On October 11th, I was standing in the Denver airport, having just spent four exhausting but incredible days writing my guts out on my memoir, Hell is for Children, in Estes Park. I’d done some intense trauma work with two other beautiful women in this process and was emotionally drained, but satisfied with the path I was on that will end in a completed manuscript.
I’d also seen a bunch of elk, which was very cool.
That day, I’d driven around Denver and caught up with my dear friend Matt, who left Portland four years ago.
And I finally met Megan Nico DiLullo in person after having first met on The Nervous Breakdown 7 years ago. As per the custom of our people, we had to get a photograph with fake mustaches attached to our face perineums (which is what we chose to call the divot between the nose and the upper lip).
By the time I arrived at the airport, I was spent. Ready to process the last five days of my life, but uneager to return to Real Life. After passing through security, I was watching the sky outside the windows of the airport turn dark with the approaching storm, and feeling very much like I didn’t want to return to the Pacific Northwest. I don’t mean to my children, cat, job, friends – but to the dark skies and constant drizzle. The desert is where my heart is.
But then, as the announcement that my flight was boarding came, my phone rang. It was my son, Indigo, one of my two nearly-15-year-old twin boys. He was at Dad’s house for the week, but happened by my house to grab a warmer jacket. “Hey, mom. I just came by your house to grab something,” he said. “The backdoor is standing wide open. Do you know why?”
It was my turn to get in line, and I was in a hurry, so I brushed it off. Actually, it didn’t even really register. I’d had friends come by throughout my time away to administer medicine to my cat, so I knew the house had been checked on. “Huh. No, that’s weird,” I told Indigo.
“I hope we didn’t get robbed,” he said. I could hear him moving through the house.
“Indigo,” I said as I was zipping up my backpack, “I’m sure we didn’t get robbed.”
There was silence, then he shouted, frantic, “Oh my god! Mom! They took everything!”
As I moved slowly toward the line to board the plane, Indigo went room to room detailing with increased horror and shock all of the items that were missing. His and his brother’s computers, monitors, mice, keyboards; the WiiU and “all the stuff”; the tool box (it was an amazing collection of tools – the last gift my ex-husband, my sons’ dad, gave me before I left our marriage forever, which I’d added to over the last decade of being a single mom who needed to rely on her own two hands and wit to vanquish clogged toilets and accidental holes in walls); my computer; and “all of our keys” – including the key to my car, which just randomly happened to be on the dryer. (Once I got home, I found that my jewelry box had also been taken. Nothing in there was of much resale value, but all of it had immeasurable emotional value – the Black Hills gold Harley Davidson ring from my beautiful Aunt Sunny. The silver and turquoise ring from a beloved man, long dead. The gold and pearl broach from my great grandma. The cameo ring I stole from Kmart when I was 15, which I kept as a reminder of the one time I shoplifted.)
Indigo was panicked and I was boarding a plane. Quickly, I called my new hero and old friend, Barret, and arranged for him to go over to my house to help my son, my young man, file a police report. I made all kinds of other arrangements. I was still on the phone as I walked onto the plane trying to coordinate way too many things at one time. The flight attendant (one of the funniest flight attendants I’ve ever seen), said something to me, which I missed, and then he said, “Do you want me to call you to repeat what I just said?” referring, of course, to the fact that I was walking into a plane on my phone.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, “I just found out that my home was robbed and I’m trying to sort things out before I have to shut this off.”
He rushed me to a seat near the front, informed the two people sitting by the window and in the aisle that I would need to join them in the middle, and then told me to let him know what more he could do. I thanked him, finished my phone call, then powered down my electronics, freaked out that I was about to be in the air for two and a half hours without a way to check on my children and home. Home. My heart was no longer in the desert, you see. It had been so anchored there not an hour earlier, but suddenly all of me – heart, mind, and soul – was back in the PacNW and all I wanted was for my body to get there, too, as soon as possible.
I began babbling to my aisle-mates, a string of thoughts and oversharing – my house has been robbed I’m sorry I was on the phone I might be a little freaked out I just found out I’ve been here for five days working on my book my friend is on his way over oh god they took my computer all of my life oh god…
Judy, the woman next to the window, about 20 years my senior, assured me that I should try to keep my mind off it. I realized I was a mess and that I was exploding all this energy out into an enormous blast zone, so I tried to quiet down. But as the flight attendant began his hilarious announcements (“Smoking isn’t allowed on the plane, so if you want to smoke, please step out onto the wing.” “If for any reason you’re unsatisfied with today’s service, please feel free to access any of the four exits on this aircraft.”) he mentioned that there would be Wi-Fi available.
