Monday, March 07, 2011

The case of the missing birth certificate -- or -- When should visiting adult children book a hotel?

Older Daughter has not been up to Chicago since Christmas (see, Christmas with Rodent & the Curmudgeon clan -- Part I -- In which every dog shall have its way) and she had fixated upon this past weekend for her visit.

There are a couple of problems with designating a particular weekend for an inter-city visit (Older Daughter and her husband, Hank, reside in Indianapolis). The first of these is that, all too often, despite all best wishes and efforts, germs or virii will come to visit along with the family. If you recall, at Christmas, it was Hank who came down with a fever while staying at our home.

The second problem is more general, and arises whenever an adult child and spouse come calling: Where are they to stay? If I had a stately English country home, like the ones in Jane Austen's novels -- or even P.G. Wodehouse's -- putting someone up for a weekend would be no problem. But, alas, I'm not certain whether even the English have stately English country homes anymore, aside, possibly, from the Royals or Paul McCartney. I certainly have no such accommodations.

We did hit upon a solution at one point (see, Curmudgeon acquires a futon to solve a family dilemma) but events of the weekend just past are causing me to rethink the whole idea of just how much hospitality I should extend to visiting adult children.

The problem started Thursday. Long Suffering Spouse started the day feeling poorly. Last week was a particularly tough week since Youngest Son had to be at school by 5:30am for varsity baseball tryouts Monday through Thursday. I know I occasionally exaggerate in these essays for comic effect, but in this case I am serious: The kid actually had to be at school by 5:30am. Then, because he is a returning varsity player, he was expected to help out with the freshman tryouts after school. On Tuesday evening, the baseball team (though not yet finally selected) went as a group to the varsity basketball regional game in a far northwest suburb. On Wednesday evening the team (still not yet finally selected) went as a group to the wake of a player's mother who'd died suddenly. When he got home he could start his homework.

Not surprisingly, Long Suffering Spouse and I were pressed into service as backup alarm clocks for the boy. Adrenaline got him moving on Monday, but our assistance was increasingly required on each succeeding day. So we were up early, too.

And Tuesday Younger Daughter came down with some sort of massive eye infection. (She lives at her college but it is in a nearby Chicago suburb.) I was home Tuesday morning when she called to tell me that a problem was developing -- neither of us could have imagined then just how ugly it would get -- and I volunteered to take her to the doctor. (She eventually looked like she'd lost a bar fight to a brute with a terrible cold.) "No," she said, "I have an appointment with the school nurse this afternoon." The school nurse can write prescriptions. "Fine," I said, and went on my merry way.

That afternoon, though, as I was headed out to Wheaton on actual legal business, I got urgent phone calls from my wife and Younger Daughter: The eye was nearly swollen shut and could I divert on my way home to stop and pick up my daughter's prescription at the pharmacy near campus? My child desperately needed my reassuring paternal presence, er, charge card.

Because I still harbor hopes of getting back to the original narrative thread before nightfall, I will spare you the details of this mission, except to note that the nurse had either botched the prescription or the pharmacist could not understand the nurse's intent and, after an inordinate delay, I wound up at the doctor's office as I'd volunteered to in the morning... only eight hours later.

I don't think either of these events directly caused Long Suffering Spouse's illness Thursday, although the stress and fatigue may have rendered her more susceptible. I suspect that what did her in was a project at her school. Last week, Long Suffering Spouse was out in the parking lot every morning supervising volunteers from her junior high homeroom as they escorted preschoolers from their parents' cars into the school. The presence of teachers and "big kids" helping the little guys navigate keeps the traffic flowing in the mornings because anxious parents of preschoolers don't feel the need to park and walk the kids in themselves.

The problem is that preschoolers have a breathtaking range of germs and illnesses that they trade with each other the way kids in my day used to trade baseball cards. We built collections; they build immune systems. Outsiders, though, and my wife would count for this purpose because the junior high is on the other side of the school building from the preschoolers, are pretty much doomed.

So, by Thursday morning, Long Suffering Spouse was feeling punk. I had the van again because I had to take Younger Daughter to a follow-up doctor visit. I was in the office at lunchtime, though, when I spoke with my bride: She had declined perceptibly. We planned that I would come get her just as soon as the school day ended. "What about Older Daughter's visit?" I asked.

"I can't worry about the weekend yet," my wife said. "I have to see if I can make it to school tomorrow first."

* * * * * * * * * * * *
I got Younger Daughter to her doctor's appointment and returned her to her dormitory. I was on my way back home when Older Daughter called.

"Are you home by any chance?" she asked.

"No, but I'm on my way. Why?"

Older Daughter, it seemed, was at the DMV trying to get her driver's license corrected, something she needed to do to get her passport renewed. I'd provide the details but I never really understood the problem. It had something to do with whether or not her middle name would be spelled out in full on the passport. The one thing that Older Daughter was absolutely clear about was that she would need her birth certificate scanned and sent to her. She planned to wait in line until I sent it to her.

Unfortunately, there are railroad tracks that cross my route home from Younger Daughter's school. Sometimes freight traffic operates on these tracks. Such was the case on Thursday afternoon. The gates went down moments after I'd completed my conversation with Older Daughter.

The gates had just gone up, and I had just resumed my homeward journey, when Older Daughter called again. "Are you home yet?"

I promised, faithfully, that I would call her just as soon as I got there.

