Cats or dogs? Be careful how you answer…
Meet my grandkitty, Gingham, who doesn’t know I have a dog. Or does he?
One night years ago, after a movie with my husband’s new friends, the conversation oddly turned to scars.
The sight of a nasty stab wound on the guy’s back from a bar fight made my husband cringe. To my chagrin, a faint half moon above his girlfriend’s left breast was revealed gleefully with more than an ample amount of cleavage. Not wanting to be left out, and knowing I only had one, on my knee, from flying down a hill at age 10 on my bike, I rolled up my pant leg and let everyone see the healed flap of skin I had begged my mother not to snip. I could still see my childhood self, in the shower, shivering and crying as if she’d threaten to amputate.
“Don’t cut it, don’t cut it, please, don’t cut it,” I’d pleaded amid sobs. My mother, who usually didn’t cave to sentiment, conceded. Of course, we all know I should have listened to her (as I would come to realize about many things).
If I’d had, I would be nearly scar free (on the outside anyway) like my husband, who didn’t share that night and confessed that the whole display made him quite uncomfortable. He’d been living in the U.S. only a couple of years and was still learning our customs.
“I was about to throw up,” he’d told me later. “Where I’m from, scars, they are not something to be proud of. They’re just reminders of hardship and pain.”
And, as we all come to learn, some heal much faster than others.
Please forgive me.
I chose to believe that you were better, that you were well. You’d gotten that new job as a machinist, and you took so much pride in your work. The spotty attendance at family gatherings I attributed to your new schedule. I had no idea you were struggling, again.
Your absence on Christmas made me wonder. When you appeared on New Year’s Eve we exchanged glances, but never spoke. You looked weak. Your face was grey, your frame frail. I had a bad feeling. That night I dreamt I was attending your funeral. Dressed in a dark blue suit you were peaceful and handsome, lain out in a silk-lined casket. I awoke out of breath, crying and sweaty.
Only two days later you were dead. At age 26, you succumbed to a heart attack. Was it the blood infection you’d contracted? Were you using? Was it suicide? What took you from us? I wanted answers. But what would they do? The autopsy results wouldn’t bring you back.
I’d never really know how you suffered, faltered, or even felt. I can only comprehend what I feel, and what I’ve lost. I’ve lost a kind, creative soul who I could hide out with at family functions when I didn’t want to talk to anyone else. I’ve lost an unspoken acceptance, a great connection, and an inspiring conversationalist.
Today, I will attend your funeral, and I am empty. I do not know what to say, how to react. I want to scream, to cry out, to honor you, and to never forget you. But who am I? Just one person of many, grieving.
It is crazy to believe that I will never see you again. Ever. My heart aches as I ponder this. I will never hear your soft laugh, or see that quiet smile that comes over your face and lights up your eyes – the one that your little brother could always evoke. I won’t ever see you wearing a blue suit. Or that awesome brown fedora often affixed to your head. I won’t hear you strumming a guitar, espousing the brilliance of The Beatles or recommending classic films.
In your honor, I finally watched Mildred Pierce with Joan Crawford. It was sad, and for me as a mother, strangely poignant. I’ve also viewed you and Sierra performing Feliz Navidad at our house on that Christmas Eve at least a half-dozen times. It’s hard to get through it without sobbing. I recall you needed a lot of convincing to play. I’m so very glad you did.
You were blessed with so many gifts, Kyle: your music, your art, your kindness. And memories of those are what I, and I’m sure many others, will treasure. I’m so sorry they weren’t enough to release you from your demons. I hope you find peace in Heaven, if that is truly where we go when we die. Just know that here on Earth, you will remain forever in my heart.
This one involves our Christmas tree. When my boys were little and we barely had anything to put under one, I was adamant about its presence. Maybe it’s like smiling even though you don’t feel happy. Soon you will, right? Trimming a real tree gave me Christmas cheer, and hope. Charmed by the fresh smell, the stray needles, even the sap – we’ve never owned a fake one.
My dad once fashioned a tree from the top of one of his pines, with some assistance from my youngest son. As soon as my little superhero could wield a saw he became our designated tree cutter. Even though we believe he has a slight allergy to the needles.
