It’s the Fumes!

Some days, I’ve got to write or lose my mind.  Tonight is one of those times.  This is my therapy, the way I process my feelings, the way I find something amusing in things that don’t make me laugh when they happen.  I want to laugh to prevent dissolving into a blathering puddle of tearful nonsense.

Just after we sit down to dinner, we hear our son yelling from the garage.  It is not a good yelling.  The fact that he is asking for his sister, sends me running.  It isn’t good.

We have a rule for our children about coming home when it gets dark.  A certain boy seems to have a very difficult time with this.  We’ve come up with some consequences but they haven’t proven effective.  After tonight I’m bringing out the big guns. . . a howitzer or maybe a nuclear missile.   I need time to process this.  It’s just not funny yet.

The panicked yelling began because of the accidental spilling of some nasty finish stripper (chemicals in a can not a woman from Finland working a shady job)  that used to live a quiet life on the workbench in the garage.  Just thinking about it is starting to make me itch and cough again.  Oh, now, I think my lips are burning.  I really need to go to my happy place.

Tardy boy stands in the garage slightly dripping.  Apparently, the falling deck stripper stuff exploded as it hit the garage floor.  His coat, his only warm coat got the worst of it.  I’m afraid it and the rest of his clothes will have to go to the garbage dump in the sky.  The smell is overwhelming and then, I see the mess.  “Andy,”  I yell.  “I’m going to need your help.”  Poor husband.  He just sat down to dinner.

In case of emergency, my initial job is the calmer.  I pull out all the stops trying to sound calm.  I’m desperately wanting to feel calmer but the fumes are getting to me.  I find myself repeating my words in a silly attempt to convince myself I know what I’m doing.  I don’t have a clue.  I don’t know how to begin to clean this up.

“Take off all your clothes by the washer except your underwear and go and take a shower right now,”  I say with conviction.

I just want him out of the way so I don’t start spiraling into a tirade about carelessness and getting home before it gets dark and following the rules and trying to be more careful.   Once the cork is out of that bottle there may be no stopping me.

“I’ve got no idea what to do to clean this up,” I say, once the boy is gone.  In my mind, I see myself running up and down the street with my hands waving madly over my head while I make wild animal sounds.    I shake my head to get rid of the idea.

By this time, my poor husband has started winding down.  He had a full head of steam going into this.  As he winds down, I start to wind up.  “Ok, I’m calling Home Depot and see if they can give me any advice.”  I’ve got to do something and I am desperate to get away from the now toxic garage.

Five minutes into the call, I finally get to the prompt that gives me the paint department.  The guy who answers talks like Charlie Brown’s teacher except with more of a mumble than a pure “Wha Wha, Wha!

After several sentences of pure mumble, mumble, wha, wha, wha, I interrupt him and say, ” I’m sorry, but I don’t have the faintest idea what you are saying.”

This doesn’t seem to phase him and he tosses in another mumble, wha, wha and I stop him and say, “Honestly, I have no idea what you said.  You talk so fast and you mumble.”

Tactless, yes, but you got to forgive me.  I blame the fumes.

“Ma’am,” He says with a voice that says anything but “Ma’am”  “I’m trying to tell you how to clean up your mess.”

“What kind of thinner was it?” He asks.

I hate questions I don’t know how to answer.  “I don’t know.” I admit.

“That’s a problem.  I need to know what it is so I can tell you what to do.  Can you find out?”

I know that this nasty fume creating nightmare is in the bottom of a garbage bag completely covered with thinner.  The idea of sticking my hands in that bag is not appealing.  I just won’t do it.  He wants to insist.

“Ma’am, I got to know.”

Just then my husband comes in.  He looks a little greener than he did a few minutes ago when I left him.

“What is that stuff called?” I ask.

He knows exactly.  I repeat it to the man on the line.

“Super, Nasty, Smelling, Potentially Deadly Chemical Swill,”  I say with righteous authority.

(No, that’s not really what it’s called, but it should be.)

At this point, I decide not to fight it.  This call was a mistake.  It’s not Mumble Mumble Wha Wha’s fault.  He is an innocent victim of my fumes.  He is a good employee however and suggests three products I need to come over and buy to clean up my mess.  I thank him and say, ” I’ll head on over.”

I don’t know why I said that.  I guess I felt bad that he got my phone call and that the fumes were affecting my humanity.  I’m not going any where except maybe in a corner where I can rock and hum to myself for several hours.  It must be the fumes.

After the initial shock of it all, my dear husband has got it out of his system.  He regroups, tackles, problem solves and becomes my hero when he cleans up the mess as best he can with some sand, hose and soap.  We might not be able to close the garage again but there isn’t a toxic lake waiting to lure unsuspecting ants,small mammals and two rapidly aging parents into a horrible death by chemical exposure.

After our tardy son, came out of the shower, he makes an attempt at atonement.  I caution him saying, “I’m so mad at you right now, I can’t talk about it.  I need time to calm down.”

Truth is some times my calm role is just too hard for me to fill.  Some times, I need to trade places or write it out, or sit in the corner and hum softly.  Some times, the “uncalm” become the calm and save the day with perseverance and right action.  Some times, I don’t have a clue and I need help.  When I think of how this started and how it ended, I am so grateful for my husband who really pulled it together and rose to the occasion when I was so out of my league.  Tears spring to my eyes when I think about what he did for me tonight and I bet he doesn’t really know how much it mattered and how grateful I am.  I’d better try to tell him before the fumes wear off.

I am the person behind the words printed here. I write because my heart will not allow me the option of NOT writing. It has taken me half a life time to discover this basic truth, but now that I have, writing is as natural as breathing. This is where my breath takes the form of words.


I am reading

The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)
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