The Baby Gate Crisis

During Darlene’s increasingly serious medical events in October 2010, a minor crisis arose that would become a comical part of our family’s folklore. This episode is remembered affectionately within our family as “the baby gate crisis.”

Darlene’s sixty-fifth birthday on November 3 was approaching, and I was uncharacteristically planning ahead. She was pleased when I told her on October 8 that I was going to buy a flat screen, high-definition TV for her birthday. We expected the new TV to enhance our evenings of movie watching. As it turned out, I didn’t buy her a flat screen TV. Something more urgent was on her mind.

Our daughters were planning to visit on October 20, and Darlene became obsessed with concern that the two toddlers, Ben and Clara, might fall down the stairs that led to our second floor. With Darlene’s prodding and over a period of three weeks, I bought several adjustable gates, one after the other, to block access to the stairs at the top and also the bottom. The stairs could not be blocked at the top by any of the commercial safety gates I kept buying, testing, and returning, rather than shopping for and buying that flat screen TV.

I knew Darlene would not rest until the children were protected from our stairs. I promised her I would solve the problem somehow, but nothing I said calmed her worries. I was at the brink of drilling holes in the hallway wall at the top of the stairs to install some sort of crude, heavy-duty gate of my own design. It would have been about the quality of a farm gate or an industrial barrier, but it was all I could think of to do.

Matt and Kathryn were the ones who finally resolved the baby gate crisis. During their visit on the weekend of October 15, I told them of the various baby gates I had bought. I told them about my plan to drill holes in the wall and install some sort of gate at the top of the stairs. They listened earnestly, possibly suppressing feelings of alarm at our frenzy. They may even have suppressed laughter about my plan for a homemade baby gate.

Thankfully they pointed out the obvious. Our first two grandkids, Jake and Sam, had never toppled down the stairs. Ben and Clara, both a year old, would be in direct parental care at all times and would not have access to the stairs. They also said that we could even use a couple of baby gates to confine kids in upstairs bedrooms if necessary (and it never was necessary).

Darlene was persuaded by Matt and Kathryn’s calm reasoning, and the baby gate crisis was over. Apparently she trusted the advice of pediatric specialists over that of an aging, retired economist.

By the time the baby gate crisis ended, it was too late to get that flat screen TV for Darlene’s sixty-fifth birthday. Events suddenly moved too swiftly.

This is a chapter from The Summertime of Our Lives, the life story of Darlene Kardatzke. It will be available on Amazon in early 2019.

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