Look, I’ll be honest with you – I had traveled on this writing retreat on a shoestring budget, and I knew I had only $32 left in my checking account to get me through until Friday. This was a choice I made going into it, but I was worried about any extra expenses. On the other hand, I had two and a half hours and needed to be in Portland in any way possible long before then.
About 20 minutes into the flight, the announcement that I could turn on my computer and log into Wi-Fi finally came. I scurried to bend down and grab my work laptop out of my backpack, but when I bent down to get it, my earring somehow became entangled on my sweater. I tried to sit up, laptop in hand, but I was stuck. I freed my hands and tried to disentangle my earring from my shirt but couldn’t get it. I was stuck. I started laughing. Hard. Life is so fucking absurd sometimes. I looked over at Judy, my new bff, and said, “Hey, Judy. I’m stuck. I can’t move. Can you please help me unhook my earring from shirt?”
She began helping but couldn’t figure out how I was hung up. She started laughing, too. “How the hell did you even manage this,” she asked.
I laughed harder. “I have no idea, I said.
“When we get to Portland, tell me what direction you’re driving home in,” she told me. “I want to make sure I go in the opposite direction.”
I started laughing even harder – laughing so hard tears came out of my eyes. Once the tears started, though, I cried for real. Really hard, but briefly. I regained my composure, got my laptop going, bought the $8 Wi-Fi connection and went to work.
I got a hold of Barret and got updates on the conversation with him, Indigo, and the detective, who was still there. I contacted numerous people. I spent a long time changing every password I could change. I made sure my cat was safe. And on and on. Fingers flying furiously. In the midst of all this, I checked Facebook – where I’d posted a spontaneous post in between phone calls while waiting in line at the gate in Denver. It was a curse-filled, panicked post that basically said, “Holy shit, I’ve been robbed of everything…” (quoting what Indigo had just said, since to him his computer, which he was building by hand, really was everything)”…and now I have to fly home.”
But in checking Facebook, I found what in the end turned out to be over 60 comments from people all over – an overwhelming outpouring of love and offers of help. I also found that a GoFundMe campaign had been started by my friend Shell Feijo moments after my post. And then there was a new shock, the kind that comes from being pushed out of an airplane without a parachute, but then watching the softest landing ever possible being built underneath you as the ground rapidly approaches. I watched the donations pour in. “Well, now I can afford this Wi-Fi” was the only thought I could muster at the time.
But now, less than 48 hours after this campaign was started, it’s just about nearly sunk in what happened here. This is what happened: a shitstorm of personal tragedy was immediately transformed into no more than an annoyance. And even then, the gratitude is so huge that it eclipses any bad feelings about this awful situation. Yesterday, I stayed home and filed a claim with my renter’s insurance (which should cover some, but by no means all, of the lost items), called my landlord, called the police detective, and fielded emails, texts, and phone calls from family and friends (again, gratitude). But I also had a locksmith come out and re-key all the locks on my house – $125 that won’t be covered by renter’s insurance. Tomorrow, I’m taking my car into the locksmith to have the door and the ignition re-keyed – another $310 in expenses that won’t be covered. I also made arrangements for some additional security measures (window braces, etc.)
And here are the best parts: The first is that I no longer had only $24 in my account. I had an infusion of money from the universe and it wasn’t a question at all about whether I could afford to have my house and car re-keyed, nor whether I should delay. The second best part is that late last night, before bedtime, when my sons called to check on me, they went from nervous and freaked out to calm and assured. Yes, guys, when you come home our house will be secured. Nope, no one will be able to steal our car. Yes, you’ll get all of your electronics back. Yes, we can afford to re-buy the games you had downloaded. Yes, yes, yes. By the time I got off the phone with them, it was clear that they were more at ease than they’d been in over 24 hours. I heard today that they both slept through the night last night.
And that, my friends, my allies, my amazing, beautiful inhabitants of my life, is all because of you. Your gifts of money have literally bought my sons peace of mind. That’s more valuable than anything that was lost in this annoying instance of violation. Your offers of support, kind words, and various levels of assistance have buoyed me. My god. Thank you. This is the softest landing possible. I’m overwhelmed in gratitude.
My heart to all of yours.