Monday, September 19, 2011

Home invasion

I like to think of myself as a girl of simple pleasures.  This is never better illustrated than on weekends when I get to be "alone."  I use the quotation marks because with the addition of dogs to my life, I am rarely truly by myself.  It is a qualified statement that means "without human contact."

These weekends have become increasingly rare these days.  Actually, if I had to date it I would say it has been about four years.  Coincidentally, today is the fourth anniversary of my youngest brothers untimely death.  In many ways, his death changed the way that I live my life.  I will likely spend a lot of my down moments today thinking about him and my memories of the life he shared with us for almost 20 years, but I will not spend most of this blog entry doing so.

My brother died around the same time that my parents were finally moving back from Wisconsin to Minnesota.  They were still in transition; their house back in WI had not yet sold when he died which enabled us to have a place to stay during his funeral and memorial activities.  In fact, the house did not sell for another six months after that.  Again, a mixed blessing as it allowed us to gradually let go of a place that was filled with memories, mostly of him.

In the end, my parents bought a house and now live fully in MN.  But for the first five years after I finished college, I lived in this state without them.  At best, it was about a five to six hour drive that separated us.  This meant that unless I had plans with friends or obligations otherwise, it was perfectly possible for me to spend my weekends alone at my house.  I could read, do laundry, watch movies, go on walks. 

Everything was different, even my dating life.  It was much easier to carry on active dating under the radar of my parents and thus avoid the scrutiny and dissection of potential boyfriends (not dissection in a literal sense, if you were worried). 

Now that they are here, I do not spend many weekends at home.  There is more to do from their house, and of course, there are the dogs.  Now that I am in graduate school and a dog owner, their house is a necessary holding place that allows me to keep my sanity in the midst of a busier schedule than I have had in a long time.

This past weekend, I had the responsibility of caring for all three dogs under my parents' roof while they traveled to the farm to clean, see my grandfather and visit the grave of my brother on the anniversary of his death.  I did not join them for several reasons:  there are not enough places to sleep, the dogs make it difficult to get anything done, and I had to be at an internship orientation on Saturday in St. Paul.

Saturday was interesting, but I have already highlighted that in my previous entry.  Saturday evening, after I had written my blog entry, I sent the dogs out for one last bathroom break and gathered my things from the basement to get everyone to bed.  One of the items I gathered was my cell phone. 

If you do not know me well enough to be on my contact list, you probably do not know that I have the (sometimes annoying) habit of leaving my phone's ringer set to silent.  This is more often the case than not as I feel it is inappropriate to have one's cell phone ring during work, class or internship orientations.

As I am also not known for being overly attached to my phone, it is not unusual for me not to look at it very often to check for missed calls or messages, unless I am expecting to hear from someone.  In an unusual act, I did happen to press the wake-up button on my phone as I went to bed on Saturday, around 11:15 p.m.  I noticed that I missed some calls from my parents, but there was a voicemail message from my father.  He simply said that they were at my grandpa's apartment, and that if I felt like calling I could.  As the message was left at 9:30 p.m. and the present time was after 11, I opted to let my parents sleep.

Sunday morning was a bit off for me.  As luck and my biological calendar would have it, my period started that morning.  Not a fun feeling, believe me.  The pups let me stay in bed until 8 a.m., when their patience ran out.  We arose, and I released them into the cold and soggy backyard for their morning bladder and bowel relief.  Once this was done, the eager beavers dashed back into the house (after some foot wiping with Megan) for their breakfast. 

Once their food was consumed with lightening speed, I rewarded them by giving Pippi her medication in a piece of string cheese.  Never one to be unfair, the other dogs also received string cheese pieces, without medication.

After I was satisfied that everyone was relieved, fed and medicated, I decided to lay down for a bit longer.  I figured I could get in another 30 minutes before the dogs decided that they needed to bark away the rest of the morning.

For some odd reason, it was a quiet morning.  This is the only reason I can give for why it was noon before I opened my eyes again.  Seriously, I haven't slept this late in a very long time, but I must have needed it on some level.  It did, however, serve to make me feel quite disoriented.