I finally pulled in the driveway and the phone rang again.

No -- I know what you were thinking -- and you're wrong. This time it was Long Suffering Spouse. She was ready to be picked up.

I backed out of the driveway.

There are times when cell phones drive me bonkers.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
I didn't even take my coat off. I got Long Suffering Spouse into the house and ran upstairs to the file cabinet where we keep all the kids' papers.

I didn't make it in time: The phone rang before I got the drawer open.

"I'm pulling your folder out now," I told Older Daughter.

I am the pack rat of the family. But though my wife is much better than I am about throwing things out, she's kept a lot of souvenirs for each kid. Older Daughter's folder was bulging with grammar school report cards; Christmas and Mother's Day cards in all their Crayoned glory; certificates from band and choir; test results; achievement awards of all sorts; official records of Older Daughter's Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation -- but no birth certificate.

I provided Older Daughter with a play-by-play description of my search of her folder. She told me it must be there. After a second futile search, I decided to go through everyone else's folder. Maybe it had been misfiled.

I found Oldest Son's birth certificate right away. I found Younger Daughter's. There were multiple copies of birth certificates in the folders for Middle Son and Youngest Son; they'd needed birth certificates for various baseball tournaments over the years. I couldn't find Older Daughter's.

"Is it possible that you took it out when you were getting married because you needed it for something?" It seemed a reasonable question: She needed paperwork both for the civil license and for both the Catholic and Episcopal Pre-Cana sessions. (Hank's an Episcopalian, you may recall.) But Older Daughter was adamant. "No," she said.

"I'm sorry," I said, "but I've gone through everything and it's not here."

"That's alright," she said, "I'll find it when I come over." Besides, she added, I'd waited too long; the office where she'd been loitering all this time was about to close. "I have to go now," she said. "I'll see you tomorrow."

* * * * * * * * * * * *
Long Suffering Spouse, shivering from a fever, had, in the meantime, pulled the file she kept on Older Daughter's wedding, and was poring through its contents in a futile search to find the missing birth certificate. "There's one more place I can look," she said, and she struggled to rise from her chair.

"Stop it," I said. I can pick up a certified copy at the County Clerk's office tomorrow, I told her. "Just sit."

"Did you tell her I was sick?"

"I did." I even told her that she might want to reconsider her plans to visit because of Long Suffering Spouse's illness.

"What did she say?"

"She said she'd call you when she got home to see how you were feeling."


* * * * * * * * * * * *
We didn't want to forbid our daughter to visit. She'd been looking forward to it. And she and her husband had made plans to visit others while they were here. One of Hank's buddies from college was recently engaged; there was to be a party in a western suburb Saturday night.

"Why don't they stay in a hotel?" I suggested.

"They don't have any money --"

I cut Long Suffering Spouse off. "They're both working now," I said. "They both make good money."

"They're saving up for a vacation," Long Suffering Spouse protested.

"Exhibit A for my side," I said. Long Suffering Spouse and I don't take vacations. We couldn't possibly afford it.

"There's no place to stay," Long Suffering Spouse began, but her voice trailed off even as she said it: We live in the shadow of O'Hare International Airport. There are a million hotel rooms within a few miles' distance of our front door. So Long Suffering Spouse regrouped. "She won't do it," my wife said.

"Why not?" I asked. "She and Hank can come over as often as they want, but we don't have to clean up nearly as much and you can get some rest. And they can have their privacy and come and go as they please."

"She won't do it," my wife repeated.

"Even when we explain that you're ill? Good heavens, she doesn't need to get sick. And Hank was sick the last time he was here."

My wife just looked at me. It was my turn to try and regroup. "OK, fine, we'll just present the facts and let her make a mature decision. She is, after all, an adult."

"She won't stay at a hotel," my wife said. Well, maybe we should stay in a hotel then, I thought, but did not say, because my wife would remind me that we could not afford it.

Well, you know the rest: I presented the unhappy facts to Older Daughter without gloss or sugar-coating. Long Suffering Spouse (who never gets sick) was ill and might not even go into work in the morning. (She didn't. She couldn't.) We didn't want Older Daughter or Hank to get whatever crud is in our house. "I want it noted for the record that we have made full and complete disclosure," I said and Older Daughter acknowledged that we had.

But she and Hank came anyway. And they stayed at our house. We worked around them as best we could. Long Suffering Spouse is back at school this morning, although she's still queasy. And I'm here at the Undisclosed Location... and sinking fast.

I will bet large sums that Older Daughter will not come down with this loathsome disease, however, and even larger sums that, if she does, she will never admit where she got it.

* * * * * * * * * * * *
There is a denouement to all this.

I did pick up a certified copy of Older Daughter's birth certificate Friday afternoon in the office of the Cook County Clerk. I picked up two, in fact. I gave one to Hank as soon as I walked in the door on Friday evening, explaining to him that I would be keeping the other against the day that she loses the one I just handed over. Hank was saying something like, "That's a good plan," when Older Daughter swept into the room checking to see what we were up to.

I explained that I'd just given Hank a certified copy of the birth certificate for safe keeping.

"Oh, that," said Older Daughter. "Didn't I tell you?"

"Tell me what?"

"After I hung up with you, I went and found the supervisor again and explained everything again. And he agreed to let me have the license corrected without the birth certificate after all."

The poor man just probably wanted to go home....

1 comment:

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

oh rats curmy, just rats...

smiles, bee