Irony Is A Harsh Mistress
Irony Is A Harsh Mistress
The holiday season can be stressful for all of us, Lisa included; and, it helps to hold on to great memories. It also helps to do your best to be thankful for the gifts that are staring you in the face each and every day. To highlight this point, I'm going to tell you about what happened on 16 December 2012.
I was still Active Duty, Army (I retired on 31 September 2013) during the holiday season of 2012. As a Soldier, I was very committed to my fellow Soldiers, and to accomplishing the unit's mission. As the Supply Sergeant; and, as the Property Book Officer for the Provisional Detachment of my unit, I was an integral part of each and every mission that my unit undertook. At this time, I was also making the transition into becoming a Caregiver. Thankfully, I had a very supportive Chain of Command in my unit and, they supported me in my mission to care for my Wife. It probably helped a lot that she is also a Veteran and, is VERY vocal about calling out the injustices of the world (more on that in another post some time).
So, I was at work, on Fort Hood, TX; and, in the middle of a meeting with my Commander and First Sergeant. We were discussing a pending Change of Command Inventory and, working out the finer details of when, where, and how all of our equipment would be laid out, in order for the incoming Commander to verify accountability. I was in the middle of briefing my command about my plans and strategy when my phone began ringing. Let me be more specific: two of my three cell phones began ringing. I had three cell phones: 1. My personal cell phone (read as Yvonne's Honey-Do Device). 2. My work phone, a BlackBerry (aka my Leash) that the unit issued me for work purposes and, so that I couldn't deny receiving any e-mails. 3. My phone dedicated to S.H.A.R.P. (you can Google that one). So, anyway, phones 1 and 2 began ringing simultaneously! In most cases, a Soldier would get into some form or another of trouble for this; however, as I stated, I had an understanding Chain of Command.
Pulling phones 1 and 2 out of my pockets, I saw that both incoming calls were from 911. This was not a name I had entered for someone, this was actually 911 calling me. So, obviously I was aghast, to say the least. I tossed my work phone to my Commander to answer, and I answered my personal phone. The 911 Operator explained, into both phones, that my house was on fire!!! My Commander gave me that knowing nod and, I sprinted for the door.
Now, let me pause here for a moment, and give you a little back-ground on a particular subject:
There are few things that keep Yvonne comfortable, psychologically; and, our fireplace is number two on this very short list (I gotta be number one at something, right?). So, her fireplace is always going. Aside from four cleanings per year, top to bottom and all the way up the chimney, that fire is going. I mean, I LITERALLY keep the home fire burning for her. Before you ask, yes, this includes the summer time (and yes, of course I am super hot in my own house, but her comfort is paramount). Now, back to the story...
I hopped into my truck, strapped in, and raced down the highway. I live in Central Texas, and highway 195 is super congested around the Fort Hood area; therefore, it took some on-the-fly navigation to get through the traffic. My home is not too far from the installation, so as I'm driving I'm also sub-consciously scanning the horizon for smoke. I could see it on the horizon. As I made my way into the neighborhood and onto my street, I stopped. Fire trucks were outside my house. Firefighters were busy putting out the fire. Unconcerned about the house as I sprinted up to the scene, I was looking for Yvonne. Before I could ask the Fire Chief, he pointed across the street to the adjacent corner. Sitting there, in the back of the ambulance was my Bride. She had all the bells and whistles and gee-whiz-bang gadgets hooked up to her. Fighting my way past TV crews and EMTs I jumped into the back of the ambulance. "Hey, Baby!" Yvonne explained between coughs.
Brave face on, I caressed her hand, "Are you hurt, they're treating you for smoke inhalation, but are you physically hurt?" I asked her. "No, Baby", she replied, "it just got smoky in the house, and the next thing I knew, the garage was on fire. I'm OK. Where's Bonz?" Bonz was in the arms of a Firefighter. He had been in the back yard "conducting business" so he was safe.
The Fire Chief came over to me as the EMTs released my Wife from all of their gadgets. She was good to go as soon as the house was thoroughly cleared. I took off my uniform top and draped it around my Wife. The Chief explained that the fire was isolated to the garage; and, that we were super lucky it hadn't spread. I thought about what he said, and how true it really was in our case. Like most people, I have things in my garage that probably shouldn't be in the garage: paint cans, propane tanks for the grill, wood stain, etc. and the lawn mower with its fuel can not to mention my Wife's car.
The Firefighters gave the all clear, and I was able to bring Yvonne back into our home. I picked her up and carried her across the street and into the house. I placed her on the sofa, and Bonz climbed up next to her for his Mommy Inspection. I returned to the Fire Chief. He began to explain to me the root cause of the fire. I thought I knew what he was going to say (remember the fireplace?).
He explained that the fire originated in the garbage can. The crew was still sorting through the garbage to determine the cause. He showed how the inner walls of the garage had been consumed by the flames; however, structurally, the garage was still sound, and that most of it was cosmetic. The items in the garage, however, was a different story. All of military gear had been melted into a puddle of melted canvass, plastic, and ceramic with bits of metal. The shelves I had built to hold all of my art supplies and wood-working tools was burned and, what remained of my tools lay in a still-steaming pile. The car itself was fine, but since the windows were down, the interior was as black as the paint, but that was not much of a problem. Insurance is there for a reason, right?
As the Chief finished up his briefing, one of his crew came up to us and explained what caused the fire. Some batteries that I had tossed into the garbage the night before...
...the same batteries that I had taken out of the smoke detectors during my quarterly maintenance of our home. Nine-volt batteries. I had gone through the entire house and replaced all batteries in the smoke detectors (because, you know, the fireplace). Always concerned about the safety of the fire place, I am always double-checking our safety equipment. Without giving it a second thought, the spent batteries were tossed into the garbage. It was by chance that the poles of the batteries arced and ignited the garbage can. Irony is having your house catch fire because you changed the batteries in your smoke detectors, and didn't dispose of the batteries, properly.
So, that evening, after all was said and done, we sat in our home. It smelled horribly. My Wife was feeling sad; and, I was feeling pretty stupid. "What are we going to do?" Yvonne asked through her tears. I held her closer to me and sad, "My Boo, we are very lucky. The most important things in my life are safe, here in my arms. I wouldn't know what to do if I lost you...since I didn't lose you, I DO know what to do." I kissed her. Later, I went to my former friend's house (the one who was supposed to be watching for Yvonne while I was at work) and told him that he was fired, to never show up at my house again. He had gone Christmas shopping instead of doing what he was paid to do--spend the day with Yvonne.
Now, I've told you that story so that I can tell you this: When it comes to the holiday season, don't forget those gifts that have already been given to you. Each day that you have with your Family, friends (those who do what they're supposed to do that is), and even your Family Pup, each day is a gift unto itself. When times get hard, and they will, remind yourself that YOU are a gift to someone else. You are someone's Caregiver. You are someone's son, daughter, Husband, Wife. You are for SOMEONE. And SOMEONE is for YOU. We, as Caregivers need to remember that, although we spend 99.9% of our time being a Caregiver, there is that .1% that you must reserve for yourself. Write, talk, celebrate each day with those that you love, even if it's in a small way, because, one day, 911 could be calling YOU.
The picture at the top of this post was taken the following Spring, in 2013. We share our smile with you, share YOUR smile with someone else.
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