Murphy’s Law

I’m a good friend of Murphy’s, indeed, I know him quite well. I’m always ready to receive him when he visits, but I dread those visits. He causes me a vexation of spirit and planning every time he drops into my life. First, it was a nudge and sleeping through a class. Then it was being late for a music lesson and running face first into a door. That door was never locked, it was the main lobby door, for heaven’s sake. But someone thought it was a security problem, they hadn’t had any incidents in the past, but it was 1979, and it was the end of an era. I broke my glasses, and I’m so far sighted that I couldn’t see a thing for the next month, while I tried to get new glasses. I finally put them back together with masking tape. It didn’t help my image, self or otherwise.

I normally don’t think about the million and one things that have gone wrong at the last minute, but I should. One was waiting on a bus corner when my parents were out of town. I missed the bus, and instead, met up with some friends who went dancing and then out to breakfast, the whole time insisting that because I was 18, I could hang out with them before they finally gave me a ride home. Guess who came home when they couldn’t reach me on the phone. But Murphy was good to me that night, on my bus corner someone was murdered. My dad was furious, but when he heard the story, he wasn’t so mad at Murphy after all. Me? Well, he was my dad. He was entitled. I tried really hard not to turn his hair white, I did try, but he turned white anyway, and his forehead was extended to the back of his head. The four children in our family never looked into who caused him all that stress, for we each had some level of guilt.

I’m well past just being a grownup now, and I’ve had lots of Murphy time. I’m almost done with Ruckus, 63,000 words of sarcastic humor about transitions and running off to Fairy. I want to make sure that nothing goes wrong along the way to meeting with an agent or a publisher. So, looking on the internet, I saw the most incredible opportunity. “A Winter Escape” was listed on Twitter and I saw it. Eagerly looking up the site, I found The Seymour Agency was going on a winter cruise with writers, agents, movie producers and more. There would be classes from the Writer’s Digest about all sorts of topics, from writing a proposal for a book to writing the book itself. It said to book with Vacations to Go, a prominent vacation broker, and sign up for Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Sea’s trip in February. So, I asked my husband, and he practically bounced off his chair and into the air with joy. “I think you have a winner,” he said, “I believe in you.” So, we agreed to go on a five day cruise. (If it had been a three day cruise, I would have passed. I watched Gilligan’s Island as a child, so I was forewarned about that option.)

I signed up with Vacations to Go and paid the deposit. Right after that, Murphy arrived. My air conditioner died. That was a thousand dollars, then my father-in-laws a.c. died. That was the same weekend. We help my father-in-law when he needs it, after all, he’s a great guy, and it’s the right thing to do. So we slid toward the second deadline for the convention and classes with very little room to spare. I sent an e-mail to the Agency, and bless her heart, Nicole said it would not be a problem if the check got there before our payroll check did. I sent the check in the mail. I gave it four days to arrive. Then it was quiet. A little to quiet, Murphy quiet. The deadlines passed ,and so did October. I thought it might be a good thing to check up on life in the fast lane.

It was a good thing I had. Murphy had not signed me into the proper dinner shift, in fact, he seems to have signed me out. I wasn’t listed anywhere on the manifest list and was almost in tears, as the man in charge told me that I could probably go to the classes, but…

It all came to right with Nicole’s help. She reassured me that I was going to have a great time on the cruise. I felt much better after her e-mail. So I decided to write about the experience of the oopses that life gives us, the ones that auto-correct spellings and aids by changing those spellings that had nothing to do with content I was typing. The phone rang, and my mother told me that I had written a check on the wrong account. Murphy!!! She followed that by saying that it was better that I had used the account I did, the other was needed for other things. So, Murphy, it’s okay this time, but stop sitting over there on the couch making the lights blink on and off. You’re starting to wear away my patience. Where is that save button? And give me back my commas!

Good endings

 

Could it have ended any better? Perhaps, but when you adopt a little old man hitchhiking by the side of the road, a good ending is the most wonderful thing of all. He pulled me over by sheer force of will. His thumb extended, his blue eyes immediately boring a hole into my soul, and I was hooked.

“You’re late,” he said, while climbing up in. “I’ve been standing on the corner praying for an angel. What kept you?”

