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Disclaimer: Names in this posting have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty. You know who you are.

Last Saturday promised to be another scorcher, so Tom got up and headed out to run at 7 a.m. instead of his usual 8 a.m. As I’ve mentioned before, Teddy is not a morning dog; in fact, he gets downright grumpy if forced to get up much before 8 (have I mentioned how much I love this dog?). So since I knew he wouldn’t be in need of a wee for a bit longer, I snuggled back down into the sheets for another hour or so of snoozing after Tom left.

A little after 8, I dragged myself out of bed, threw on some capris and a T-shirt, and woke Teddy up. The two of us stumbled out into the backyard; me tugging on Teddy’s leash, slapping the side of my leg, blathering on in a high-pitched plea, “C’mon Teddy. Go potty. C’mon, Fuzz-Butt, do your thing!”; Teddy eyeballing me like I’d completely lost my mind.

When we got about 50 yards away from the back of the house–which took a few minutes because Teddy kept stopping to lay down in every patch of shade we walked through–I heard a low rumbling sound coming from the side of the house and immediately thought, “Oh, crap, I hope the air conditioner isn’t about to blow up.” But it was only 8 a.m. If the air conditioner was thinking about having a nervous breakdown in the god-awful heat, I didn’t want to know about it or deal with it until I’d had a chance to fully wake up. I didn’t even turn around to see if there was smoke. I just kept walking, cajoling Teddy every step of the way to take care of business. Even at that early hour, the heat and humidity were so bad, sweat was trickling down my back and my hair was starting to plaster itself to my head. I just wanted to go back inside.

When Teddy had finally squirted all the trees and bushes in need of a squirt and had determined that all was right in his realm, we turned around to head back to the house. That’s when I saw it. The low rumbling sound was not coming from the air conditioner. It was coming from an ambulance, and I knew immediately why it was there. As we raced up the backyard and around the side of the house, I saw the police cruiser and the firetruck.

The afternoon before, our neighbor, whom I’ll call “Ward,” had started painting his new detached garage. “June,” his wife, had left a day or two earlier to take their boys, “Wally” and “The Beav,” to summer camp and then to go to the lake to hang out with her mom. I knew June was planning to be back in town at some point for a bachelorette party she was hostessing Saturday evening, but as I ran up toward the street, I couldn’t for the life of me remember when she’d said she’d be back.

As I raced toward their house and saw the crowd of firemen, EMTs, and police officers, I had two recurring thoughts: “Good lord, I hope Ward is okay!” and “Thank goodness I put on a bra!”

After Teddy and I navigated our way around the emergency vehicles, I paused momentarily to survey the situation. Two ladders were lying in the side yard as though they’d been tossed out of the way in haste. As I feared, Ward was on the ground toward the back end of the garage, the firemen and EMTs gathered around him. Good grief, the garage is nearly two stories tall at that point, I thought, and I shuddered. I saw that the EMTs were working to get Ward secured onto a board, and I was relieved–at least a little–to know he was in the hands of professionals. I looked around a few seconds more and didn’t see anyone but emergency personnel. No June. No other neighbors. I hesitated, not wanting to be a Gladys Kravitts, asking questions and getting in the way, but wanting to know if June had been notified. A police officer was standing a few feet back from the action, so I approached him and asked if they’d been able to get a hold of Ward’s wife. “She’s right over there,” he said as he nodded toward the crowd around Ward. Phew.

Sure enough, just then June stepped out from behind a tree. When she saw me, she started calmly up the hill. Her demeanor was reassuring. She let me know immediately that Ward was hurt, but he wasn’t going to die. His shoulder was dislocated, his right leg was scraped up, and he was in enough pain that the first words out of his mouth when the EMTs arrived were, “Give me morphine,” but he wasn’t going to die.

