Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Battle of the Brothers-in-Law

Yesterday, my grandmother turned 95 years old. I sent her a card, but the big celebration was held over Memorial Day weekend. About 25 relatives gathered at my sister's house for a dinner in her honor.

Michael and I had talked about whether or not we should include David in the celebration, particularly because he has been having an extremely difficult time since the last day of school, which he has been trying, in his own way, to tell us. He did not want to go to speech therapy on the last day of school, did not want to get his haircut the following Saturday, and had no intention of walking into the sanctuary at church on Sunday. On each occasion, he made his own wishes quite clear. We made him go anyway. And while we may have lived to tell the tale (and forced the issue in two of the three incidents, not really wanting to drag a protesting six-year-old into the middle of a church service) I would not say that any of these events was a success. By the end of the first weekend of summer vacation break, Michael and I wanted to curl up in the fetal position until August.

This time, David told us that he wanted to go to " Gramma Roof's burt-day party," however, so we decided we would take him. I went slightly early, so I was able to watch when Michael and the boys arrived. To my surprise, David waltzed into the party like he owned the place. He greeted everyone with his snaggletooth smile, including people he would not ever remember meeting as they were last in town when he was just over a year old.

I was breathing a sigh of relief and wondering why we had been so uptight, when David marched right to my sister's garage door and starting repeatedly opening and closing it, which may sound harmless enough. I wouldn't particularly want my dinner guests to get a peek into my garage, but since my sister must have the cleanest garage west of the Mississippi (and I only qualify my comment because I have not seen many garages east of the Mississippi), I really didn't care…UNTIL the caterers arrived.

Having parked their catering van outside the far garage door, they thought they needed to come through the garage door into the house to unload. I tried ignoring the situation. Maybe they would just think David was an uber-helpful, albeit short in stature, doorman, but then there was the excited hand-flapping and the jig was up.

I explained the situation to one of the caterers, who has a relative with autism. It is always so nice to meet people who "get it." Anyway, they were patient with David as any attempt to have him step away from the door would have simply made matters worse and the trays of shrimp, roasted vegetables and meat for the grill made it into the house without incident. David, however, did not make it until dinner. Having crawled into my sister's car, he turned on the hazard lights—not too subtle, David. My niece graciously offered to take him home so that Michael and I could enjoy the party.

David was all too happy to go home, although not before spying my sister's garden cart in her garage and since her security seems to be more lax than the local SuperTarget, he managed to steal it and she (also graciously—must be a family trait) is not pressing charges. Apparently, David chose to decompress from the party by climbing under the dining room table with the brand new garden cart and his portable DVD player to watch a movie, which is where Michael found him when he arrived home to relieve my niece.

We all react to stress differently and while David was chilling under the dining room table, I was trying to hurry home and managed to drop my keys while "helping" my brother-in-law load some things into to back of my CRV. I turned just in time to watch the keys slide right into the storm sewer. My sister and niece came out of the house with one puny flashlight after another (guess what they are getting for Christmas), finally revealing the keys' location on a ledge about eight feet down.

I really wanted to retrieve those keys, remembering how expensive it was to replace a car remote and key when Andrew chose to tuck them away inside his Noah's ark as a toddler, only to be discovered long after the car had been sold. My brother-in-law, John, who probably would have replaced his own keys in a heartbeat rather than dig around in a sewer (and must love me, by the way), tried various combinations of garden implements and duct tape in an effort to retrieve them. While John was lying prone in the street, I tried to ignore the fact that his shirt, currently with arm sticking into the storm sewer, probably cost twice as much as my keys.

I finally convinced them to drive me home, so I could complain to my husband, whose job it is to retrieve my keys, how it was supposed to rain that night and the keys surely would have washed away by morning. I called my sister back to tell them Michael was on his way over armed with a serious flashlight, a pry bar for the manhole cover and a ten foot extension pole with a heavy duty magnet wired to it.

I am not sure if John (engineering student turned doctor and competitive by nature) had ever stopped his efforts, although I would hope by then that he had changed his shirt, but I would guess the news that Michael (raised on a large farm with "we can figure this out, why call someone else to do something we can do for ourselves" common sense) was on his way, made John redouble his efforts. Within two minutes of Michael leaving our house, the keys had been retrieved and already disinfected by my sister.

Since that night, I have been referring to my reserved brother-in-law as my hero. Just in case you should ever find yourself in this situation, the magic combination was a broom duct taped to a bent pond net with a wire hanger taped to the end. (Although I am sure that your heavy duty magnet idea would have worked too, honey.)

Next time, perhaps David and I should both stay home and watch a movie, although hopefully not under the dining room table.


  1. Kathy, how beautifully you write! I was there with you all the way.....in angst for David and then with a slightly increased heart beat wondering about those keys. Thank you for sharing your life in such an endearing and talented way!

  2. I identify with Michael ("Michael (raised on a large farm with "we can figure this out, why call someone else to do something we can do for ourselves" common sense) was on his way,") much to my wife's disgust. :-)

  3. Michael, this is not a subtle request for one of those stretchy cords that attach to a belt or pant waist, with keys secured on the opposite end (like the "Super" on One Day at A Time). This should not show up in K's Christmas stocking. Even if you think it's a perfect solution to prevent future events of a similar nature, DON'T GO THERE. Just in case you were wondering.