Sunday, October 10, 2010


I always had a more than competent man in my life to handle things like automobile maintenance, indoor plumbing, broken door knobs, a bad fuse. But on my own it's a  major challenge just mounting a frame on a wall — I'm deathly afraid of my own power drill.

The ultimate feeble single mom moment came last week. It was we-haul-away-everything trash day and I had a dewsy. Months earlier (could it even have been a year?) I sorted through boxes of family photographs for choice images to scan and put on a photo disc. The task was happily completed, but what to do with all of the rejects? I started to throw them away, but the rubbermaid container I dumped them in was soooo heavy. Also it'd be like throwing away memories — not the picture-perfect ones — but memories just the same. And where to put it? I have a small living space: no garage, and only a small storage closet on the side of my house, currently overflowing with Christmas and Halloween decorations. It sat under my back porch for, um, over a year.

Months ago I was in the backyard, noticed the container, and lifted the lid. It was just after a hard rain and water had seeped in. The pics were ruined, and the box was really heavy. Why I didn't deal with it at the time, I don't know, but I reduced the situation to a note to self: drain container and put out on big-item trash day.

Three big-item trash days later was Thursday of last week. I wish I could describe the stench that eluded from that rubbermaid container as I tipped it over in the backyard. Who knew that a combination of acetate and standing water could create something so toxic? It filled the yard and house, I couldn't get it off my hands, and the kids were gagging. I hauled the noxious two-ton container the edge of the curb. Surely the trashmen would permanently remove it from our lives.  I got some on my pants and shoes and smelled it all day.

Later that morning I get a call at work from my property manager. Mission Disposal informed my landlords they wouldn't pick up the potentially toxic material. The property manager said the owners wanted me to know never to put anything like that out in the trash again and suggested I take it to a toxic waste facility. Yeah, like when will I have time to do that? I was sure they were all convinced I was operating a meth lab from my home.  I sat there at my desk and cried. I was mad at myself, my situation. Toxic seemed a most accurate term for everything in my life at that particular moment in time.

After writing this shitty first draft last night, I got up, turned around, and noticed a framed photo of my brother —  his high school senior portrait. Gosh, I miss him! Here I am whining about taking out the trash, when he was forced to endure toxicities of the most horrible kind. Living with full blown AIDS for almost 10 years, he transitioned from one "cocktail" to the next when the drugs became ineffective, brought his oxygen tank to work just so he could function, and endured months at a time of not working when the disease became really bad — all pretty much on his own with a couple of major heartbreaks along the way. In the end, along with the frustrations of his rapidly deteriorating mind and body and loss of independence (by nature he was independent to a fault), he had to come to terms with his inevitable demise — where would he be when this was all over?

So I wonder, who's more oppressed? The sufferers of AIDS, cancer, heart conditions, physical abuse, etc. etc. who are going through more than their share of hell on earth? Or we, the survivors, who must  exhibit strength during their pain, and in worse-case-scenario carry on feeling the constant void of their absence? I'm thinking the former. Life is rough and sometimes all I can do is cry at my desk. But I have my health, and for some reason my God's given me the the means to enjoy awesome sunset at the end of the day, a cool glass of wine, the daily joys my children give me, family that's there for me no matter what, creative outlets, romance, meaningful chats with my girlfriends, good food, great music. I think it's called grace.

I called the toxic waste facility and asked if they'd accept the stinky package. "That's just acetate. We don't consider it toxic," he said, "Just put it in a sealed bag in your regular trash can and they'll take it." Which they did when I put it out a few days ago (in an anonymous dumpster in town, haha!)

So NOT toxic. Sometimes words of wisdom from come from the unlikeliest of sources. Thanks for the reality check, toxic waste facility guy.

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