It was September, 2013. Our house in North Muskegon had been on the market for 6 months. Essentially we had been guaranteed a quick sale with a move most likely by Labor Day. Well that didn’t happen. We were already sorely disappointed, and didn’t have a clue it would be another 2 long, miserable years before we were finally able to move.

Ari 3 in the back of our North Muskegon house, 1994…

I had just retired from my Parish Visitor stint. Partly because we were moving, but the main reason was the rapidly rising death count on my watch. Couldn’t grieve more than a few days when I would lose another dear person from my long list. I had been losing an average of one person a month for a decade and it was taking a toll.

The pull to central and eastern Michigan was strong. Our whole family, 3 adult children, spouses, and 4 grandchildren lived within 50 miles of each other. Except for us. Now both retired, living in a too big, too expensive home on the lake, where we no longer wanted to be. We were 175 miles away from everyone we held dear.

Landon in junior high..

Landon (Drew to the rest of the world) was in junior high and already making a mark in the basketball world with his uncanny skills of ball handling and shooting. Peyton, 9 was tuning up her skills on the dance floor, or singing in front of a crowd. Adam & Sarah needed help with caring for Graham, 4. Sarah was a full time student to become an RN and Adam was head chef at a ritzy restaurant in Ann Arbor. On the weekends Sarah was a waitress at another ritzy place to earn some extra bucks. Between Sarah’s Mom Karen, Hubs and I would take turns with her watching Graham on their busy work filled weekends. Newlyweds Josh & Erica had just purchased a lovely condo over-looking the Detroit River and Canada on the 24th floor, in downtown Detroit. We were driving 150-180 miles every weekend to visit, watch games, performances or stay with Graham. We loved it, just not all the driving. But our nice house remained un-sold. So we continued to drive. And drive.


At this time, our oldest grandchild Ariana was a great concern. In her early 20’s she had recently suffered a major heartbreak. She was in a funk and rightly so. This might be one of those times in your life where you either fight or flee. An opportunity was presented to her and she grabbed it with both hands. An acquaintance needed help for 6 to 8 weeks with her 2 children, 5 & 1. Would Ari be willing to live with them during this time? The mom Bobbi, an American was in the Air Force and transitioning back from her deployment. Her husband Paolo was in the Italian army, training for his deployment. Did I mention they lived in Anzio, Italy? Ari took a leave from college & work and flew to Italy to nanny the kids (and escape). Make the return of one parent and departure of the other easier. And think about her own future. Away from the pressure and hurt.

Probably need to tell you about Romeo here. (No, not the low-life-pond-scum-asswipe-dick who had hurt Ariana so deeply). Romeo was Ari’s new kitten. Jet black, cute and cuddly, he helped Ari with her massive hurt heart. But keeping the kitty at Shannon’s while she was in Italy was out of the question since Landon has animal allergies. Shannon went to Ari’s apartment every couple days to feed, water, and play with Romeo, but poor kitty was alone a lot. Enter the super grands. Ari had a great apartment in a large complex in Jackson. Part of a 100 year old abandoned prison building converted into apartments. It boasted 1 foot thick brick walls. And Ari’s apartment was empty (except for Romeo) for the next 6 weeks.

Handy and helpful for us plus the kitty. If Shannon and Tracey needed help to chauffeur kids here or there, or it was our turn to watch Graham for a couple of nights, we’d just get Ari’s apartment key from Shannon and spend a few days. Her apartment had a TV, a decent queen sized bed and a kitchen so we didn’t have to eat out the whole time we stayed. Plus John was warming up to the kitty. That might be a stretch. John actually liked Romeo, but there were some issues.

Romeo didn’t feel it necessary to move out of the way when John was walking where Romeo had put down roots for the moment. When Romeo did move he was either trying to join John in the restroom, or sneak into the bedroom. If Romeo missed sneaking through the bathroom door, he’d sit by the closed door and meow, plus swipe his paw under the door a thousand times like, “dude, you forgot me. You can’t do this on your own! I can help, honest.” We kept the bedroom door closed all the time, which stumped Romeo cause he had free reign when Ari was around. And had a highly prized sleeping nook near her head on a pillow all night long. This sudden freeze out miffed the kitty. So he made it his mission in life to sneak in the bedroom whenever the opportunity arose. But he quickly learned if he simply hopped on the bed like he owned it and had won a major battle, one of us would just snag him in our arms, haul him out of the room and close the door. Well shit.

When we were visiting and sharing Romeo’s space, if the bedroom door opened for a nanosecond, he’d zip through faster than the speed of light. But now instead of leaping on top of the bed and bragging about his accomplishment, he’d zoom underneath the bed. To the farthest corner and the only impossible spot where neither one of us could get him. Romeo would hunker down, in for the long haul. Until we tried to go to sleep. Then he’d claw the bottom of the box spring while on his back, going over every inch meticulously. And making quite a bit of noise, protesting over us not sharing the top side of the bed with him.

