because I was wise to her.]

[The Fullest-Disclosure: The girls and my wife adored Nutmeg.]

When it was my turn to speak, I channeled my inner Kissinger. Sensitivity and diplomacy were important given the moment.

It was most certainly not the moment to recount how many times* Nut-Nut, as I called her, bit my finger with those lethal stabbing teeth.

(*four)

No. Definitely not the moment.

I would be the bigger person.

“Ahem. Nutmeg and I got to know each other during our drives to the vet. I tried talking to her because I’d been told that would calm her, but my voice only seemed to make her more nervous, so I played music for her instead. She really liked country songs and even though I can’t stand country, I played it anyway.”

My wife’s gaze had a certain where the hell is this going vibe.

“In honor of Nutmeg, I’d like to recite lyrics from a song she really enjoyed.”

“The best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun.”

It was true.

Nut-Nut loved Shania.

honkey-tonkin’ in heaven

October 27

Days went by and the girls were still feeling the loss of their beloved pet.

As paterfamilias, I took it upon myself to lift spirits.

I had a plan.

“Let’s get flu shots.”

where the fun is

Now before you compose that private note recommending the name of a good child psychologist, let me equip you with some facts:

  • Nutmeg’s vet visits were costly. I don’t regret a single dollar of it, but it’s important to establish the incurred debt has tweaked the content of any Family Fun Days for the foreseeable future.
  • Flu shots are free. (If you’ve been following closely, you’ll recognize how this aligns with fact #1)
  • Flu shots save lives. (I can’t back that up. Maybe they do; maybe they don’t. The point is with mortality on my mind, I was compelled to do something smart to protect the family.)
  • Did I mention the shots were free?

We packed in the van and headed to the local Target/CVS. An hour later, brandishing fresh band-aids (also free!), we were officially inoculated.

We’d received a store coupon for each shot, an unexpected bonus which, after a unanimous vote, was applied toward an assortment of guinea pig treats for Nibbler.

Because that’s what you do for the relative of the deceased:

Bring them food.


Nutmeg’s passing sucked.

A few days shy of Halloween, I certainly didn’t anticipate having conversations with my daughters about why pets get sick and die and — you guessed it — why it happens to people.

But there we were.

The pain was real, so we huddled up as close as a family can get to work through it. As with any other badness, we eventually come out on the other side stronger for it.

Like a shot in the arm.

I suspect we haven’t encountered our last crisis on our non-stop flight through the holidays. Regardless, we’ve strapped in tight and plan to enjoy every bit the season has to offer up until we land in the new year.

I hope everyone reading this does too, along with the family, friends, pets, mild acquaintances, co-workers, action figures or social media folk you intend to share it with.

And if you happen to experience some turbulence along the way, you know what to do:

Assume the position.