Not the Thanksgiving I Hoped For

A week ago I was dreaming of today, waking up in Texas, snuggling with my nearly 18 month old grandson. I woke up to something completely different and totally unexpected. Brace yourselves, this is going to be a very long post . . .

Instead of a warm home filled with happy family and the wonderful smell of baking goodness, I find myself sniffling and shivering in a cold, mostly dark, mostly empty house.

A view of my ceiling where what little heat I have in this ‘great room’ is languishing.

It all started this past Monday the 25th. I fell asleep in my recliner in my cavernous and often chilly ‘great room’ which has a nearly twenty-foot ceiling. I woke up because I was shivering, yet I could hear the furnace fan blowing. I got up and stood on the vent directly over the furnace (located underneath the entryway by the steps leading to the upstairs bedrooms). The air coming out of the vent was cold. I woke up Terry on the way downstairs to the basement, where we tried various troubleshooting techniques with the furnace but ultimately gave up. I left a voice-mail with our heating repairman and went back to sleep wrapped in a throw. I called again a few minutes after eight o’clock and they assured me someone would be over to check the furnace that morning. I made arrangements to work from home.

The repairman arrived sometime between nine and ten in the morning. I escorted them to the basement and woke Terry up to monitor them. I had many meetings and conference calls schedule, so I retreated back to the great room, which doubles as my office until I motivate myself to clean out the second guest room. After an hour or so, the repairmen left, not having found a cause but oddly the furnace began working again on its own. I returned to my conference calls, despite a scratchy throat and an increasingly congested sinus cavity. By four o’clock I could barely keep from coughing and shivering so I took some Mucinex and went up to the guest bedroom for a nap.

Four hours later, I felt more miserable and wondered if I had a fever. Terry couldn’t locate a thermometer so I took some ibuprofen and buried myself under a quilt and a throw. I didn’t get much sleep as I was hot and cold and wheezing and coughing and just completely miserable. After twelve hours in bed, I relocated to the great room for a couple of hours, long enough to text my boss that I was sick as a dog and would not be working today. I took some more Mucinex and struggled back up to my quarantine room.

Another angle on where my heat gathers invisibly above me.

My husband is mad at me for contracting a virus so close to our planned annual trip. He’s also angry with me because he’s convinced I am negligent as a spouse of someone with a compromised immune system because I tempted fate by attending an after-work function last Thursday, a monthly Tolkien Society meeting on Friday and volunteering at the library on Saturday (in addition to my normal work commute and grocery shopping excursions). I’m officially ‘grounded’ until further notice.

By mid-morning (Tuesday the 26th) I’d decided I couldn’t risk exposing my grandson to whatever virus I’d contracted. It was terrible enough I had risked my husband’s life. I cancelled our hotel reservations and called the kennel to cancel boarding for our remaining Rottweiler, Lexy. I messaged my son various different ways (text, Discord, Hangouts) and then quarantined myself in the guest bedroom until the Mucinex wore off (another twelve hours in bed). During that time, Terry risked his health, again, to venture to the grocery store to buy supplies for the next few days, since we hadn’t planned on being in the house at all for a week. I asked for gelatin fruit cups, some non-acidic fruit juice and lots of soups. He obliged me, grudgingly.

After twenty four house of bed rest, I needed to stretch. I decided Mucinex (maximum strength) was not for me. I would rather suffer the symptoms than deal with the ‘bad trip’ side effects. I managed to eat a fruit cup and half a bowl of tomato soup over the course of four hours – the first thing I’d eaten since some time Monday mid-day. Not wanting to risk exposing my husband to my infected body and potentially all the germs I was leaving behind me in the kitchen and dining area, I retreated with my book to the guest bedroom and read myself to sleep.

Terry woke me up around midnight to let me know that the furnace was on the fritz again. I told him I would call the heating and air guys again first thing Wednesday morning and promptly fell back to sleep, at least until four o’clock, which seems to be my new five o’clock, at least since daylights savings time ended a few weeks ago.

The day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday the 27th, dawned not quite as cheerfully as Tuesday had. I checked the weather and saw it would be partly cloudy with a high in the 40s. I opened up the shades on the few east facing windows our house has and bided my time until I could call the furnace repair people. I decided now was as good a time as any to finish watching the final season of The Man in the High Castle. So I binge watched six episodes, stopping only briefly to make the call and to let them in (around 9:30-ish). I thought about writing a review of the final season or the entire series, but only fleetingly. I had high hopes for High Castle but most of them were dashed. Not all, but most. I will say that Helen Smith comes close to being a Samwise but her Frodo was too corrupted by power and there was no Gollum but her.

After a couple of hours of banging around in the basement, the repairman finally determined the source of the problem. A fuel valve or switch had gone from being lazy/slow to non-functional. He didn’t have one in stock at his shop. Terry asked for the part number (to keep them honest). Within an hour, they had called us back with good news and bad news.

