The slab of concrete that constitutes the southeast quadrant of our driveway has been askew for years. Its left side is uplifted about 3 inches, an offset that will send you sprawling occasionally, stumbling and cursing frequently. The slab is a victim of subduction in miniature, for beneath it are the now decaying roots of a tree. Or at least we hope they are decaying. Over the years, the tree earned the nickname Freddy Kruger for its relentless ability to wreak havoc and never die. When present in its original 40-foot glory, the largest branches would shatter and drop at the slightest provocation, targeting the neighbor’s cars with unnerving accuracy.
One day, a sketchy dude with a stringy blond pony tail and a neck tattoo appeared at the house and offered to cut the tree down. We said have at it. You’re the right guy to take Freddy out. Down he came, but not without scattering jagged remnants of his bad ole self about the neighborhood. Sketchy Dude struck back by pouring a nasty substance of unknown provenance on the now severed stump.
It didn’t work. In no time, Freddy arose from and around the stump, having transformed himself into a budding forest of Freddylings, some of which jauntily grew from the cracks along the driveway slab itself. We cut them down. They came back undaunted. We set a giant planter atop the stump, filled it with plants more acceptable to neighbors and driveway alike; Freddy grew around, through and over them. Eventually we called in the experts and had the stump ground deep into the earth. Take that, Freddy, we said. In response, he popped up next to the mailbox.
Walk past the subducted concrete and Freddy’s clonal progeny and you’ll reach a half flight of stairs leading to our front door. The stairs are not, as my father-in-law might say, up to code. They creak, they pop nails regularly, they issue soft threats of partial collapse. The lie beneath and just beyond a north-facing section of the roof, from which snow slowly melts, re-freezes, forms lethal icicles, and then coats the stairway with impenetrable frozen layers that remain weeks after the rest of town basks in warm winter sun. The phenomenon depends in part on a useless gutter system we should have replaced long ago, and is admittedly worsened by our unreliable show shoveling habits.
If you make it to the front door, try to do so in the daytime, for the motion-detector that activates the porch light is on a devious and unalterable sixty-second delay. Or longer. Or it might not work at all. The storm door is similarly touchy, having been bent (and, um, not fixed…) years prior; if it’s in a mood, it might hit you in the ass. And the doorknob on the main door….well, you get the idea.
Never have we so wanted to see the flaws that lead to our front door. If all continues as it has over the last thirty-six hours, it will happen tomorrow. We are out of ICU, Neva’s possible CSF leak has not recurred, and her fluid balance remains good. For the most part, she is back to her sassy and inquisitive self. Tomorrow, she will have the post-surgical splints removed from her nose, as well as a final blood draw. She won’t like either one at all, and they will be high-stress moments, for if a leak remains that’s when we’re most likely to see it. But if she passes those hurdles, home we go. We might even be tempted to give Freddy a hug.