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My 'arson' threat reaps 'reward'

It was a spring day in 1993. Everything was wrong in my world. My husband was in Shady Lane Nursing Home, having several seizures a day sometimes, often so severe it seemed he was not going to revive, so they called me and I would rush in.

I was in the process of selling the farm (cleaning a five-bedroom house out of 46 years worth of possessions), and finding an apartment to rent.

A shoulder never stopped hurting, the result of a rotary cuff injured from many times pulling my husband up after a fall. Did I mention my car, not that old, threatened to stop every 20 miles? It left mechanics in several garages scratching their heads for the problem.

When a doctor said, "Hey, you're headed for a breakdown," I didn't have time to be tranquil and burned his prescription.

Now that you've got the picture, I'll tell you what happened: Tired, after putting in a full day at work and almost sleepless nights, I stopped off on my way home at a local business to pay a bill.

Making small-talk, I mentioned that days were not long enough, that I had to get home and wipe up a kitchen floor that had been sorely neglected amid all the big problems. I ended the conversation saying, "Maybe I'll just burn the joint down."

This left a secretary, fairly new in town, in a quandary. One of her customers sounded violent, threatening to burn her house down. What should she do? The papers are full of such stories all the time. She might even shoot herself.

The secretary settled on calling Mike Gibson, Shady Lane administrator, who knows my kids. After hearing the problem, I assume Mike said "Ethelyn? I talked to her this morning. She did, huh? Hmmmm, I didn't think she sounded any fuzzier than usual, but I know she has a lot of problems. I'll check in with Arlen, thanks."

During the next several hours 18 long distance calls were made back and forth between kids, grandkids, neighbors and a doctor. They called everybody but the dog catcher and me.

They'd say, "Hi, have you seen mom/Ethelyn lately? Did she seem like always? Sounds like she's been sayin', you know, some funny things. Yeah, I hear what you're sayin'. With her, it is kind of hard to tell."

The next morning, a Saturday, they all descended. They came with casseroles to bake or freeze, dug into my desk to see where I stood with my bills since my mind had gone bad, said, "Don't you worry none, mom. We're here now. We'll get all this straightened out an' do your business for you from now on. You just ask us 'cause we're going to take care of everything."

By mid-afternoon I'd had enough. I yelled: "What's the matter with you kids? You are all crazier than a batch of bed bugs!"

Dead silence, then one of them said: "She must be getting better. She sounds like always to me."

A bit of explanation and, after a long laugh, it got straightened out. I was never so glad to see a bunch leave in my life.

I kept the food they'd brought me, put the papers where they belonged back in my desk, and took a nap. The following week a car less than a year old took the place of the lemon I had been trying to drive.

Actually, the secretary was a very caring person, interested in others. I should have brought her roses.

The moral to this story is whenever things seem to keep crowding in, when you can't handle one more thing, threaten to burn your house down.

Then again, don't.