Sometimes Fate Knocks On Your Door
PART I: THE BAKE CAKING NOTICE
My husband left me for the other woman again. How can I compete with the Middle East? For a military wife days feel like months and months feel like years, but this is what I signed up for. Our marriage has taken a back seat plenty of times just to sacrifice for our family. I should appreciate his service to our country, but I’d be the first to admit I can be a very selfish wife.
I’m the odd man out with the kids again. Unfortunately, once their father is gone, I run somewhat a bed and breakfast. The kids sleep and have breakfast here, but I rarely see them any other part of the day. In a desperate attempt to bribe them to dinner, I entice them by making their favorite meals. My oldest can’t resist seafood quesadillas, barbeque chicken pizza sends the middle child running and the youngest you can’t go wrong with Philly cheese steaks. However, I usually suffer defeat because they have better plans with their friends.
Today Gabby (the middle child), decides to break the silence in between us by telling me at the last minute I have to bake treats for her fundraiser at school. My mission, if I choose to accept it, will be ditching my Saturday off, then returning to motherhood to complete an exhausting assignment of making one hundred caramel swirl brownies and seventy five assorted cupcakes.
I order Gabby to help me since she did not give me enough notice, but she turns me down citing she has track practice. There is no guilt on Gabby’s conscience, not even a thank you or please graces her ungrateful trap. I raised her better than that, but flying off the handle will not make the treats bake any faster. I bite the bullet and accept the task of baking madness.
It is now a balmy Saturday morning and I have to slave over the stove. Regretfully I’m a bit touchy this morning and I miss my honey. I push through the separation pain and start the brownies. No sooner than I slip the first batch into the oven the door bell rings.
“It’s always something!”, I growl.
I open the door to see Sonny, the mail man staring back at me.
“Good morning Mrs. Valor”, Sonny grins.
“Good morning Sonny”, I mumble back.
To really appreciate Sonny you have to be accustomed to his happy-go-lucky, hunky dory disposition. If you annoy easily it may be a good idea to steer clear of his wide blinding smile and his fizzy energy . It doesn’t help the fact that he is sweet on me.
“I’ve got a letter that needs your John Hancock”, Sonny happily notes.
“Okay…..”, I say with a drawn out pause.
Sonny hands over a form for me to sign as I try not to over analyze this “important” letter.
“Umm…something smells good in there”, Sonny speaks while taking in a big whiff.
“I’m baking brownies and cupcakes for my daughter’s bake sale”, I quickly chat while returning his clipboard.
“If you need help just call Dixie and she’ll be over in a jiffy”, Sonny suggests with enough pep to wake the neighbors.
“Thanks for the offer, but I think I can handle it”, I respond.
I snatch the letter out of Sonny’s hands, wish him well and swiftly shut the front door to avoid his endless motor boat mouth. His wife Dixie is on my DO NOT CALL LIST. While she means well, she will talk more than pick up a finger to help.
I take one long look at the letter then toss it aside, I’ve got too much on my plate right now.
Batch after batch I bake, giving a time check every few minutes to see how fast I can get this done.
Finally seven hours later I collapse in bake off fever, but I completed my mission.
I have no intentions to make dinner after the cooking marathon…even after the oldest calls and tells me he’s got a special request for dinner.
“ I’ve just about had it ! I’m not a catering service and I’m not ordering pizza again, the kids will have to eat what’s here. They have plenty of options that a third world starving child would kill over. There’s cereal, canned soups, frozen egg rolls, lunchmeat for sandwiches and leftover pot roast in the Tupperware. Man, the kids don’t know how good they have it and when their father returns this time things are going to change around here!”, I speak underneath my breath.
After sticking to my guns during the kids sobbing over fend for yourself night , I start a load of laundry and clean up the kitchen. Its kind of late, but I decide to channel surf for awhile until I feel drowsy. Just when I feel comfortable, I remember the letter I have to open up.
“I’m really too tired for this and I have to “volunteer” for the bake sale Gabby signed me up for”, I think with a snippy attitude.
I swipe the letter from the foyer table and read it on a soft spot on my sectional. This is what I read:
JUNEAU ANCHORAGE TRUST LIFE INSURANCE CO.
PO BOX 12128
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA 99501
Date: September 23rd 2000
Date of Loss: September 3rd 2000
Policy Holder: Arthur Kennington
Beneficiary: Roxanne Kennington-Valor
Relationship To Policy Holder: Sibling
Claim # 222211877598
Approval Code: JHX257B
Dear Mrs. Roxanne Kennington-Valor,
On behalf of Juneau Anchorage Trust we are saddened to hear about your loss. Mr. Arthur Kennington’s claim has been approved for a lump sum payment of one hundred and seventy five thousand dollars according to his policy provisions at time of loss. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your enclosed certified check or policy under writing please contact me. Thank you for allowing us to service your life insurance needs.
Claims Account Rep
I never knew what speechless met until now. This is indeed the strangest thing that has ever happened to me. Was this a scam? Or someone is getting fired for a do not blame the computer mistake (I’m an only child folks! ).
