I’ve had a taxing summer. Being a divorced mom isn’t easy. Things can implode on various levels — career, health, parenting, and household management. Things that seem merely aggravating when there is another person around to share the load seem truly hopeless and keep you up all hours worrying when it’s just you and the dog in your bed at night.
And in the summer, when everything is off its regular schedule, that peripheral disturbance you had your eye on can suddenly morph into a full-blown catastrophe.
There’s been water damage at the base of my carport door frames for years now. I have drainage issues that my ex felt were not worth addressing, and since home improvement was his province — Duane’s worked construction; he knows what he is doing, people — I deferred. But the bottom edges were ragged, and it was on my radar. I needed to hire a carpenter to replace those frames.
Suddenly, a few weeks before I left for my annual summer trip to see my parents in suburban Boston, piles of weird little pebbles, like a rough sawdust, started appearing underneath the frames. I kicked, and a big grub, white and blind, fell to the concrete.
Cue the Termites
And not just any termites. These are drywood termites, which are not endemic to inland Texas. They are a coastal species that lives in the wood itself, making them difficult to spot and very hard to treat. Duane and I brought them to Austin in an antique window frame we had stored in a Bay Area shed for three years, and then Duane unknowingly installed the termite-infested window on the carport.
The company who diagnosed this situation said that I would have to hire a crew to come up from Galveston and tent my house, pumping into it chemicals toxic enough to kill a human being. Environmental impact was not the point. The house would have to be watched so that no one risked their life attempting to steal from me, the exterminator explained, and that was going to cost me extra.
Fortunately, being a Yankee, I simply don’t hand over large sums of money to people until all avenues have been explored. I found an entomologist who could treat the termites by injecting the wood with a boron solution at a considerably lower cost and hired contractors to replace the damaged wood.
It will take years to make sure these termites are completely gone from the framing of the house, but at least no one will die, and I can still afford to pay my property taxes.
Meanwhile, both the contractor and the entomologist informed me that this would never have happened in the first place had Duane built the carport storage area correctly, with pressure-treated wood and a proper foundation.
I also had a root canal this summer. The brusque and overconfident dentist who performed the procedure stopped only after he had broken off two different file tips off in my roots. Before the numbness wore off, I learned from a specialist at another office that I would eventually have to have yet another root canal in addition to gum surgery to seal the roots from the top.
I was furious — a typical reaction for a Yankee to have. I was raised to expect a certain level of professional competence and accountability. I could not believe that he let two tips break before stopping the procedure. An accident is one thing, but two different tips! Let’s get real here. This is not something that should have happened.
Of course, the fact that I would point this out made everyone I spoke with about the situation want to distance themselves from me, because in Texas, women are only allowed to criticize things with a smile and a lack of candor that feels very confusing to me.
Most of the communication problems I have stem from the fact that what would be a typical response in New England is viewed as rudeness here in Texas.
I spend a lot of my time feeling like Meursault in Camus’s The Stranger.
This summer I officially entered menopause. This is so momentous a thing that I’ll write about it in a separate post, perhaps. For now, I simply want to point out that I feel old. My knees hurt, my energy is low, and there are days when I have one hot flash after another.
I am old. In six weeks, I’ll be 54.
My doctor sent me for a battery of tests that I doubt will reveal anything. I’m guessing it has to be stress.
- My car was back in the shop because the mechanics didn’t seal the valves properly after some routine maintenance.
- My elderly father — who lives so far away — moves from one physical setback to the next.
- At the last minute, the community college cancelled one of my classes and replaced it with a different section, forcing me to design a new syllabus right when my daughter arrived back from a trip overseas with her father.
- Too jet-lagged to sleep, she was up all hours every night until school started, sobbing and worrying.
Watching the other mothers at the school retrieve their children against this backdrop of minor disasters is a surreal experience. They are young. They are soft-spoken and slim, with matching wardrobes and a feminine touch. Some have also been divorced, and others are in awful marriages. They are dealing with their own terrible stuff. I don’t look at them and feel less fortunate. I know better than that.
I look at them and feel cut off from my own authenticity — from the place where I matter, in spite of my problematic life, my age, my foreign sensibility, my eternal busy-ness, and my stained yoga pants.
This is definitely something I need to get a grip on.