Monday, December 19, 2011

An unlikely vehicle for good news

My wife Kara and I stood on either side of the front door, watching the red beams of light streaking across our yard from the ambulance in our neighbor’s driveway.

“Should we see if there’s anything we can do?” I asked, already knowing that of course there wasn’t.

“I can see that your house is full of emergency medical personnel, but I just wanted to let you know that I got my lifesaving merit badge in tenth grade, in case you need me.”

So we watched for a few more moments, long enough to see a cop car roll into Jimmy’s driveway, then decided that we were inching towards crossing the line from concerned neighbors to gawkers, so we went back to the living room.

“I guess we could wait and see if he needs anything later,” Kara said.

I tried to picture a circumstance under which our checking in with Jimmy would be more helpful than intrusive.

“Anything I can do for you, Jimmy?” I’d ask.

“Oh, yeah, this devastating life event just reminded me – we need milk.  Think you could pick some up for us?” he’d reply.

In the end, we decided that the most neighborly thing to do would be to let Jimmy and his wife Christina have their privacy, then check in with them later.

A few nights after that, I took our dog out for a stroll and saw Jimmy in his garage, banging things around.  It seemed a good sign that he wasn’t wearing a full body cast, though we hadn’t seen Christina since that night.

“Hey, Jimmy!” I called out from halfway down his driveway.

“Whoa!  You scared me,” he said.  Someone should invent a wristwatch with one of those friendly little “I’m sneaking up behind you” bells that little girls and Dutch people have on their bikes.

“I saw the ambulance here the other night.  Just wanted to make sure you guys were okay,” I said.

“It was nothing.  I just had a little heart attack,” Jimmy replied, in the same way he might have said that he just had a little snack to tide him over ‘til dinner.

“Oh my god, Jimmy, are you serious?” I asked.

“No, no, no,” he said, laughing.  “I don’t think I’ve told you, but Christina’s pregnant.  She was having some pain, and we’re both worrywarts, so I called 911.  As soon as I dialed, I thought maybe I shouldn’t have done that.  They took her to the hospital, and we were back home in two hours.  She’s totally fine.”

This is their first pregnancy, so they’re understandably jumpy.  Kara is entering the sixth month of her second pregnancy, and after enduring all-day morning sickness, stretched ligaments and pinched nerves, we continue to be amazed that there are so many humans everywhere.  Seems like more people would have decided that they’d rather just get a pug instead.

“Christina has been sick for five months straight,” Jimmy said.  “She says, ‘I thought this was supposed to be a magical experience.  Except for the fact that there’s a baby at the end of this, there’s nothing magical about it.’”

Then he paused and said, “It’s good to be a guy sometimes, isn’t it?”

So instead of having a calamity next door, it turns out that we’re getting a new little neighbor.  As a nice coincidence, Christina and Kara are both due in April, so we won’t be the only ones in the neighborhood with our lights on at 3am this spring.

Misery might love company, but so does crazy baby-induced exhaustion.  And joy.

You can sneak up on Mike Todd at

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