It’s late on Saturday night, I have to wait until Monday to question this outrageous entitlement.
PART II: DOWN TO THE NITTY GRITTY
The thought of this letter starts to torment me once I decide to retire for the night. Assumptions are flying so high they knock down my counting sheep like a duck hunter.
“One sheep, two sheep…SCAM…three sheep, four sheep…FRAUD…five sheep, six sheep DIRTY BAD WOLF… Oh! Enough with it! Time to call my mother for answers”, I speak while flinging my body pillow across the room.
I call my mother in the still of the night with nothing to lose. God knows I don’t want to wake her in the middle of her “beauty sleep”, but this can’t wait.
My mother answers the phone on the first ring….I know right away something is wrong.
“Mom, are you okay?”, I ask.
“Screwball and I had another fight. He’s sleeping on the couch with the dog where he belongs”, my mother grunts.
“Is this a bad time?”, I ask.
“It’s okay honey…what’s on your mind?”, my mother asks while recuperating .
“I got the strangest letter today from a life insurance company out of Alaska”, I begin.
“Oh…”, my mother comments lending me her burning ear.
“Yup…and apparently my “brother” Arthur listed me as his beneficiary. Now I’m stuck with this big life insurance check and I was hoping you could fill in the blanks for me”, I explain.
“I don’t know how I can help”, my mother softly responds.
“Are you sure I’m the only child?”, I ask.
“Honey, I promise you that you’re my only child. I wanted to give you a brother or sister, but there were so many miscarriages, I just couldn’t bare anymore children sweet pea”, my mother convinces.
“Okay…well I have to look elsewhere for an answer”, I say.
I talk to my mother for a little while about her upcoming retirement, her planned trip to Thailand with her new husband Roy and we talk about my husband for a bit. We then end the call quietly and I feel like I have permission to experience a toss and turn sleep.
I wish daddy were here so I could bother him, but sadly I don’t have the luxury to do so. So many uncomfortable questions…Did daddy have a love child? Did daddy know about Mother’s miscarriages?
PART III: REALITY CHECK
On Monday I call Wallace Taft at Juneau Anchorage Trust Life Insurance Co. This is how it went:
“Wallace Taft Claims Account Specialist, How may I help you today?”, Wallace speaks in a pleasant tone.
“Hello, my name is Roxanne Kennington-Valor and I’m calling in regards to a claim”, I say while focusing not to bombard him with too many questions.
“Sure I’d be happy to assist you with that, I just need a bit of information from you”, Wallace asks.
I precede to give him all the information he requests from the letter and I wait for him to respond.
“I have located the account, what can I do for you?”, Wallace asks.
“This may sound strange but your company made a big mistake. You sent me a life insurance check and I have never heard of an Arthur Kennington, nor I am his sibling…I know this because I am the only child”, I firmly reveal.
“Okay, bear with me while I’ll pull up your personal profile page”, Wallace speaks. He doesn’t sound not even a teeny weenie bit nervous, in fact he sounds very confident.
A moment later Wallace recites the beneficiary information they have on file and confirms every little detail with me, everything is a perfect match. My full name, DOB, last four of my social, occupation, full address, telephone number and even my nickname “Anne on the Rocks”.
“Everything is correct, but again I’m positive this was sent to me in error because I HAVE NO BROTHER!”, I stress… now a bit agitated.
“Hum…I see well I can turn this over to my manager for investigation, but I assure you everything was verified at the time of the policy under writing”, Wallace persists.
“What should I do in the mean time?”, I ask.
“Just hold on to everything in a safe place until the investigation is completed…which may take up to sixteen weeks, then we will contact you with further instructions”, Wallace speaks.
I hang up without any answer. Everything is ridiculous…Wallace was basically force feeding a life insurance check down my throat. There are many things I can do with one hundred and seventy five thousand dollars, but it won’t buy me a good nights sleep or be in the good graces of the Lord. Of course the way I have been treated…I should deposit the check as my consolation prize of what I have to put up with when my husband is away.
PART IV: ARE YOU KIDDING ME !
Next Saturday around 7:00a.m. the door bell rings. This time it is on my endangered species list of sleep in days. I’m enraged!
“For once I would like to see what 9:00 a.m. looks like on my alarm clock!”, I yell.
Once disturbed, every waking second is against me, even the snooze button doesn’t seem to give me a few seconds longer lost in between the sheets.
Then I hear my youngest make his way to the kitchen, now I have no choice but to stay up and answer the door.
I trample down the stairs nearly tripping over a pair of shoes laying carelessly in my path.
After allowing the door bell to ring for about the twentieth time, I open it grouchier than ever.
“Well…what do you know…its none other than Sonny side up!”, I think with rolling eyes.
“This better be good”, I huff at Sonny.
“I don’t mean to cause a wrinkle in your day, but I’ve got another letter that needs your scriba doodle”, Sonny confirms with more chipper in his step than a Broadway musical number.
