. . . continued from the previous post, in which we returned home from a weekend away to discover all was not quite as we had left it . . .
I was still seething at the maltreatment of my poor vacuum cleaner as Missy and the Captain arrived home. She was a tad edgy and the innocent question ‘did you have a nice weekend?’ was the trigger for an immediate emotional break-down.
“You have no idea what an awful weekend I’ve had mom,” she wailed, “he’s been awful the whole time. He doesn’t clean up after himself, he’s a mess, I don’t know how you deal with him!”
“So what actually happened?” I asked innocently for information purposes. “I’m assuming he had a party or something?” She brightened at the chance to land him in the poop, but just as her mouth opened to regale me with the bad behaviour of her sibling her eyes looked blank as she computed what I’d said.
“Party? he didn’t have a party,” she looked quizzical, “he just had Will and John over and they ended up staying the night.”
“Why? Don’t they have homes they could have gone and slept in?”
It seems beer had been consumed and Missy had insisted neither go home, “there was no way they could have ridden their bikes home without being arrested or causing an accident, I told them they’d better sleep here.” At least someone had been sensible.
“But what on earth happened to the vacuum cleaner?” I asked in exasperation.
“What vacuum cleaner?” she looked genuinely bemused and I knew she wasn’t lying. When she lies there are certain facial and body indicators which give her away instantly, which she has never been able to fake.
I gave up and decided to tackle the man himself, except he called to say he wouldn’t be in till later due to the numerous end of year parties he was required to pull in during the evening. I was glad; sometimes being an inquisitor is too darn exhausting.
Bright and early the next morning I ambled towards his room and opened the door. He was face down on his bed, still in jeans from the previous night, although he’d managed to remove T-shirt and socks before falling into his pillows face first; arms limp and relaxed by his side, feet at the end of his six-foot-frame hanging flaccidly over the end of his bed. I leaned against the door jamb, arms folded and called his name repeatedly until a guttural “uuh?” emanated from his squished up pillow.
“Harry I think you and I need to have a little chat” the crisp tightness on the word ‘chat’ was a pretty clear indication we weren’t about to discuss a trip to the grocery store.
“Urrggghhhh, yeh, no prob mom,” his body hadn’t flinched or twitched at all. He lay like an abandoned ventriloquist’s dummy, lifeless and and tossed aside at the end of an evening’s performance but with the ethereal voice of his ventriloquist hovering in the air above the mussed up hair on the back of his head.
“Any chance you could give me say ten minutes? just to . . . um . . . well . . get myself out of bed?” I agreed to leave him while I walked the dog expressing a desire to have him compos mentis by the time I got back. He was still prostrate as I turned and hooked my fingers through the Archster’s collar hauling him away as he tried to commando crawl into Harry’s bedroom and surprise him with a stealth spring onto the bed and prone body of the human pup.
The walk was calming and I was relieved to discover on my return home that Harry had managed to peel himself from the bed and walk to the bathroom to shower. He joined me at my desk and sat next to me gingerly with rather defined and precise movements, as if he’s stepped into someone else’s body and wasn’t sure how it worked.
This was good news for me as obviously his normally laser sharp intellect and ability to tie anyone into verbal knots was somewhat muted. Nor was he in the mood for an argument; he was having enough difficulty trying not to fall back to sleep.
“So Harry, good weekend?” The words left my mouth floated through the air and into his brain, the processing taking several seconds.
“Yeh, yeh actually mom it was pretty good, thank you,” he answered bright voiced, head nodding, although I could see how much effort it took as his already pale demeanour faded a few more shades to a misty grey.
“That’s marvellous darling, I’m so glad you had fun. And how many people stayed over?
There seems an awful lot of bedding strewn everywhere – have you been renting your closet out as it rather looks as if someone’s moved in there.”
It was fascinating to watch the mental process of his absorbing the information in my questions and see those workings reflected in the questioning stare and twitching facial muscles. He knew I knew, but not how much. He was genuinely struggling to remember what he was doing two nights ago. Lord, how was he going to cope in college?
“I was pretty impressed with the set-up actually” I confided conspiratorially, “and where did you find the inflatable mattress, I didn’t know we had one.” A quizzical look crossed his face and molded into a confused expression,
“Mattress? We don’t have an inflatable mattress. Do we?”
“Well, whose is it then? It’s half folded up in your closet.” I was getting as bemused as him.
The confused look remained in place for a few more seconds, followed by a flicker of remembrance in the eyes. His hand flew up to his forehead and he pushed it backwards through his hair as the dawning memory of two nights ago clicked into the mental archives.
“Oh no mom, that’s not a mattress that’s a paddling pool!”
“Yeh, I bought it the other day, it was in the toy shop on the Langstraat at a really good price!” I was obviously supposed to be impressed with this.
“A paddling pool? A kids paddling pool?” I didn’t even try to keep the disbelief out of my voice. Somewhere I’d missed the point. I thought I’d use this opportunity to ask about the vacuum; catch him on the hop.
“So where did the vacuum come into this?” The blank look returned followed by one of horror, quickly covered by both hands in front of his face.
“Oh God, Will,” he muttered into his hands.He recovered quickly, I was impressed.
“Funnily enough mom there’s something wrong with the vaccuum cleaner,” you bet there is. “We kinda had to use it to clean up a bit.” I raised my eyebrows in the universal maternal expression of ‘this had better be a good one.’
It seems a beer bottle or two had broken and it was the most logical thing to use the vacuum to hoover up the beer and broken glass at the same time. They had not considered the electricity/liquid factor but realised something was wrong when they could smell burning, at which point they decided to use the time proven method of tea-towels, bath towels and personal clothing to mop up.
I was starting to feel drained. With three children there have been numerous conversations like this over the years which result in blinding headaches and little else.
The time Bruce’s teacher called and explained it was against school rules for students to have a tongue ring – we didn’t know he had one, we just thought he’s started grunting more than most teenagers.
The time the police called and asked us to collect Missy from the local gas station where she was being held along with other teens. It was hilarious with hindsight. Truly.
Then the bad times when we got a call from Missy to say her friend was in hospital, having collapsed and stopped breathing at a party – there were thirty kids present and 26 ran in panic. I am proud of my daughter that she wasn’t one of them.
The times we’ve heard the news of our children’s friends killed and injured in car wrecks just before graduation or on the way to vacation in Florida. Standing for a minute’s silence during a graduation ceremony to honor the memory of a brilliant student and weeping silently as her parents walked the stage to collect her diploma on her behalf. The news only today that the sister of Missy’s oldest and dearest friend has taken her own life.
That Harry and his friends celebrated at home, decided to install a plastic hot-tub on my terrace and were smart enough, despite the beer, to stay the night here really doesn’t seem such a big deal; not compared to lives torn apart or ended before young adults had chance to know who they were, what they might have become.
Although I’m still mad as hell about my vacuum cleaner, it’s only a vacuum cleaner . . .
Like you I careen from ‘Lord how is he going to cope in college’ to barely suppressed rage to ‘my baby’s graduated and is leaving for college in two months’. I was hoping you’d write that it gets easier, but it doesn’t. We just hope that we’ve instilled some common sense and empathy along with that joie de vivre!! Well done.
It doesn’t get easier it just gets different – the great thing is when they get really grown up and you see what wonderful adults they turn into. If you haven’t throttled them before that!