The men from the boys….

Ok gang, it’s rubber meets the road time in Houston. I’m not kidding around. It doesn’t matter how native you are. In Houston. In August. It’s Hot. Thriving in Houston in August is what separates the men from the boys. And I’m not afraid to tell you. I’m a snot-nosed, whiny, lanky, pasty-white, prepubescent boy. I don’t thrive…I do well to just survive. And I take down anyone around me.

I moved to Houston in 1983 and haven’t really stopped complaining about the heat since. It really aggravates Ed…especially around the holidays when I wear birkenstockes and short pants to pick out the Christmas tree and complain about how it should be snowing and we should all be in a one-horse, open sleigh. He gets really defensive when I throw any snide comments Houston’s way. As if he personally developed the city and hand selected the weather. I don’t know where he gets his loyalty. The boy’s from the west coast. Hippy.

So I don’t spend a lot of time “outside” this month. Every year I tell myself if I can just get to September I’ll be ok….then I act all surprised that it’s just as hot in September as it is in August and I complain how we’re supposed to be jumping in big leaf piles and wearing cardigan sweaters in the evening when we talk our family walks.

“You didn’t tell me you grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting,” Ed moaned during one such rant and rave session.

“Why do you always stick up for Houston?” I whined.

“Why are you always so negative?” he threw back.

“Stop trying to change me!”

“I’m not trying to change you. But look at our neighbor across the street who mows the lawn once a week…even during what you affectionately call “hell month”.

Tu-chez. Our neighbor across the street IS awesome and if she wasn’t so dang nice I’d have to hate her because she really is so productive. She’s always doing yard work and exercising and other outdoorsy stuff. Even in August. We couldn’t ask for a nicer neighbor.

“But I saved her life, so really – it’s because of me that her lawn looks so good.” I countered.

And it’s even partially true. Wait – didn’t I tell you about the day I kind of saved my neighbor? It’s a great story and I’m actually the good guy in it.

I was upstairs in my “craft room” decluttering after I watched another episode of hoarders and afraid that my family would rat me out I figured I better get my act together. My friend Karen was helping because I’m clearly not capable of organizing on my own…which is entirely true. Because even during the cool Houston days of spring and even when I’m inside, I’m still pretty lazy.

I was looking at the window (for inspiration not because I was stalling) and saw my neighbor kind of crouched down under her garage door. I immediately knew something was wrong (because I’m super sleuthy like that) and also she was screaming and her son was running towards my house.

I leaped down my stairs and ran out the door to her. She had gotten both pointer fingers caught in between the door slates and they were completely flattened and undeniably stuck. My adrenaline had kicked in and I held up the door to alleviate some of the pressure while I was shouting orders to Karen (who completely freaked out and froze, by the way – thank GOD I was there!)

“Get a crowbar” I yelled at her. Because all of us stay-at-home, lady-folk have crowbars laying around all over the place. There were guys working on a house 2-doors down so I figured she’d come back with something. Not so much.

“They said they didn’t have one,” said Karen. Really, Karen’s not so good in a crisis situation. I mean, she can cook the hell out of a roast – but clearly was never cut out for emergency work.

“What the hell? Get something!” I yelled at her. (I later apologized. I mean – it’s not HER fault that she’s not as cool-headed as me). But when she came back with a paint can opener and one of the painter guys who kind of shrugged his shoulders as if to say – I did my best… I had to move on.

Thankfully a passerby walking her dog had a cell phone and I asked her to call 911 as I got my neighbor’s son to get me a flat head screwdriver. I wedged the screwdriver in between the panels and freed her fingers. The only problem was that she had stopped complaining about it hurting minutes before we got her out and I now that I could see her fingers I knew why. They were white and as flat as a piece of paper. She was in shock so she said she was fine, but I made her get in the my mini van and we drove to the hospital. It wasn’t until her husband met us there when she finally started to cry. I didn’t start until I got back in my van to drive home.

She is fine now but still mending. She gives me a weekly update regarding the color change and level of feeling in each finger and what nail has fallen off. She cracks me up as she walks around with her two pointer fingers in a constant state of “point” (And still – she continues to mow her lawn. I mean, really?!!!)

And she has given me way too much credit for helping her like I did. She brought over homemade sweets one day and a beautiful basket of bath products on another occasion. And she says that without my quick action she’s sure she would have lost her two fingers…a statement I always say “naaahhh – anybody would have done what I did,” but then add, “but her fingers were really white” (I mean, it can’t hurt for other neighbors to think I’m worth having around when I forget to bring in my trash can in a timely fashion or my dog gets loose…I mean, who wants to be the one to turn in the quick thinking in an emergency neighbor to the homeowner’s association, right?!)

But the reason why I started crying on the way home from the hospital that day was because of the incredible position I found myself in and how lucky I felt to be able to help someone in such a significant way. I mean, the truth is, really, anyone WOULD have done what I did…but God gave ME the opportunity to do it. And I saw it as a gift and it light a fire in my heart and made me want to help others…not only people with their fingers caught in their garage doors (but if you do find yourself in that specific situation I highly recommend that you call me, because I’ve proven myself to be quite good with that particular type of emergency!) but other things to – like saying something nice to a stranger, or holding a door open for someone at the market, or even, dare I say, gulp, not complaining about the Houston heat to my dear, sweet, hippy husband!

P.S. My neighbor also bakes well, too. Darn her!
P.S.S. My craft room is still a mess!

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  1. 1
    Michelle says:

    Amazing story, Jenn. You really are a hero, you know. It is amazing how, in a split second, we become a permanent part of someone's history … you are part of her story now. What a gift to both of you.

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