“Alright lets get this over with”, I huff again.
I sign the dang thing and practically throw it back at Sonny.
“Have a good day!”, Sonny sings.
“Yeah…Yeah”, I say and then I slam the door before I give him the chance to babble.
This time I decide to open the letter immediately, even as my spoiled children shout to make breakfast.
I quickly read the letter and it almost becomes the latest victim of the junk pile trash. Juneau Anchorage Trust Life Insurance Co has the gull to send me yet another letter with a certified check. This time I’m a beneficiary for Mae Kennington “my sister” that I don’t have.
The letter is a duplicate I received for Arthur except for a different claim/approval number and money amount.
“You’ve got to be kidding me”, I sigh.
I realize that this problem is not going away, but I didn’t know what to do to fix it. The life insurance amount is getting larger, Mae was insured for three hundred thousand. Temptation was brewing…Oh how I deserve the money. Keeping the money was all I could think about for the next few days until I just slipped the letter and check with the other one into a safe place.
PART V: REVELATIONS
A few weeks go by and I soon forget about the letters and certified checks collecting dust in my filing cabinet.
Today is a Saturday again, a rare one since I was able to sleep in. My oldest asks me if his new friend can come over to play football in the back yard. I am apprehensive because I don’t know the kid nor his parents, but I make an exception where I never had before. I even offer to make grilled burgers for lunch. I have no idea what came over me in that moment.
While cleaning out the garage to make room for decorations, my son introduces me to his new friend…something he had never done before.
“Hey mom…this is my twin brother Keith”, my son laughs.
“Twin?”, I question.
“Yeah…hello we have the same name”, my son points out.
I meet Keith and there is an instantaneous likeability factor about him. This feels rather strange since I usually disapprove of my son’s friends.
When it comes time to eat the burgers we all gather around the table and the conversation begins.
“Man…this house brings back memories”, Keith mentions while chewing on his burger.
“Excuse me”, I say
“What…he didn’t tell you I used to live here a few years ago” Keith confesses.
“No…he failed to bring that to my attention”, I answer not thinking anything of it.
“Sorry mom…we didn’t want to creep you out having the same name and all”, my son comforts.
“So you guys have the same first name…hate to break it to you, but that is nothing new”, I smile while eating my burger.
“So mom you’re saying having friends with the same first and last name happens everyday?”, my son asks. He is obviously showing off in front of his friend.
“Give your mom credit…Valor could be a very popular last name in these parts, but I only know of us”, Keith laughs.
“Wait a second…I think I missed something. You guys have the same names…I mean completely the same?”, I ask.
“Yep…even our middle names mom…even our middle names”, my son Keith carries on.
Suddenly everything clicks…I have to ask Keith about his mother, she may be the answer to the life insurance riddle.
“Let’s play more ball”, Keith speaks.
“No, stay right here”, I speak.
“What did I do?”, my son asks.
“Nothing…I just want to ask your friend Keith one question”, I justify.
“Can it wait mom…it looks like its going to rain and we want to get a little more ball in”, my son asks.
“No… I’m afraid this can’t wait. Keith what is your mother’s maiden name?”, I ask.
“Kennington”, Keith answers without a flinch.
“Okay…please just answer one more question for me…did you have an Uncle Arthur and Aunt Mae that passed away recently?”, I delicately ask
“Yeah…but wait…how did you know that?”, Keith asks.
“It’s a long and interesting story…one that I need to share with your mother”, I state.
Keith calls his mother over and I sit with her. She is a little reserved at first but opens up to me after I tell her about the life insurance checks. I hand over the letters and checks to her. She collapses in a mix of grief and joy. She now has the funds to pay for all the final expenses for her siblings that passed away within five days of each other after a horrible car crash with a drunk driver.
Roxanne explains to me that she called to change her address and phone number with the insurance company, but they were having some technical issues with their software and failed to send her the paperwork to get her information changed.
We talk for hours and find out that if there was such a thing as parallel universe, we are living in it. We have so much in common, yet we are a mirror image of each other. Even our husbands have the same names.
When our husbands returned I hosted a welcome home party for both families. Again after much talk we found out a lot about one another:
My Family: Mother still alive, father passed.
Her Family: Father still alive, mother passed.
My Family: Have two sons and one daughter
Her Family: two daughters one son (all children have the same first, middle and last name).
My Family: Born and raised on the West Coast
Her Family: Born and raised on the East Coast
My Family: Husband in Army 17 years
Her Family: Husband in Navy 17 years
There were too many other complete opposite/identical elements in our families to list. We did conclude after researching our family trees with a fine tooth comb that we were not related, but we felt like family anyway. Their family found the missing part of their hearts all these years and my children finally found appreciation for the things they had because their “parallel family” have had to do without.
If Roxanne never would of received the checks…her siblings funerals and plots would have never been paid, their family may have been forced into bankruptcy and the children’s college fund would no longer exist.
They say everyone has a double…someone who looks the same, acts the same, but has no family ties. I am fortunate to meet my double…she and her family complete ours.