Through the years, we’ve continued to bundle up, trek the trails of the tree farm, fight the wind, and haggle over three or four varieties. After a vote, we send my son to the cold hard ground to do the honors. Maybe twice, during college, he or his brother couldn’t be home so my husband, our daughter and I opted for a precut tree. It just didn’t seem right.
Alas this season, even though both boys (they’re really men now) live in New York, the five of us made the annual ride to the local tree farm, marched through the snow and agreed on the cutest tree ever. My son made the first cut, handed the saw to my husband and then his older brother.
We weren’t upset that the farm didn’t offer its usual free cider. And I was looking forward to the sweet, spicy warm taste, but it didn’t matter. Not this year. It was really just about being together.
“Do you think this is funny?”
I hesitated. “No, I don’t…”
“… if you are laughing?“
Laughing? The rapid pulse of my heart was in my throat.
“If you aren’t taking this seriously?” he snarled.
Would I have called if I didn’t deem urgent messages from the IRS sobering?
“I can have a sheriff there in 45 minutes to arrest you.”
Is this guy crazy? “I am just trying to find out what is going on,” I uttered slowly, enunciating clearly, without a hint of hilarity.
Do I call him back? An IRS Crime Investigation, of me? I know I just sent a payment. It must have reached them by now.
My mind raced. Why did I listen to my husband and let him handle the tax crap. Am I going down for not paying attention? Forty-five minutes! I haven’t even showered!
I yelled to my daughter to call her dad. I stripped off my pajamas and jumped into the hot spray. No way I was letting my kid be alone as her filthy mom was pushed into a cop car in front of her neighbors for a crime she didn’t even commit.
As I frantically dried off, the cell phone in one hand, I barraged my husband’s calm call back with a hustled, hyperventilated recap.
“He said he was Criminal Investigator Todd something. I can’t remember,” I cried, literally. “What the hell do they want with me? Me? Did we forget to file something? He was so unbelievably mean.”
“Let me have the number and I will call. It will be OK,” he said completely unaffected. Didn’t he realize he needed to come home now to be here for our daughter? We had just 35 minutes.
I threw on a t-shirt and some comfortable capris. Who knows how long I’d have to be at the station, or where ever they’d take me. I’d have an actual mug shot, at this stage in my life, and oh God it would look dreadful – my wild hair up with my boring glasses.
Grasping for the bright side I thought, well it’ll make one hell of an interesting, if not devastating, story. My life will become Orange is the New Black. And I need a lawyer.The ring of the cell phone brought me back. My husband.
“What did he say?” I gulped.
“It’s a prank, honey.”
“What?” Complete disbelief.“Please tell me you didn’t do this to me. This really is not funny. I’m still shaking.”
“I checked the number on the web. Bogus. Even the IRS has a section on its own site about this very scam.”
I guess I should have looked the phone number up, but when they said it was urgent…. It honestly seemed so legit.
“They were probably phishing. Threatening you, hanging up and trying to get you to call back again. Luckily you didn’t. They’ve harassed a lot of people, and even tricked some into giving them money.”
Those evil $#@%^ers! I was pissed, but I couldn’t stop crying. “I can’t believe I fell for it. I feel like such a fool.” (Especially when I’m usually the cynic.)
“Well, babe, you weren’t the only one.”
The following night, I see Fox News did a report on this exact scam.
So, dear readers, if you get an urgent call or message from the IRS at this number: 202.580.2374. It is not real! If the actual U.S. Internal Revenue Service has an issue with you, it will contact you via snail mail only. And, if these scammers contact you, please report them, like I did, at http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Warns-of-Pervasive-Telephone-Scam
Hopefully we can bring them to justice.
If only people could use their creative energies to make the world a better place rather than to hurt and harass.
People didn’t always call me Bailey, although I much prefer it to my given name. The one my Mom took great pride in choosing. Kathleen. It’s a saint ‘s name, which means pure. What better for a nice Catholic girl?
Problem was there were four others in my grade school class. I found this unsettling. So as a gangly, insecure bookworm, I asserted my individuality and immediately switched the y in Kathy to an i.
This lasted through college and matrimony, when I opted to use the first, maiden, married name moniker. Too long for a byline said my newspaper editor. Lose one. Remember, this will be how people will come to know you.
Hmmm. My career as a writer officially starts now. Perfect opportunity. Let’s drop the first one.
Bailey was born.
Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, Pennsylvania, USA