God, Get Me Out Of This Mess

MoneyWe dropped Chris off at school and sped toward the escrow office. Donna had to sign final papers for the sale of the building. This was happening way too fast. I’d been practicing the power of positive thinking. Positively hoping something would stop this trip.

I approached my boss and merely “suggested” that I was “considering” an extended vacation in Europe with my family. I was expecting him to freak out on me, but to my surprise he wasn’t even slightly phased. “We could work something out” he had the audacity to say.

There was no way the PBS station was going to let this happen. I’d been delivering shows consistently as promised from day one. Yet when I sheepishly approached the program director he assured me that repeats would be acceptable for five months. He even arranged to tag the old shows with the new cookbook offering so our books could start selling right away.

This wasn’t going my way.

We met with a counselor at the high school. I thought she’d be my savior. Instead, she enthusiastically supported the idea of our kids spending five months in Europe. She promised to arrange an independent study program for Alex and Jill. A traveler herself, she spent most of our meeting suggesting places to visit over there.

Getting Chris excused from fifth grade was annoyingly easy. Both his teacher and the school principal suggested that Chris use e-mail to update his class of his adventures. His teacher planned to hang a map in the classroom so his classmates could follow his travels.

I couldn’t get a break.

Our car was silent except for the sound of Donnas pencil scribbling across a yellow pad. She was working out the final expenses of the trip. She’d need a small fortune to pull this off. In addition to the travel costs, we’d have to set aside five mortgage payments and have enough left in savings to tide us over until my income started up again.

My stomach was a mess. I looked past the freeway into the blue sky above and hoped that God would get me out of this mess, just like he did before.

“Got it!” Donna finally said, thumping the eraser against her hand. She held up the pad and pointed to a number.

“No way. You really think you’ll get that much?” I was trying to hide my sarcasm.

She smiled nervously.

I found a parking spot just outside the building. I dropped some quarters in the meter figuring an hour would be sufficient. We walked slowly to the entrance. Donna held my arm tightly.

A woman greeted us at the counter. A loud buzzer went off and the door opened. We walked down a hallway among freshly dusted plastic plants. Our escrow officer waited for us at a small cubicle. She was an older woman who’d obviously been through this procedure hundreds of times. We sat down and went through the paperwork.

“And finally,” she declared handing Donna a clipboard. “You’ll need to sign for your check.”

With no detectable emotion, Donna signed her name. That was it.

Only fifteen minutes had passed on the meter. Donna remained quiet.

“How much?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Unlock my door.”

“Didn’t you see the amount when you . . “

“Unlock the door, Jeffery!”

“We jumped inside. She sat motionless in her seat, the green envelope clutched in her hands.

“I’m afraid to look”

We sat there for what seemed like an eternity. Muffled traffic was the only sound. Tearing paper finally broke the silence.

She pulled out the check and studied it. My heart pounded. She began to sob. My heart sunk - my feelings not what I’d anticipated at this moment of realizing a major trip for a family of five would simply cost too much. Rather than giddy with relief, I felt like a heel.

“I’m sorry, Babe” I finally said.

She opened her eyes and handed me the check. I read the amount. It was nearly twice the amount she’d written on the pad.

We’re going to Europe” she whispered.

NEXT: When Did I Say Yes



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