Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Beginning of the End

I know that some people may be frightened at the title, "The Beginning of the End" but I'm afraid I may be understating things. You see, for the first time since October of my 7th grade year, I have broken my glasses. Well, I haven't really 'broken' them per se, but I did hear an unfamiliar "clink" as I rolled out of bed this morning. (The phone was was Nature...she was calling me.) I'm accustomed to not reacting rashly when there are unknown sounds or feelings. Not shoving that drill bit case to where it should be all willy nilly because I felt something touching it that I couldn't see saved me an hour of picking through broken baby food jar glass to separate 300 various washers from rubble. Waiting to see if the vacuum cord is just a little tangled instead of dragging on something saved me from knocking down one of the wine glasses we got as a wedding present. And this morning, exploring the floor gingerly in the dark by gently moving my hand back and forth over the carpet before I lumbered off to the bathroom saved me from having to re-enact the BB gun seen in A Christmas Story where Raphie twists his into oblivion while he walks around in the snow after shooting his eye out. Side note: I sleep in a pink bunny costume most nights so it would have been adorable to watch on that secret reality show that is watching my every move via remote control cameras...True Story.

I mentioned 7th grade earlier. That wasn't because that was the first time I had broken my glasses, it was the first time I had worn glasses. I was taken away during school to a room for a vision screening. They had me read a poster that had the least inspirational message I had ever seen. I think it was in Latin. E, AI, POH, after that it was all a blur. I'm sure it says something like, "If you can't read this, go to the optometrist" but I never researched to find out. My parents took my sister, my brother, and me to Ronald H. Sand to see if I needed glasses. My sister lucked out, no glasses. My brother and I got to pick out our own frames. After what seemed like three and a half months while they mined the basic materials needed to make two pairs of little boy frames, I suspect from somewhere in the mountains of Nepal where all raw materials need to be smuggled out of the country between the toes of a Yak, we waited for our spectacles. He chose gold metal frames that made him look like a miniature John Denver. My silver teardrop shaped frames made me look like I'd picked out glasses while not being able to see anything. (note to parents: If the pudgy little love of your life has the cutest little chubby NOT let him choose teardrop shaped glasses. His high cheekbones will thank you.)

I learned, from watching middle child Jan The Brady Bunch, that having to get glasses was the worst thing that could ever happen to a kid...and I was off to junior high school, where everybody is kind differences are celebrated. I was happy to learn that life rarely imitated The Brady Bunch (even though I am a middle child...but let's not open up that can of worms) and I was largely ignored. That might also be that I prayed every night that absolutely nobody would notice that I was alive while in school and that the paneling colored clothing I wore would help me melt into the background. It was relatively soon after that this that a teacher pointed at me in class and said, "You, Garrett, you cussed me out and knocked over your desk before you ran out of the room! What are you gonna do when the principal calls you into his office?" Me (trying not to have a stroke from extreme embarrassment) squeaked out, "Tell him I didn't do it?" He bellowed, "WHO IS HE GOING TO BELIEVE!?" Even weaker than before, "you". "That's RIGHT! I will get believed so don't cross me!" I'm sure he was making a point...I think the point was that he was a bully and that I should be afraid every day I that I see him. But, happily, he never mentioned my glasses.

I went for years exchanging old glasses for new. Every time I was praised for not needing new ones before our insurance renewed (every two years) and I just kept plugging along...not bumping into things like buildings and aircraft carriers because I could see. At some point the doctor said that I was old and active enough to warrant getting a new style of glasses. They turned into sunglasses whenever I was outside. That was awesome! But the really interesting thing was that the new frames I got had springs that bent the arms to the side when in trouble. They could get knocked off my face in a game of basketball and they still wouldn't break! Now all I needed to do was learn how to play basketball and I would be all set!

After learning about the frames with the stretchy springs I felt invincible! I even toyed with half wire frames that looked like they were held together by magic...but (spoiler alert) were really held together by tiny little clear plastic cord that I also never broke. For a while I got two frames that were exactly the same and simply traded new lenses for old every other year. This way I didn't have to pay for new frames at all and if I needed to wear my 'back-up' pair because I had broken a pair (yeah right) then nobody would notice at all! I still had them all in a cabinet in my room until I saw something that said I could donate old glasses to help people in need. I put a handful of perfectly usable old glasses into the box and hoped that a lot of people thought they would look retro in my old, old glasses. They were out of my hands...and off of my face.

And then jump ahead to this morning. There I am blindly reaching around for what turned out to be my glasses on the floor. I suppose you could say I found my glass on the floor since I found only part of what normally resides on my face. I gingerly picked up the frame and felt that there was a significantly different feel to them. One of the lenses had popped out and there was an odd angle to the frame. Pieces moved that had never moved before. I quickly ran through last night's bedtime. I was pretty tired. I was reading something. I must have fallen asleep with my glasses on and they broke at the edge of the frame. They feel really bent out of shape and the pieces that aren't connected feel sharp like broken metal. Darnit. Turn 50 and everything starts to go to heck. Oh well, guess I wasn't really planning on using that birthday money on anything else anyway.

I tried turned on my phone as a flashlight and tried to find all the pieces I would need to make them work for the day while hoping that it had just come undone somehow. I had visions of crawling around the floor squinting and looking for the tiniest screw known to mankind with the world's tiniest magnifying lens. And while I am at it. What kind of a cruel irony is it that the people who can see the least are expected to manipulate the things that require the best vision...while working on the thing that helps them see better! But I digress....