Due to the weather and the fact that my parents were not coming back until Monday, I decided to make it a pajama day.  I moved my messy self to the basement and settled in with a book and the TV remote. 

About two hours later, I was startled to hear some very loud knocking at the front door to the house.  It is important to keep in mind that at this point, I was still in my pajamas and looking quite a sight, and it was 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon.  In my experience, the only people who come a knockin' at this time were activists or politicians.  As I had no interest in speaking to either, I allowed the dogs to go nuts at the door while remaining ensconced in the basement. 

I did peer surreptitiously out of the office window to see if there were any cars in the driveway indicating that perhaps a friend or other known person had stopped by.  Seeing nothing, I quietly returned to the basement.  Several minutes later, when I figured the visitor was gone, I crept upstairs.  I needed to use the bathroom.

As I sat on the toilet, doing my business, to my horror and dismay I heard the garage door opening.  Many thoughts ran through my head, not the least of which was that someone was breaking into our house and here I was sitting on the toilet.  Then I remembered that I had the foresight to lock the interior door before going to bed the night before and that I had not had occasion to unlock it yet. 

I finished my bathroom duties faster than I had ever done in my life just in time to hear the garage door close.  It was in this state of panic that I heard my phone vibrating from my bedroom.  As I had been contemplating a call to the local police, I took this as a sign that I could perhaps communicate my situation to someone before an axe murderer broke through my back door.

The incoming call was from my mother.  My frantic and angry mother.  Apparently she had been in a panic because I had not answered my phone.  In her state of overreaction, she called not one but two of her neighbors to ask them to stop by and "check on me."  This explained the knocking on the door and the opening of the garage as my mother had given the neighbor our code.

Said neighbor and I are not acquainted.  I have never met or spoken to the woman.  I have seen her in the distance across the street, blowing leaves off her driveway in a fit of OCD, but I do not know her by sight.

At this point, both my mother and I were upset and annoyed.  She because I did not pick up my phone or call them back to check in, and me because I am 31 years old and do not like being treated like I am 4.  As my only scheduled outing had been to the Cathedral on the previous afternoon, I could hardly think what my mother thought could have happened to me. 

To be clear, I have lived alone for almost a decade and daily I travel and do things without checking in with my parents.  In fact, days often go by with little or no communication between us.  Not because we are avoiding one another, but because we simply have no need to speak.

Perhaps I am odd or old-fashioned, but I have a slight aversion to being constantly available through the use of cell phones.  Part of me misses the olden days when speaking on the phone required the right timing and one had to accept the fact that sometimes you just can't reach out and touch someone through the magic of technology. 

That said, did I deliberately avoid my parents' calls?  No.  I received their message that they had arrived safely, and thought that was enough.  Unless there was an honest emergency, I did not anticipate hearing from them until they were one their way home.  To make this point stronger, I also missed a text message from a friend inviting me out on Saturday night until Sunday as well.

In the end, I did speak to my mother and apparently she was satisfied that I was alright.  Unfortunately, she must not have fully relayed the all-clear to her neighbor.  Around 7:30 last night, I was in the basement when the garage door opened once more.  Still clad in my pajamas and likely smelling of wet dogs, I did not run up to greet her, but I did double check to make sure the interior door was locked.  I briefly contemplated releasing the hounds, but the hounds can be mighty hard to get back into the house, so I kept them inside.

When it started to sound like she was having problems getting the door to shut, I feared that I would have to reveal myself to this stranger in all my smelly and Monchichi pajama pants glory, but fortunately, she mastered the machinery first.  I have to admit that at this point I was a bit irritated.  Clearly, there were lights on in the house.  I have no idea why she thought that she needed to invade my privacy once more as I am pretty sure that my mother did not ask her to come back. 

So even though it is Monday, and an important anniversary to boot, I was quite relieved to return to work today in order to bring myself back into the normal world.  Hopefully the neighbor lady does not make a return visit today because the interior garage door is now open and I know of two little Jack Russells who would be more than happy to accost any snooping visitors.

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