As we stood there waiting for Ward to be loaded into the ambulance, June and I commiserated about the fact that he shouldn’t have been up on the ladder in the first place, and she filled me in on the few details she had. Apparently, Ward had gone out early–by himself–to get as much painting done as possible before the heat became unbearable (too late for that, I thought to myself as she talked and I sweated). June had returned home the evening before and, like me, was taking advantage of an opportunity to sleep in Saturday morning. Her reverie was interrupted by the next-door neighbor who came into the house to find her after finding Ward sprawled out in the side yard. That the neighbor found Ward at all is a miracle. Normally she would have left before Tom, who Ward remembers waving at a few minutes before swan-diving off the ladder, but she was running uncharacteristically late that morning. As she opened her garage door, she and her daughter heard his calls for help. Thank goodness. Heaven knows neither June nor I would have heard him. Geez. I didn’t even hear the fire truck coming into the neighborhood with its sirens blaring around 7:30, and it was less than the length of a football field away from my bedroom window when it came to a stop. Unbelievable. And un-nerving. Ward had been lying there waiting for someone to help him for about 20 minutes before the neighbor found him.

Before it was all said and done, Ward ended up having to be fully sedated so his shoulder could be put back into place, but he did come home from the hospital that afternoon. Groggy and heavily medicated, but he came home. I’m happy to report, he’s doing quite well as of today, all things–and all possibilities–considered, but I doubt he’ll be up on a ladder anytime soon. For that matter, I’d be surprised if any of the guys in the neighborhood find themselves up on a ladder in the near future–that is if their wives have anything to say about it. The memory is too fresh.

I don”t know about the rest of the guys, but Tom’s not complaining. He’s never been all that fond of dangling from the top of a ladder. Once he knew Ward was going to be okay, he even joked about the new “toys” the guys in the neighborhood were going to be able to buy or  rent–things like hydraulic lifts–that they’d need if they couldn’t use ladders.

Amazing. I’m fighting the nausea I feel every time I think about Ward lying on the ground, all alone, immobile, and in horrible pain, and Tom’s imagining the circus tricks he and the other guys can do in the forklift…or hydraulic lift…whatever. Truth be told, Ward will probably want to be first in line to operate it. Boys. I give up.

Brian walks through the campanile and down the hill at the University of Kansas on Sunday afternoon. For those of you who are not familiar with the graduation ceremony at KU, walking through the campanile and down the hill to the football stadium is considered the meat and potatoes of the festivities by most students and alumni. As a result, probably a good third of the graduates peel off at the entrance to the stadium and head to the bars or their own private parties to begin celebrating, leaving the rest–those poor suckers whose mothers and grandmothers have threatened them within an inch of their lives if they skip the pageantry of the “official” ceremony”–to walk into the stadium and endure the formalities. Brian will be walking into the stadium, but I’m not saying at whose insistence.

The Hill and Campanile at KU on Graduation Day

I have to admit, I thought Brian had screwed it all up long before he arrived on campus as a freshman. Legend has it that if you walk through the campanile before you are a bona fide graduate, you jinx yourself right out of ever graduating from the university. Just to make me crazy–I’m sure–Brian walked through the campanile when he was a senior in high school. Thankfully, the gods have a sense of humor and overlooked his youthful indiscretion, so he will be in the throng of blue robes marching down the hill on Sunday. His will not be a dignified march, however.

Tradition dictates that graduates put their own unique stamp on the festivities, and many do so with great verve. For example, when our daughter, Carey, graduated from KU three years ago, she festooned her mortarboard with a huge plastic brain–one of the tamer embellishments that day. It’s not unusual for the kid to carry balloons; throw streamers; tote giant beer mugs; hold stuffed Jayhawks, teddy bears, and flamingos or inflatable bananas. Some of them even carry boom boxes (do they still call them that?) and dance down the hill. It’s a party every step of the way. I’ll not steal Brian’s thunder by revealing his plans, but I promise pictures after it’s all over.

The "Brain"iac

The "Brain"iac

After graduation, we’ll return here to the house to celebrate with family and friends. We took the easy way out and ordered Brian’s favorite barbecue, so I won’t have much to do the night of the party. But that doesn’t mean I totally let myself off the hook. As is true most any time we host a large gathering, I’ve been obsessed with checking things off my long list of home-improvement projects–projects, in all honesty, that I’ve been ignoring since…well, since…last summer when we hosted Carey and Austin’s engagement party. Somehow long-ignored tasks become more urgent with company coming, so I’ve been painting, cleaning, scrubbing, weeding, planting, mulching, and running errands like a mad woman for the last several weeks. It’s silly. I know it’s silly, but it’s usually requires something rather dramatic to snap me out of the idiocy.

