Having our own house was an enormous responsibility, more than I could ever have asked for. Our three-bedroom, colorfully humble abode on Chautauqua proved more difficult than Kelsey, Hannah, or I could have ever expected.
It started with the landlady, Lynn, a strange woman of about 35, showing us an adorable yellow brick house in a prime location, just north of campus. My roommates and I realized there was something a bit off about Lynn at first, but did not initially think it would have too much of an effect on her interaction with the household and caring for us.
To say the least, we were wrong.
About a week after settling into our house, we started noticing the many odds and ends that needed to be taken care of: the broken fan blade in the living room, the light in the kitchen, the broken “dong” of a doorbell, a broken toilet. The list went on — a page and a half on, to be exact.
As any tenant would do, we decided it would be a good idea to bypass Lynn and her strange behavior and go straight to our house’s owner, her father-in-law Lyndol. A kind man, he had greeted us during our first roommate room-painting gathering (sea foam green, majestic gold, and lavender lily, to be exact) on a sweltering day over the summer.
“Hi, I’m Lyndol, the owner of the house,” he said in a grandfatherly voice, approaching Hannah. “I just wanted to come by and meet you girls. You’re painting this house an awfully mighty color spectrum.”
He was funny and sweet, and we liked him. We were comfortable with Lyndol, and while we complained relentlessly about the things that were wrong with the house, we understood we had to give him time.
It turned out that time was much less than Lyndol needed, or even had. On his first call back to me, which I missed, Lyndol informed me that he would not be able to tend to our needs immediately because he was starting chemotherapy that week.
Regardless, and maybe heartlessly, we wanted our house fixed. Immediately. After all, we believed it was Lyndol’s fault for not preparing his house for us to live in.
Lyndol’s son, Greg, showed up at our house only a few calls later. Greg, who frankly reminded us of the “scaly man fish” in the YouTube hit “Old Greg,” was a riot. Though our list had been made a long two weeks prior, he took everything on it and replaced it to the max: new light bulbs, new ceiling fan, and a new toilet.
After seeing that our washer and dryer worked properly, Greg told us that he would be out of town for a week’s vacation, but would stop by for a check-up upon his return. Greg was awesome, our newfound friend, and we knew we could count on him.
That is, until we found the water bugs. It was a terrible night when Lucifer, as we named the first one, arrived. The demon was found after pouring rains carried a few new unwanted creatures to our home. Lucifer was not killed until the next day, when we, eventually, found ten of his friends lurking around our “waters.”
A call to Greg was a priority early Friday morning; a house full of girls, and girly boy visitors, could not live in this filth, this mockery of a true home, infested with devils who, indeed, bit.
When we spoke to Greg, who took a sarcastic tone that afternoon, we were unaware of the grave consequences of Lyndol’s forewarned illness lying ahead. Greg suggested that, since there were “only” ten water bugs, we should be able to capture them by ourselves. Then he apologized for his quick wit, and told us the news.
Lyndol was in critical condition, in ICU in the Dallas Baptist Hospital, hanging on for dear life. The so-called getaway Greg had taken was to see his father during his final days. My roommates and I were devastated.
We truly had two forms of death on our hands. One, killing off the wretched insects infesting our life; the other, killing off a kind man, who probably had done many endearing things in his life that we would never know.
Death isn’t an easy subject for anyone, but in the rollercoaster of emotion that a 19-year-old girl faces, it is tragic. What were we supposed to do? Send flowers to the family? Attend the funeral? Pretend we didn’t know what was going on? And, the silly question: who are we going to make the rent checks out to now?
Though my roommates and I did not immediately act on any of these questions, I realized one crucial factor. Death is death. Maybe those water bugs were in charge of lesser bugs who looked to them for authority and nobility and to learn how to not be killed.
They might be small, but damn, they’ve got a lot of strength. I am sure Lyndol lived his life the exact same way.