Michael Aronin, father of my children,
can get pixelated without even drinking,
as you can see from his shirt..
Photo, copyright: Teece Aronin
Preparations for the storm's arrival started Thursday night when I texted him from the grocery store:
Me: "Coke or Pepsi?"
Michael: "Pepsi please."
"That's just so she'll know what to sneak the poison into," his friend, Jeff warned him.
The next morning he called me at work:
Michael: "Are the roads really icy?"
Me: "Oh, I hope so."
Actually Michael and I get along very well almost all the time and with the weather predicted to be dicey we decided his visit would be a low-key weekend with him free to spend time at the house. That way he and the kids wouldn't be on the roads as much and they could enjoy time with him somewhere other than hotel rooms and restaurants.
Due to a birth accident, Michael has cerebral palsy and his mobility is extremely limited, so the next thing I said I really meant.
"Listen, I'm parking on the street, so when you get here, pull up as close to the house as you can; this morning the driveway was icy. Let us know before you get out of the car and we'll come help you in."
"Okay, no problem," he said. This was "Michael code" for "There's no way I'm calling you first so I can get help walking on the ice, but thank you anyway." Then he quipped:
"As long as you have good homeowner's insurance, I'm not worried. Besides, I probably won't fall."
"Yes, but anyone can take a tumble on ice - if they're pushed hard enough," I said.
He pulled up in front of the house later that afternoon and without letting us help, got out of the car with a huge grin on his face and his arms loaded with flowers and Christmas packages. There is no railing on my porch steps.
"Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait!" I hissed as our son, Jon and I scrambled down to help and even on ice and steps with no railing, he really didn't need our help. Within minutes he was in the house safe and sound where the only things that could hurt him were hardwood floors or an accidental smack in the head with a broom handle.
He posed with the kids and our dog in front of the fireplace, a robust fire crackling behind them. Then he uploaded the shots to Facebook. A friend, Bruce posted a comment that read, "Kids, your dad needs to be turned over; he's done on that side."
Michael went back to his hotel later that night, but not before posing for his picture wearing our daughter's coat and carrying my cane while trying to look like a pimp. This is hard for someone who's more pimple than pimp.
Of course I have a Facebook account too so I posted the picture. This is some of the exchange that followed:
Friend One: "Well, he does seem to have a nice smile . . . But he's an EX for a reason!"
Friend Two: "Good luck . . ."
Friend Three: "The humor abounds!"
Friend Four: "Had my husband's ex spend 17 days with us in a tiny apartment. There are no words."
Me (in reply to Friend Four): "There are saints who've accomplished less than that."
Friend Four (in reply to me): "And she is . . . interesting in an omgwtf kind of way."
Friend Five: "Ohhhhhhhh boy!"
Friend Six: "Don't you have locks on your doors?"
Me (in reply to Friend Six): "He slithers under doors."
Friend Seven: "No words . . . "
The plan was that Michael would stay until noon Sunday but with the weather getting worse and the airport almost two hours away, he decided he would take us all to dinner then head out and get a room near the airport. Before we left, Michael made a call-ahead to the restaurant to cut down on our wait. We took his rental and my car so he could head straight out from the restaurant.
The restaurant was packed and the rental car didn't have a handicap plate so Michael parked in a handicap space and hoped for the best. He was starting to get tired so he gave in and let Jon help him into the restaurant.
I stepped up to the hostess and told her of the call-ahead. She said the wait would be about 20 minutes. Then Michael asked if he needed to be concerned about the handicap space and explained that all the other spaces were too far for him to walk. Three restaurant staff, including the manager, stared back at him. One of them finally said, "I'm not saying anything. I don't know what to tell you."
Michael turned back to me. "It'll probably be okay."
"I can go move the car and then pull it up to the door after dinner," I offered.
"No, that's okay," but he sounded hesitant.
"Really, I don't mind. Give me the key and I'll be right back."
He had backed into the parking space so when I got into the car, although the design of the gear shift struck me as a little odd, with no PRNDL on it anywhere, I pulled out with no problem. The closest parking space was on the far side of the restaurant, way in the back.
As I started to pull into the space, I tried to back up to adjust my position and that's when it occurred to me that I'd forgotten the order of the gears; I couldn't remember PRNDL. Every time I tried to put the car in reverse it slipped closer to the parked car in front of it until I was afraid to keep trying for fear I'd tap the other car.
I got out of the rental car and looked. It was worse than I thought: the cars were touching. Neither of our kids drives yet so I called Michael and told him he had to come move the car. I felt awful knowing he was tired. Five minutes later he came bustling with Jon around the corner of the restaurant, actually outpacing our son, and trying not to look stressed; Michael always stresses out over rental cars.
"What went wrong?" he asked with a nervous laugh, and so I explained. "Okay, no problem. I can see how something like this could happen. Everything's going to be fine!" He was talking like a man whose ex-wife had just backed his rental car into Donald Trump's limo and was trying to believe everyone would pleasantly exchange insurance information.
He backed the car up then shifted into drive and pulled into the space.
"It's a good think I love you," he said. "And I really do, pal."
"I love you, too," I smiled.
We walked back into the restaurant where our daughter Syd was still waiting with the little vibrate-y light-up thing that goes off when your table's ready. But even in all the time her brother, her father and I had been cavorting in the parking lot, we still had no table. Michael stepped up to the hostess to ask what the wait time was now.
"About another 20 minutes," she told him. I looked around and all the benches were filled with people waiting for their tables. Not a soul appeared willing to make room for Michael whose disability is perfectly obvious. I got angry. I walked back to the hostess, stuck my nose in her face, and five minutes later we were comfortably seated in a nice, roomy corner booth.
I remembered how when we were married I was always getting mad about something he was having to deal with, mostly because it was stupid.
One night not long ago he, his wife, and stepson were eating dinner in a restaurant and overheard a man telling his table-mates about a coworker he said had CP. The man was making fun of his coworker's slow speech, another common characteristic of cerebral palsy.
When Michael and his family got up to leave, Michael approached the man's table, delighted at what he later described as the man's "Oh, fuck . . . " expression. Michael said, "It's okay. When we're alone, we make fun of you guys too."
Thinking about that story made me remember something else: Michael rarely needed help from me when we were married and he didn't much need it now.