Yesterday was the day. Yesterday was mulching, the last straw (or wood chip). The weather wonks were promising torrential rain by late afternoon, so I got up early and began raking, fluffing, and flinging mulch like my rear was on fire, trying to get the stuff put down before the rains came and turned it all into a soggy mess. Then it didn’t rain. Stupid weather wonks. More to the point, stupid me. While soaking my aching muscles in a steaming hot shower afterward, I finally accepted the silliness of trying to cram months worth of tasks into a few short weeks. No one will notice or–if they do notice–care that the wood blinds haven’t been meticulously dusted or that the flower beds have a few bare spots where I’ve failed to get something planted. I know that. I’ve known that all along. I just forget.

Sanity restored, it’s time to put down my rake/paintbrush/dust cloth and pick up a wine glass to toast my son. We have accomplishments to celebrate, friends to catch up with, and food to eat. It should be a great weekend!

Today I made invitations. My youngest, my baby, my 23-year-old, six foot one, two-hundred-twenty-plus pound baby is graduating from college in just over a month. And, as we’ve always done to mark such occasions, we’ll have an open house with family and friends to celebrate the milestone. Since May is such a crazy time of the year for everyone, I promised myself months ago that I would get the invites out at least four or five weeks in advance. The four week mark is looming, so today was the day.

With nothing more than a vague notion of what I wanted to produce, I headed to the office supply store to see what speciality paper they had to offer. Unfortunately, the choices were meager. After standing in front of the display for several minutes lamenting the lack of a good stationary store nearby, I grabbed several packages of the paper I though B-man would like best, found coordinating envelopes, and headed to the register, thankful that he’s not that picky. The woman at the checkout looked up at me as I emptied my arms onto the counter.

Assuming my child was graduating from high school (bless her), she asked with sincere interest, “Where’s your child going to college next year?”

Without hesitating, I chirped, “Oh, he’s not graduating from high school. He’s graduating from KU. He’s my youngest. ” And then I added with a touch of smugness, “We’re almost done! Wooo Hooo!”

Wooo hooo, indeed. I wasn’t even out of the store before the Wooo Hooo soured in my mouth. Of course I’m pleased for my son–and proud. Of course I’m excited for what his future holds for him. Heck, I’m even excited about having an excuse to gather all our friends and family at the house next month. But still that wee little voice, that niggling, recurring thought, wasted no time piping up, “Your baby is graduating…this is it…you’re closing another chapter in your life…how’s that working out for you?”

Oh, for crying out loud. I don’t know. Okay? I’m still trying to figure it out. Truthfully, my answer is somewhat dependent on when it arises. If comes up while I’m bumbling around in a hormonal haze or in the middle of a hot flash (more reminders of the stage of life I find myself in), the answer is likely to be radically different than one I might give after I’ve just parred a hole out on the golf course or I’ve just woken up from a Saturday afternoon nap in the hammock–a nap I can now take because I no longer have to spend my entire weekends at the soccer complex. Clearly, there are perks to being empty-nesters. But it isn’t all roses.

Neither–as it turned out–was my project. All roses, I mean. I got home and began noodling around with what I wanted to put on the page. I wasn’t having much luck coming up with anything terribly creative when I remembered a picture of B-man that my dad posted on our family blog recently. I snatched it off the blog and, in minutes, the invitation came together. (Thanks, Dad!) The only problem was the background of the paper I’d chosen was light blue, so the pictured didn’t print very well on it. Crud. Is it even possible to do a project of any kind without multiple trips to the store? Phooey. Back to the office supply store to hem and haw and curse the scant offerings.

Four hours later, I’m happy to report the invitations are  printed and look terrific. The envelopes–at least the ones I have–are addressed, stamped, filled, and sealed. Unfortunately (and probably predictably), I didn’t have enough of them, so I’ll be heading back to the store in the morning. Phttttt.

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