We were spending a few days at her apartment, not long before Ari flew back home. We’ve loaded up the cupboards with canned goods, the freezer with home cooked meals, and picked up a few things her apartment needed. One appliance still missing was a microwave. We decide to buy one before we drove back home. Found one on our way to Landon’s basketball ball game which started around 6. We visit with Shannon, Tracey and Peyton during the game, then head back to Ari’s apartment. It’s about 8:30, we’re tired and hungry, but don’t feel like a sit-down restaurant. (When faced with this dilemma I always choose McDonald’s-always). But Hubs has different fast food in mind. Ugh, about my last pick and if there was another choice nearby I’d make him stop for me. It’s not that I don’t like Mexican food, I do, but Taco Bell, not so much. But that’s what he’s hungry for, and since I usually get my way, I cave this time.

Taco Bell has one thing I can stomach fairly well, don’t recall the name, something Crunch. Some kind of folded flat thing with pretend beef and a crunchy flat taco shell in the middle. We do the drive-through thing, anxious to get back to the apartment, put on our pj’s and relax. The parking lot at the complex leaves a lot to be desired-especially around 9 on a Friday night. Luckily, there’s quite a few singles who hang their shingles there, so they’re ready to go out and party when we’re ready to poop out and crash. It is 9 after all. After zigzagging through the parking lot a couple of times, we nailed a spot not too far away. I’m not someone who has super powers to carry nineteen bags of stuff at one time, but would rather make a dozen trips. But not tonight, we’re both bushed. We’ve got a couple of bags, my purse, the Taco Bell bag and the new microwave in a box the approximate size of Ari’s apartment. We got this.

At least the city-block-sized-box has indented holes on each side so we can easily lug it together, staggering our steps, trying not to drop anything or smash our shitty food. The apartment complex outside entrance has a key code, so we set the compact-car-size-box down and enter the numbers a dozen times before iris recognition kicks in. Clumsily we make it through 2 outer doors and the 3-city-block-foyer. (Geez they could have made another dozen apartments with all this space). Head through a small hallway (where the foot thick brick walls are exposed-really neat looking) and mosey towards the elevator, since we gotta go up 3 flights. Push the button, wait an eternity, finally the door eases open. The box is about the size of the elevator. We wheedle our way in, set the box down, push the third floor button. Door finally closes. And nothing happens. Nada. Zip. Zilch. No nice hum, no little belt creaks that cause you pause as it glides slowly upwards. Nothing. John pushes the lobby button, nothing. Floors, 2, then 3. We’re simply in a dead zone. Going nowhere fast. With smelly food that now borders on a dumpster dive grand prize.

Minutes pass. I’m now sitting on the microwave box and don’t care if there’s a dent the size of Delaware when and if we ever get it to Ari’s apartment. The smell filling my nostrils is tepid, gag-worthy Taco Bell which I swear has been made last June. Is this building deserted? Does no one ever need to use the elevator? Hubs tries the emergency phone made for umm, emergencies. We get a recording instructing us to call maintenance after 8 in the morning if we still need it. Thanks for that. Finally, we hear muffled voices. We yell and scream as if the elevator is on fire and about to free fall 40 stories. No, merely a couple of hysterical old coots. Lo and behold, it’s someone we actually know, one of Ari’s friends. She realizes we’re stuck, gets her boyfriend who tries to pry the door open. That doesn’t work, so they call 911. We’ve been with the box (and molding before our eyes) Taco Bell for a good half hour. Just telling you about it makes me want to hurl. Ten minutes later the firemen arrive. They have some kind of tool used for prying open elevator doors. After the door opened, we were instructed to stay inside until the smell dissapates from within. Nice.

We later learned the elevator’s issues was a common occurrence in this building. Had I known, we surely would have used the stairs, no matter how tired we were, and certainly not entered with less than desirable food products. All in all about an hour until we were rescued. The firemen encouraged us to use the stairs until mainenance could look at it in the morning (after 8). That was fun. At least the Taco Bell got tossed, but the smell had permeated my hair, clothes, even my purse (a Michael Kors for heaven’s sake).

We don’t watch much TV that hasn’t been recorded. So we rarely watch commercials, Hubs fast forwards right through them. We watch an hour program in 40 minutes. Recently however, we switched from Directv to Dish (long story, and you don’t want to know). John is still learning all the buttons and has yet to program all the junk he likes to watch (see how I take the high road here). Thus we’ve been subjected to some live TV, which prompted this story. I’ve been exposed to a barrage of COMMERCIALS. Oh the pain. Every time I have to endure one of Taco Bell’s, I cover my mouth and eyes. My mouth so I don’t gag, my eyes so I don’t have to watch 2 things. One is some kind of coated chicken nugget blob, cut up in a taco thing. I think I’m gonna be sick. The other is a fried egg Taco Bell is trying to pass off as an outside shell for some yummy breakfast sandwich. Just kill me now. Could there be a less appealing way to serve an egg? Definitely not, no yolk…

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