“I’m not sure. Where are you heading?”

“I need to get a prescription filled, I fell down the stairs last night. The emergency room wouldn’t give me them, because no one would give me a ride home. I’ll give you twenty bucks for the ride.”

“I’ll take you, and angels don’t accept money. It’s bad form.”

I was his chauffeur that day and for many days which followed. His son had stolen his money from savings, the title to his house, and all of his investment accounts. His family wanted his money, but not him, and he wasn’t dying fast enough. I learned his story, became angry, and when I get angry, I take action. I got him a pro-bono lawyer, hearing aids, and painted furniture in his garage, because that bastard of a son had stolen all his furniture, too.

I met the lawyer for the first time while we were painting furniture for his kitchen with a blue stain. He needed a table and chairs to have company over. The lawyer walked through the house, took the notes I had prepared for him, and said that his son was suing for custody of the old man. Bill exploded.

“I worked for a living starting at age 8. I picked up coal from the sluice fields and saved my family a winter’s worth of warm. I worked every day during the depression, and I don’t resent giving the money I earned to my mother. I saved 20% of every payday. I served in World War 2. I saved enough money to buy my sister a condo and move her from Pennsylvania. I manage my own bills. I have health care and I pay for it. I know what day it is and I know who is running for president. Why is he suing me for custody? He’s a thief and a pathological liar.”

“Any proof of that?” the lawyer asked.

Oh, there was plenty of proof. His son had a history of exploitation. It had soured Bill’s marriage. He had beaten his wife and baby son, so that they ran away. When the divorce went through, he was ordered to pay child support and paid absolutely nothing. His wife was so afraid, she went into hiding. Bill and his wife never saw their grandson again. That was one of the reason’s his wife gave up and died. She smoked and drank herself into her grave to cover the pain.

His son had tried to weasel himself back into the old man’s grace, had pretended he was sorry for all he had done. Bill believed that even his son deserved another chance. As soon as he moved in with Bill, the verbal abuse and pushing began. He coerced him into a nursing home, stealing everything he could.

He went to court to take the old man’s driver’s license. That’s when Bill checked out of the nursing home and went to his bank to find one dollar left as a balance. The bank refused to act on the theft of $75,000 dollars. That was the only thing his son got away with. I made sure of that.

I met with his investment banker, set up a lunch date and drove Bill there. His broker immediately acted to protect Bill’s money. I got a lawyer to fight the title change of Bill’s home, and he succeeded in regaining the title. Bill was protected now, and with the money from the sale of his house, he bought a condo near his sister’s. The only thing he asked was that she visit him once a day for lunch or dinner.

She called me and told me to find a nursing home, that she couldn’t stand her brother any more. Then she left on a vacation he had paid for. Nice?

We put the condo up for sale. I asked him where he wanted to go to live.

“The only place I’m welcome is your house, Gabby dear. Will your husband mind?”

My husband is saint. He didn’t even question my decision, although he might have questioned my sanity.

Bill lived with us until the age of 91. I took him on cruises, stayed with him when he was in the hospital. I drove him enough miles to drive across the United States. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner together. John Wayne movies were permanently etched into my memory.

The night he died, his bedroom had been flooded with golden light from the sunset. We watched The Quiet Man, who wasn’t very quiet. He dozed off and I snuck off for a moment’s rest. At three in the morning, I woke. Something was off. I went to check on Bill and he was awake and lucid.

“We had a good time, didn’t we, Gabby dear?”

“Oh, we raised some eyebrows. You’re my best friend, Bill.”

“Your husband only fusses when he’s worried about you, Gabby. No more tears over arguments, just tell him you love him.”

“Okay, Bill.”

“I really did vote for a black man for president. Who would have thought an old racist like me would have had all his help come from people of different colors. Why did you help me, Gabby?”

“There was something you needed to learn, God wasn’t done with you.

“Have I learned it yet?”

“Almost.”

“I feel strange. Will you say the Lord’s Prayer for me?”

I panicked. Then I sang the Prayer from Bernstein’s Mass. His face looked flushed.

“Gabby?” Pause. “Gabby? I’m forgiven.”