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Chris Fabry
Married to Andrea since 1982. We have 9 children together and none apart. Our dog's name is Tebow.
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Where We Are Now

After finding and remediating mold twice in our Colorado home, we abandoned ship in October 2008. Because of the high levels of exposure, our entire family was affected. After months of seeing different specialists for all of the problems, we came to Arizona to begin comprehensive treatment to rid our bodies of the toxic buildup. In August 2009 we moved into a larger home, four bedrooms, south of Tucson, north of Mexico. I am doing my daily radio program/ writing from that location. Thanks for praying for us. We really feel it.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009
Given the choice between shopping for clothes and having shards of glass shoved in my eyes, I would ask one question: How many shards? I hate it. I loathe shopping for clothes, particularly by myself. I'd rather watch Mama Mia. Okay, maybe that's going too far.

Perhaps this stems from trips with my mother who dutifully took me to Huntington, WV every summer before school. It wasn't her fault, I know, but I still associate her with those trips and the invariable clothes Nazi who would say, "My, he's big for his age."

"We need that in a Husky size," my mother would say.

"Husky" is a dog word, not a people word. My face would flush, I'd grit my teeth and try on another pair of pants and walk out like a blimp with a lampshade. Once, when my brother was graduating from West Point, this must have been in 1974, my mother bought me a white suit coat with navy and red vertical stripes. I looked like an overfed polar bear. It was downright humiliating, but what did I know? I was 13.

Fast forward to last year. When we found mold in our house the second time, we threw out all our clothes. Everything. Shoes, socks, underwear, dress shirts, suits. If it was in the house and could be worn, it was bagged and thrown away. I miss some of those clothes, but I'll admit there was a certain freedom in tossing them. I was starting over. So I bought some shorts and sweats, the essentials. Then I had a wedding early last October (Tricia Boyle's) and I bought a new suit. It made me look slim and somewhat un-polar bear like. My daughter, Megan, went with me to pick out the shirts to go along with it and the shoes and the new belt and the socks...I don't want to think about it.

That suit, along with the new suitcase Andrea bought, is still in the garage, unpacked from that trip. Every stitch of clothes we bought is still in that house and will be destroyed when we are able to go back inside.

So I had to start over again. This time, however, I didn't purchase anything over $10. Seriously, it was just too horrifying to think I'd have to throw it away again. So I bought shorts and T-shirts, a big bag of white socks, and a pair of shoes. To this day, all my clothing fits in a laundry basket we keep in the corner of the closet. I have one pair of jeans and three dress shirts that were given to me.

Until last night.

I asked Andrea to go with me, but she was tired and it was clear by the noise in the house that the kids needed at least one parent to ride herd. I had to fight this battle alone. So off I went, steeling myself aginst the fashion headwinds.

First, I picked out the suit coat. I decided not to buy a suit--just couldn't go there. I found one I could afford, which wasn't my first choice but it was okay, then found the pants, then the shirt and the tie. I tried to think like the women in my life who say, "I love buying men's clothes. It's so fun." Tie a noose around my neck and throw me off the nearest bridge, this is anything but fun. This is torture. Guantanamo Bay sounds like a line of clothes to me. But I had to do it. I am going on a trip.

I asked one clerk who was changing the prices on everything in the store what he thought of the outfit. He was wearing an old, brown T-shirt and ratty jeans. I should have known. He looked them over like they were roadkill and said, "I don't know much about clothes, you better ask somebody else."

At that hour, there was no one else except the cashiers and I wasn't going to walk all the way to the front. When I rounded the corner I heard movement and thought there might be someone working back there. Before I even saw anyone I said, "Could you help me?"

It was another customer, a female, a little older than me but nicely dressed. "Sure," she said.

I showed her the shirt and coat, she put the shirt under the coat and then held the pants up. "Yeah, the black makes it more dressy looking and the khaki is more casual. Good choices!"

I felt like hugging her right there in hosiery, but I didn't. I just thanked her and wandered off to shoes.

If there's anything I hate worse than buying clothes, it's buying shoes because when I find the ones I want they're NEVER in my size. I know this is so foreign to most women. They can't understand my aversion to buying things I need. I don't understand it totally myself, but I know this is the way I am. Deep breath. Cleansing breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth.

I found the PERFECT shoes. The biggest they had were 9 1/2. If I only had European feet.

I settled for something $20 more than I wanted to spend and headed for the front.

There at the cash register was Mrs. Quintroll. I swear she looked like her. The lady from my childhood who owned the little General Store near my grandmother's house. Mrs. Q was nothing but bones and a little skin and all dentures. Her hair was as white as a ghost and her skin matched her pallid nature, like a little dose of sunshine would make her shrivel.

"You going on a trip?" the cashier said.

Wow, a psychic. "Yes, as a matter of fact I am."


"You want this coat in a bag?"


"That would be great."


"Where are you from?"


"Colorado, but we're living down here now."


"What brings you our way?"


I told her the short version, the one that just says toxic mold really fast and hopes she won't ask more questions.

She looked up at me with those sunken eyes Mrs. Q had. I sensed some connection and I don't know why, I just thought she wanted to know more. So I told her about the kids and their sickness. I told her about the house. I told her about our dogs. And there was a look on her face I'll never forget. A pain mixed with horror mixed with a knowledge of where I'd been.

"You had to put them both down?" she said.


A burly man walked up with a gym bag, crossed his arms and sighed. I tried not to look at him as I told her the story. "A friend of mine said you should never go alone to put down a dog."


"I had to do that with my lab. She was 18. The vet asked me how I was able to keep her that long and you know what I said? It was love. That's what I said. It was love."

She could tell the man was impatient, all cross-armed and turned head. I could tell she wanted to say more. She bagged my stuff and hit the register.

"Do you have your coupon?"

"No, I didn't get one."

"That's okay," she said. "I'll give you the senior citizen discount."

I smiled. "Thanks."

I signed my name, took the receipt, and gathered my wardrobe. The guy behind me pushed his gym bag over near the sensor and got out his wallet.

The cashier called to me as I headed out the door. "I'm real sorry for the trouble you've gone through." Pause. "God bless you and your family."

I nodded as I turned and heard the final blip. And for some reason I was glad I went shopping.


Donnamo said...

Love it Chris....some good writing!