I normally try hard not to complain too much. Complaining is like trying to talk about politics: It's pointless and just annoys everyone else. Although I often fail, in recent years I've tried to be either positive, funny, or quiet. I used to have a reputation for turning the things that go wrong in my life into humor columns, but I can't anymore because ... well, I'd getting ahead of myself.
But please indulge me, just this once.
Because it's been a really, really bad month.
Actually, the really bad month started last month, as my fourteen regular readers already know. Just before we left for Missouri to see the total solar eclipse, my wife and I learned that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. We did indeed get to see the eclipse, but that was, pardon me for saying, eclipsed by our worry over Jean Stroud's medical condition. We spent most of that week taking her to various medical places, and were there when she started chemo.
Then we came back to Indiana so that Emily and I could do our jobs, only to rush back over Labor Day weekend when things took a very rapid, very unexpected turn for the worse. It turns out her cancer had progressed much further than any of us realized, and she passed away while we were driving somewhere through west central Indiana.
Honestly, that's not something I'm ready to talk about yet.
Now, I could probably turn everything else that happened in September into a humor column, because it was all small stuff of the type we're not supposed to sweat. But when you're already in a state of shock, and the stuff just keeps on happening, one after another, it just can't be made funny.
I should consider us lucky we didn't get into an accident, like we did last September. That ended in splints, X-rays, and car shopping. I'd thought it as bad as a vacation could get, until this September. This one turned into the vacation they schedule in Hell, and what follows is just a sample.
But no accident, although we had a close encounter with a coyote. We drove some five thousand miles over the course of four weeks, most of it in the last couple of weeks. And we drove most of it while sick.
Emily got it first. Nothing accompanies settling your mother's affairs like a bad head cold. We made two trips to and from to arrange and hold a memorial, and to take care of a thousand details, most of which had to be done by Emily as the only child. Those trips were done with frequent Kleenex breaks. I did my best to be a supportive spouse, until I was also felled by little warrior germs that set up shop in my sinuses, then invaded my lungs.
All that driving. After it was over, the chiropractor could identify the model and make of our car by the bends in my spine. By the way, I've made that 500 mile trip for a decade, and have seriously never seen as much road construction along the route.
In the middle of it, we had to come back to Indiana because we'd previously signed up for an author appearance and didn't want to be no-shows. That was on a Friday, and Emily took advantage to work her saddle barn job on Saturday and Sunday before we headed back south. Believe me, she made more money there than we did as authors.
In fact, my author aspirations took quite a hit during September. We sold only a few books that Friday (although we handed out some business cards and bookmarks, which often lead to sales). A few days later I got my publisher's first sales report on my newest novel, Radio Red. Between its release in April and the end of June, the sales made me ... cry. It's the worse opening of my nine books.
Oh, and the newspaper that ran my column stopped publishing, so I no longer have a home for "Slightly Off the Mark".
At least that gave us a little time to watch TV. With a planned vacation, we'd set the DVR to record the shows starting up in September, and had hours of unwatched shows already recorded. Emily was at work when that last straw went dark and permanently dead, falling on my last nerve. She missed the horror-movie screaming noises that came from ... someone ... after the good people at Mediacom said they'd speed a technician our way in only a week or so.
All minor stuff, really. TV shows? You can catch up with them online. Poor book sales? My next novel is just around the corner. Illnesses pass, spines recover, and our car gets really good gas mileage. The dog slept for about twelve hours straight after we returned the last time, but now he's good as new.
It's just that stuff builds up, sometimes.
I don't know. Maybe the hardest thing after the memorial was cleaning out Jean's storage unit. Not because of the 90+ degree heat, dust, and spiders, but because you're suddenly going through memories at a time when it's most painful. We had to start three times, and in the end brought some boxes home into the air conditioning to be looked after later.
They say you have to go through bad times to appreciate the good times, and if that's so I'm feeling pretty darned appreciative. So, okay ... rough month. But if you've been watching the news at all, you know that everyone's been having a pretty rough month. Now and then we all need to vent a little.