Keep Calm and Dottering on, Even in the Face of the Latest Domestic Crisis

Back in the day when I was a carefree young woman, so long ago I don’t remember what decade that might have been, there were all those articles one was supposed to clip and save about life’s worst stresses.

Published June 7, 2012 5:26 PM
5 min read


keepcalm-thumbBack in the day when I was a carefree young woman, so long ago I don’t remember what decade that might have been, there were all those articles one was supposed to clip and save about life’s worst stresses.

By Robin Jovanovich


keepcalmBack in the day when I was a carefree young woman, so long ago I don’t remember what decade that might have been, there were all those articles one was supposed to clip and save about life’s worst stresses. These included, but were not restricted to, serious illness or death of a loved one, loss of a job or insurance coverage, moving, and national disasters.


Be not afraid was my view. I may have always lacked confidence in myself, but never in my ability to ward off dangers and protect my family from black widow spiders and rattlers. We simply never went camping overnight or spent a lot of time in regions where such creatures were running loose. We visited zoos, museums, well-groomed beaches, and of course, the Disney parks, where the biggest danger was being mowed down by oversized Americans who had had one too many Big Gulps.


Life went along. We survived our older son’s debilitating bout with Lyme disease when he was 6. We moved six times in a decade. The wonder years were all too quickly replaced by the teen-age years. And they were much worse than the terrible two’s. That’s why T. Berry Brazelton never covered those years.


I remember just getting in the car, like John Updike’s Rabbit, and never wanting to stop. The trouble was I didn’t smoke and had to go home to make sure the dog was safe. I didn’t want to talk to anyone because in a perfect community like ours, how could you admit you’d screwed up as a parent, that your beautiful boys had become people you didn’t know and that you were scared they wouldn’t live to have a future and go through real life crises?


How could our boys have troubles when we’d talked to them, made sure they knew all the state capitals — and birds at one time, encouraged them to look up when they were visiting cities, read everything by E. B. White to them, played car games, had movie nights (maybe we shouldn’t have let them watch “The French Connection” when they were 8 and 10) with home-popped popcorn and Mike and Ike’s on the good carpet where we’d snuggled and all fallen asleep under the covers, taken them everywhere, never let them have TVs in their rooms, told them the brutal truth about life as we knew it, and loved them more than it was possible to love?


But troubles our boys had. We can almost laugh about those times with our sons now —they’re  32 and almost 34.


Their dad got sick in 2001, was diagnosed with an idiopathic but fatal lung disease in 2002, and we were told to prepare for the worst in 2003. He was lucky to be the recipient of two much younger and healthier lungs in 2004. The reader, the true intellectual of the family, then lost his eyesight for a year. We got audiotapes from NY State and the library, but he was so angry and sad that the books he’d collected and treasured were going to be just possessions, not the good friends they’d been for over 55 years. At last count, we had some 3,000 volumes — most of our children’s books, the children’s childrens’ books, the books we received as school prizes, histories, biographies, the classics, even the books autographed by authors we’re unlikely to read again.


But my husband regained his eyesight, a few months after he was told by the head of a major eye hospital that he never would. He looks like a man who’s never been touched by illness. And while I know he still dreams of the great publishing work he’d be doing if he hadn’t had to retire for health reasons, we seemed to be doing okay again.


True, our retirement plan wasn’t looking rosy and we’d finally come to grips with the fact that our home won’t fetch the price we’d counted on when we finally have to downsize, but we were feeling lucky. We were still ambulatory, had adopted a great dog, our boys visit, and I’ve even been asked to help decorate their tiny city apartments.


The newspaper business may not be humming along as it was in the day, but so far the reputation of The Rye Record is better than many a Murdoch paper.


We have an unstated rule in our house that we should never utter, “I think we’re in a good place.” One of us must have secretly thought it because this spring we were the victims of identity theft. Who would want to be us, was my first thought… My second was, doesn’t that only happen to senior citizens (forgetting that were are in that category).


But how does such a thing happen, when I rarely bought anything online, having vowed to support our local businesses and stores. And what did we have that they could have wanted? Isn’t it enough to have your own life to deal with?


Without the extraordinary help of Maria at Chase, we might have just given up and said to the hacker, “Take our life, please!” This one (or ones) was quite determined. Apparently, he realized going to work every day was a real stress inducer, and why pay into Social Security when it may not provide those promised benefits down the road. In our case, the as-yet unknown individual opened up dozens of new accounts and got close to taking out loans in our name. The kind Rye Police officer who was given our case said to us, “Yours is one of the worst cases we’ve seen, Mr. and Mrs. J.”


A few days later our email was hacked into. The technology experts we hired scratched their heads at first. We’re still trying to rebuild our address books. There are days I can’t remember any of our new passwords because none has any special meaning. The case file we have fills a large desk drawer.


Things were getting back to normal until last week. We hired a firm to redo our garage floor (which never recovered from Tropical Storm Irene). They had to move a 400-pound refrigerator and an old custom-made cabinet outside for a few days while the floor dried. They shrink-wrapped them to protect from the elements. I called to remind the firm that they needed to move the items back in.


The next morning the birds awoke me and the dog early, so we decided to go for a pre-dawn run. We never made it past the garage. The refrigerator was gone, and the two cases of wine in it When I went to the Police Station that afternoon to report the theft, the officer on duty just raised his eyebrows and asked me to fill out the report questionnaire.


I wanted to say, “My refrigerator was running,” but he’d probably heard that line before.


If I were coming up with the Top 10 Stress Inducers, I’d add Stolen Property That Your Insurance Company Will Never Reimburse You For, Wall Street Wizardry That Only Helps Their Platinum Card Circle, Identity Theft, and Deadlines, one of which is calling.


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