The good news was a part had been located in Lenexa. The bad news was the price: $355. If we were willing to wait, a part could be shipped (at no cost) for $121, but would not arrive until Monday – five days away. Terry and I looked at each other, sighed, and said we would tough it out and wait until Monday. Terry went back to bed, and I went back to reading my book, A Woman of No Importance.

At two o’clock I ventured out to find another space heater. I wanted to buy a ceramic one, like I’d seen in action at my daughter’s home in late October. I also wanted to buy some window sealing kits as the patio door in the great room needs replaced and had several air leaks. I ventured into our local Westlake Ace Hardware store and also to the grocery store. If only it hadn’t been both the day before Thanksgiving AND senior discount day. So many people, so many carts, so little space in the aisles. I survived and returned home before four o’clock.

I installed the new heater in the kitchen, setting it to seventy degrees and oscillation back and forth between the kitchen area and the dining area. I had already installed our older radiator-like oil filled heater with a broken caster in the great room to take the chill off the room. The newer one was already installed in the family room, where Terry had quarantined himself away from me and my viruses. The only other space heater we had was in the master bedroom, which is also vaulted but usually stays warm since it’s in the highest part of the house and has the only south and west facing windows (for good solar heating).

Now, to see if the space heaters could keep the house a temperature where the pipes would not freeze (never really a concern in this house, but was previously a concern in our house in Wichita which was an old farm house with little to no insulation). The overnight low was forecast to be twenty seven degrees.

A drizzly dreary Thanksgiving morning (it’s sleeting)

Thanksgiving Day dawned just like I felt – drizzly and dreary. I was hundreds of miles away from where I wanted to be. I had a cold and I was cold. Well, I wasn’t that cold. The space heaters had kept the house to seventy degrees over night. The thermometer in the hallway upstairs read seventy-one degrees, but it’s at nearly the highest point in the house and heat rises. I had temporarily relocated the old oil filled heater to the guest bedroom but left the door open so the heat would radiate into the hallway and the main bathroom (door also left open).

My alarm woke me at 5:18 a.m. – something that hasn’t happened literally since October. I also realized I had not gotten myself a glass of water and that the air in the house was decidedly dry – especially since the whole house humidifier only works if the furnace fan is running and blowing warm air. I had to remedy that.

My stockpot full of water and a few ounces of vinegar (because we have very hard water in Kansas)

I dug out my stockpot and filled it full of tap water and a dash of vinegar. I set it to simmer/boil on my range. I also filled my tea kettle for my morning tea and oatmeal. Once it whistled, I steeped my English Breakfast loose leaf tea and a bowl of oatmeal and settled in to watch a corny Hallmark Christmas movie. Don’t judge. I needed a simple uncomplicated few moments before writing this blog post.

Before sitting down to write this post, I modified my blog header image to randomly display photos of my family, both living and fondly remembered, of my children, myself as a child, my grandparents and great grandparents and our own grandson. I tweeted a general Happy Thanksgiving message and made a similar small one here. I messaged with my offspring to arrange a video call for later today to substitute for our inability to be together in person on the one holiday a year I associate most with family – Thanksgiving.

I took one break while writing to make Lexy’s dog food. We’re experimenting to see if it’s more cost effective to just make her dog food instead of purchasing a lot of cans of specialized dog food. We’ve been buying beef roasts, organic carrots and potatoes and stewing them in the crockpot about once a week.

Lexy’s dog food: Home Made Beef Stew

Lexy loves it so much she refuses to eat any of the canned dog food we recently special ordered from I suspect we’ll be donating that to the local animal shelter soon.

Despite the disappointment of cancelling the trip to Texas, my sickness, the broken furnace, I have much to be grateful for.

  • Both of my parents are still alive. My husband lost both his parents over thirty years ago.
  • I have many aunts and uncles and cousins that I think of often but fail to communicate with often enough.
  • I have beautiful adult children and a grandson!
  • My husband, despite grounding me, is the love of my life.
  • I am employed and reasonably healthy (despite evidence to the contrary).
  • We own most of our house and it’s usually warm and cozy.
  • Lexy is slowing down, but she’s still with us and we love her fiercely.
  • Without the Internet, I would not be able to video-call my family on Thanksgiving day.
  • I have many friends who put up with me.

While this is definitely not the Thanksgiving I’d hoped for, thanks to Murphy’s Law, it is the Thanksgiving I have and for that, I’m grateful too.

May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.

Galadriel to Frodo; The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

2 thoughts on “Not the Thanksgiving I Hoped For”

  1. Wow. Sorry you got sick; glad Terry didn’t.
    We have a ceramic heater in our mater bath, which also has a high ceiling and insufficient heat even when the furnace works.
    Sorry you missed your trip.

    1. This is our fourth day without heat. Today, the sun returned with a stiff south wind, pushing the temperatures up close to sixty degrees. However, the wind has not laid off after the sunset so that is a mixed blessing for maintaining a cozy atmosphere with four space heaters in this house. Just two more days and hopefully we’ll have heat again. Oh, and no, Terry didn’t avoid the virus. He started showing symptoms late Thursday evening. Now we have to be vigilant that it doesn’t stay and take route in his lungs to avoid a trip to the hospital.

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