I need to get more exercise, I thought, as I lay in bed dying on Tuesday night. My joints ached, my skin hurt and my skull shrank three sizes. My neck was stiff. My head pounded. My chest burned.
Or maybe I have the flu, I considered, but dismissed that idea in favor of meningitis and SARS. I reviewed everyone with whom I had interacted over the last two days to determine who should receive the blame for my impending death. The only person who came to mind was me.
I brought this on myself. On the evening of my children’s first day off of school for the Thanksgiving break, I sat them down in the den and gave them a 30-minute guilt monologue on how they were behaving like able-bodied welfare recipients. They sat in silence as I railed about how they believe they deserve the nice things that everyone else has, but they don’t want to contribute to the household (“our society,” I put it) in order to earn them. I rally-cried: “Be a contributor!”
On Thanksgiving Day – the holy day of thankfulness – I waged a tirade against a poor man grudgingly doing his job on a holiday. I used some language I hope I never repeat.
My children delighted in the scene. One said, “Mama loses it at home, but I didn’t know she would get that mad in public.” The kids thought the guy got off easy because I didn’t also give him the able-bodied welfare-recipient speech.
These regretful events were enough in themselves to bring on the plague, but add to them that I also almost got my husband’s arm broken for him. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, when it came time for us to check out of our hotel, my husband could not get our sons to wake up and open their door. “Why don’t we have a key to their room?” he barked. I shrugged off my oversight.
He beat on their door. He shook it in its frame. He yelled their names. A door did open. It wasn’t our sons’. A man came out of his room and glared down the hall at my husband, who meekly explained the situation. “Yeah right,” the fellow growled. “I’m just looking to see whose arm I need to break.”
Had I been braver, I would have volunteered mine, extending it to the man and saying, ‘‘Here, break my arm. It was I who did not request an extra key to the able-bodied welfare recipients’ room.’’ I am not brave.
Except when it comes to beans. I am brave about beans. That Saturday, on the way home, I insisted that we stop at the Bush’s Bean Co. Museum to see Duke roll that beautiful bean footage. Groaning from the backseat prompted me to promise souvenirs from the gift shop. Luckily, our tour dumped us right out into a store filled with anything anyone could ever want with the Bush’s Bean brand on it, plus cans and cans of beans. I bought each child a pop-top can of souvenir beans for the five-hour drive home.
Two hours later we were riding with the windows down. My daughter has forbidden me to ever say the word “beans” again.
Lying at death’s door on Tuesday night, my life passing before me, I accepted my fate as my own making. Every year, my family looks to me to create a joyful holiday season filled with happy memories that will sustain us long after the celebrations have passed. Once again, I fouled up.
We will sure remember it, though, I thought, before succumbing to feverish slumber.
(Lucy Adams is the author of several books, including The Beast of Blue Mountain. She lives in Thomson. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more from Lucy at lucybgoosey.blogspot.com.)