Sunday, August 23, 2020

Don't Try This At Home

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published August 26, 2020] ©2020

Every parent I know would agree that they would sacrifice their lives in a heartbeat to save their child. Of course, we hope we never have to do it.  On spring morning in 1987, however, I was put to the actual test and look back at this incident more than a little awed at my bravery.  But two lingering questions have persisted.

On the night in question, I was already well into my fourth year as a divorced working mom, and the household members – Rory (almost 10), Henry (7) and me - were sound asleep.  All of a sudden I was awakened by the roar of a chain saw clearly coming from somewhere in the house accompanied by hysterical screams of indeterminate persons.  But the loudest screams of all were from my 7-year-old.  My heart beat went from 70 to 300 in a nanosecond.

I never even thought about calling 911.  Here’s why:

911: What is your emergency?

Inga:  Um, there’s someone in my house with a chainsaw hacking my child to bits! There’s also a bunch of other screaming people whose identity I’m unclear on.  So, could you come, like, quick?

No, my child was screaming for help and needed me now.

I’ve written recently that the master bedroom in our house was actually the former garage converted in a you-should-never-do-this conversion before we bought the house.  So to get to Henry’s bedroom, I needed to traverse the laundry room, kitchen, dining room, living room and hallway. I was aware that some sort of defensive weapon would probably be good even if not specifically designed for combat with a chainsaw and as I raced through the dining room, I grabbed a bat out of the sports bin by the front door.  (It was T-ball season.) I threw open Henry’s door and flipped on the light fully prepared to do physical battle with a crazed chainsaw-wielding psycho. 

Let me just repeat that line again.  I full believed I would be doing physical battle with chainsaw-wielding lunatic.  With a T-ball bat.

In fact, let me repeat that a third time, just in case you’re not getting it. I was fully willing to die trying to (probably futilely) save my child’s life.

I didn’t even want to guess how many limbs were still attached to Henry’s little body. But when I flipped on the light switch, the room was empty, except for Henry sitting up in bed screaming in terror.  A few feet away, however, was a boom box-style tape recorder plugged into the light timer and set for 4 a.m. blasting at full volume the sound track from what I presume was the Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

As you might imagine, my relief was indescribably profound. Even though they were already doing wonders with prosthetics, single parenthood was hard enough even with limbs.  I dropped the bat on the floor and furiously ripped the cord out of the timer. Poor Henry was still sobbing hysterically even after the chainsaw soundtrack and his fellow screamers were suddenly silenced. 

There was not a doubt in my mind who was behind this demonic scheme.  I stomped down the hallway to Rory’s room and literally hauled his astonishingly-soundly-sleeping form out of bed.  This kid was the heaviest sleeper in America.  We always had not one, but two, Wake-the-Dead alarm clocks in his room for school.

Seeing my enraged face, he immediately expressed dismay. “Oh, darn!  Did I miss it?”

Actually, he missed a lot of things over the next two weeks when he was completely grounded -  no TV (especially no TV), no friends, no nothing.  He thought this was entirely unfair since he had slept through the whole thing.  Should have set his own (2) alarm(s) for 4 a.m.  Next time!

I’ve written about Rory many times over the course of this column. Rory was adopted and pretty much my mantra of his life was “Who spawned this child????” His biological mother, when I finally met her in 2009, was mysteriously normal.

From the get-go, Rory was just diabolically creative, but particularly enjoyed terrorizing his mother and younger brother.  He especially loved re-enacting parts of horror movies.  Since I never let him watch those movies at my house, I could only assume he was being allowed to watch them on my ex-husband’s custody time.  And if I may say, in that era his father wouldn’t have minded lowering my life expectancy.

I mentioned at the beginning that this incident has left two lingering questions.

 First: where’s the gratitude???  I mean, seriously, Henry.  I was ready to die for you!

And secondly:  why don’t I have a heart condition?

While this was probably the most egregious horror movie re-enactment Rory ever pulled on me, it was hardly the only one.  Stay tuned next week for The Flashlight-Wielding Heavy-Footed Window-Scritching Intruder and The Ominous Silhouette at the Back Door.   They both still get my heart racing.

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