Ready: The mystery of exploding windows and the thief of memories

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

Last week I wrote how fortunate I was that my baby granddaughter was not in her car seat when the side window exploded, sending shards of glass all over the spot where she normally would have been sitting.

I mentioned that another window in my Mercury Mountaineer had shattered inexplicably last spring. Finding it like that in my driveway, I immediately assumed a mean-spirited passerby had thrown a rock at the window, or somehow the city’s construction work on Kelly Street was responsible since they were busy tearing up my yard, sidewalk, and driveway at the time.

It turns out both assumptions were wrong. So, the two exploding windows entered the realm of unsolved mysteries.

Now I’ve discovered that the Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer both have a history of shattering windows dating back to the late 90's, but it wasn't until 2002 that the problem got so bad Ford couldn't ignore it any longer.

About 955,000 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer SUVs were recalled in 2004 for faulty strut brackets and hinges that could loosen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) documented 165 reports of injuries from the exploding glass resulting from loose components, and almost 5,000 complaints. The recall states:

“The brackets connecting the left cylinders to each side of the liftgate could rotate out of position if either the urethane bond or torque are not sufficient.”

But there’s still an element of mystery. My exploding glass problem was from SIDE windows. The thousands of consumer complaints were about REAR, liftgate glass. Leave it to me to be a special case that distinguishes me from the other complainants.

Now, I just have to wait for the rear hatch window to explode.

Well, enough of that.

On an unrelated, yet still mysterious note, Northwest Florida Daily News featured a woman’s letter to the thief who robbed her home in Rosemary Beach. The article, written by Jennie McKeon and published in the Jan. 20 edition, shares Rozz Friedman’s heartbroken words:

“Mr. Thief, You stepped out my front door and disappeared like a ghost into the night. I imagine you felt triumphant ... I [am] devastated, my peace … sabotaged by your invasion.” She says he didn’t just steal from her, he stole from her grandfather, grandmother and her parents, the “…evidence of who they are.”

Every piece of jewelry told a story of family history, some sweet memory more precious than the object’s monetary value. She shared those memories with the mysterious thief in her open letter.

I read her heartbreak with special empathy. When a thief robbed my home of my jewelry, he took things of monetary value, yes, but more so, he stole memories. Every bracelet, ring, and necklace held a memory. The “emerald” bracelet Frank brought home one day for no occasion. He bought it from a street vendor for $50. I fussed at him for being so gullible, but it was a pretty piece, and I enjoyed wearing it. I associated it with his irrepressible spontaneity.

Like Ms. Friedman, I had to buy back what little jewelry was recovered from local pawn shops. I got some things back, actually some expensive pieces. But I didn’t get back that little green bracelet or many of the items that were worth practically nothing, yet rich in sentimental value.

What hurt the most was the loss of my husband’s wedding band. Bought for $35 at a pawn shop (because we were dirt poor when we married), he wore it faithfully for 48 years. It left his finger for the first time when the funeral director gave it to me right before his casket was closed. I twirled that simple gold band around my thumb for courage when I delivered his eulogy before many friends and family assembled at the service. Now, I look at his picture with him wearing it and sigh, “Honey, I’m so sorry your ring is gone.”

I’m glad our sister paper published Rozz Friedman’s letter to the thief who took her precious memories. I know the therapeutic value of putting your sorrow into words and sharing it, hoping the guilty party will read it, but knowing that’s unlikely.

I took advantage of being a columnist to do the same thing in an open letter to my thief, hitting similar poignant notes as Ms. Friedman’s. The identity of her thief remains a mystery. Mine was caught and let go on probation. In short order, he violated his probation and is parts unknown, taking with him the knowledge of what happened to my husband’s wedding band.

However, in Ms. Friedman’s words — “Writing the letter was like finding a small bit of peace.”

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.