She picked a fine time to leave us

Published 10:51 pm Friday, May 4, 2018

She’s been with us for a while now — 14 years to be exact. She was just a few years old when we first met her.

She always did what was asked. She worked hard. She never complained. She made the many journeys as our family moved around Mississippi through the years, and was there when we packed the truck for North Carolina and then back again.

She’s been a faithful member of the Horton family, but she chose the worst possible time to die.

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It was Thursday when she first started complaining loudly. We immediately knew something was wrong.

There had been a few whines and odd noises in recent months, and maybe a few erratic movements. But she kept dutifully working so we didn’t think much about it.

Later Thursday night, when we desperately needed her services, she was lifeless, cold and dark.

Our youngest child awoke to the ravages of a stomach virus late Thursday. The contents of her small stomach were spilled all over her bed, and the floor, and the rug. It was a horrid mess. We cleaned her up and made a pallet for her in our bedroom, where she again emptied what remained in her stomach — on our floor, and on the clean blankets and pillows under her.

We gathered the messy linens and carried them to our faithful helper, but she wouldn’t move. We begged her. We got no response.

We left the pile of soiled clothes in the laundry room and went back to bed. The scene repeated itself a couple more times that night — the sick child fell asleep on clean blankets and woke to wet, soiled bedding. And we again carried those dirty linens to the laundry room, our helper still cold and lifeless. The smell of the virus-stained laundry was starting to grow. The stench was no longer contained to the laundry room; it was seeping down the hallway and into the rest of the house.

Early Friday, the second child to fall victim to the stomach virus paid us a visit in our bedroom. He emptied his stomach all over our floor — and all over his younger sister, who was sleeping on the pallet next to our bed.

Again, we gathered the dirty bedding and dropped it on our laundry room floor. Again, our faithful worker was lifeless. She was still.

In a frenzy, I rushed to replace her later that morning. The work had to be done and we couldn’t do it alone. There was no sadness. There were no tears. She had done her job well as long as she could. I loaded her broken body onto a dolly, and wheeled her into the garage, her back turned toward us in perpetual defeat.

I spent all of 15 minutes deciding how to replace her. I took a few recommendations and then purchased a brand new washing machine. It’s a white top-loader, just like the old, dead one now parked in the garage. It doesn’t squeak and whine. It doesn’t shake and move across the floor. It’s quiet and efficient, and her lid is clear so the kids can stare at their puke-stained clothes as they spin around.

I was told they don’t make washing machines like our old one anymore. The new ones will break, can’t be fixed and, in general, just aren’t made like they used to be. Our old one served my in-laws well for a few years before it became ours. It spent 20 years washing clothes, the last 10 or so of those years were especially hard given the volume of laundry that moves through a house with five children.

I don’t expect to get 20 years out of our new one. But when it eventually dies, I hope it finds a better time to do it.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at