 I decided to go out and examine the twisted wreckage in the some serious light and I found one of the greatest boons to mankind that I have ever seen. The frame had simply come undone and, yes, the screw is now embedded in the hinge. While employing my trusty Swiss Army knife and its glasses screwdriver that lives in the corkscrew I was able to mend my broken life and am bespectacled again.

So that's it. My record still stands! I am the king of not breaking my glasses! Now if I could only remember where I put them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Squeaky Wheel

It was eleven o'clock at night, many years ago, and I had just realized that I had forgotten to put out the garbage cans...again. I swept through the house as quietly as I could so I wouldn't wake our two young kids or Sylvia, my wife. We were in an exceptionally stressful season in our lives and I wanted everyone to get as much sleep as possible.

When everything was gathered together I hit the button on the sectional two-car garage door and it squealed and squeaked and complained like normal. It had gotten so loud lately that I was thankful the neighbors hadn't complained about the noise or suggested strongly that we get it fixed. Money to do that just wasn't in the cards any time in the foreseeable future. I hoped that the noise wouldn't wake one of the kids, who would then call for mommy, which would set off an hour of glasses of water, tucked covers, and reassurances that everything would be alright and that it was time to go back to bed. I waited...silence.

I brought the three sorted cans to the curb and walked back to the garage. I hit the button to close the door and held my breath as I pressed my luck for the second time in only ten minutes. The usual high-pitched squealing as the metal wheels struggled down the tracks was different, more strained. Then the sound changed into something that was unusual and horrible. The door itself was stuck on one side but the motor kept trying to force it. The motor whined, the metal tracks groaned, and the squealing was unbearable. It was like fingernails on a chalkboard times three. In the time that it took me to take all of this in and reach for the button to stop this cacophony, the safety mechanism in the system had kicked in and reversed the door's direction. I was thankful.  At least the noise would stop.

Here is where the problem really began. As the door moved back up to its horizontal position over the garage I heard metal hitting the floor. I saw the corner closest to me begin to sag away from the track. Apparently the power of the motor against the jammed door had bent things out of shape. I quickly leaned into the house to see if there were any sounds from the children. I completely expected Sylvia to come walking out in her pink flowered robe squinting against the light to see what that horrible sound was. Thankfully, she never came.

I quickly assessed the situation and determined that one wheel had worked its way out of its holder and if I could just slide it back in I could probably maneuver the door into the closed position so I could finally go to bed. Thankfully, I thought, "I am a tall strong guy. No ladder needed. I'll just reach up and push the wheel back in as I push the door back onto the track. I really, really don't want to have to be dealing with this right now, but I got this." Brute strength had worked for me many times before. I grabbed the greasy wheel from the floor, stood under the hanging corner, and began to push it into place. Immediately, the other side of the door drooped as more metal parts came crashing to the floor ten feet away. Now one whole section of the door was dangling precariously over my head. I took a closer look and saw that the next panel's wheels were just barely hanging into their holders and the slightest movement in the wrong direction would pull them out too. Still I thought, "Maybe I got this." I adjusted my strategy and gently moved the door in the direction that would help the wheels stay on. That was when I heard something that sounded like an enormous fishing reel casting about fifty feet of metal cable. The sprocket that was attached to the spring had broken and all of the cable was now spilling all over the door. The door lurched in the wrong direction and another wheel fell to the ground. When the wheel and its components hit the floor, it sounded an awful lot like, "You really don't got this." Now I was worried.

It was now nearing midnight, I correctly determined that there was no possible way I could close this door by myself, and the only person I could think of to even remotely help me was blissfully asleep at the end of the hall.  Waking her wasn't even a remote option. I started thinking about possible solutions and none of them were good. I foolishly touched the newly hanging corner of the second section and its partner wheels squeaked out a warning. Not good.

I assessed the situation. We weren't living in a horrible neighborhood but the thought of leaving the garage door open all night, and leaving the house essentially open for anyone to just walk in, was not going to happen. I wouldn't be able to sleep if I stayed in the garage all night and the astoundingly challenging group of students in my special education classroom needed a teacher who was on top of his game to be effective and safe. I saw no way out. I looked at the uncoiled wire, the two broken pieces of door, the growing number of wheels and parts on the ground, and I quickly sank from worry to despair.

I gave up. Inside my mind I was like a rabbit cornered by a pack of wolves, eyes darting this way and that looking for a solution but realizing that everywhere I looked only spelled out doom. Outwardly, I sat down heavily on the step that led from the garage to the kitchen and buried my face in my hands. Prayer was not really something that came naturally to me. I could never really wrap my head around the fact that the God of the universe would concern himself with what was going on in my little life. I almost silently whispered, "God, I give up. I can't do it myself. I need help."

As the word "help" still hung in the air I heard a cheery, "Hey Jeff.  Need some help?"

Our mechanically inclined neighbor, Mark, was uncharacteristically out for a walk in the middle of the night and passed by our door as he was on his way home. In about ten minutes we were able to coerce the pieces back together well enough for the door to come down and lock into place so I could get a little sleep. I asked Mark if he had ever been an answer to prayer before. He laughed and shook his head. I shook his hand and thanked him for the help but I never did ask him why he was out walking around in the cold at midnight. I knew, God had sent him to me to show me what a simple prayer can do.  And these days? Well, I won't pray for rain unless I am holding an open umbrella.