The Daily Gazette
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Not just another manic Monday

MECHANICVILLE -- Before Nellie Ackerman's simply strange Monday this past week took a turn from the bloody to the surreal, it started out as merely vexing.

Her 11-year-old son, Ayden, whom she describes as severely autistic, had been home from school since the week before, and there were no desperately needed home care health aides available at the moment to assist the single mom with two other children. On top of that, one of those kids, 13-year-old Jared, was in the hospital.

"This should be an interesting and adventurous week! Hahaha!" she wrote on Facebook.

Then it got worse. Much worse.

All she tried to do was squeeze a little sprucing up in her son’s room. But on this strange day, strange things happened.

“I went to clean something up under his bunk bed,” Ackerman says. “There was a piece of wood sticking out: Picture a stake you would use to kill a vampire. I hit my head. I put my hand to my head and it was covered in blood.”

She started to throw up, but at least managed to dial 911 before fainting.

"SO ... Minutes after my last FB post ... The freaking adventure really did begin!" she wrote on her social media page in an ongoing blow-by-blow. She did not go to the hospital, not with her child without an aide.

"Just had a living room full of EMTs & FIREMEN leave my house ..."

OK, a rough day, to be sure. A special needs child acting up. A sick child. A household accident. Stuff like this happens. Not often or all at once, but still.

“My hair is covered in blood,” Ackerman recalls. “I can’t even take a shower. My house is a mess.

"Then somebody knocks on my door. It was the middle of the day. I was not expecting anybody.”

It was a postal worker delivering a large package, a very special delivery.

The box arrived from El Paso, Tex. It was dated Sept. 2.

Sept. 2, 2008, to be exact — almost six years ago. Weird. Then it got weirder.

The package came from her stepfather, Griffin Couch. Ackerman had not seen him since 1988.
He died in 2011.

"I stopped and started to cry a little bit," Ackerman says.

(Where the package had been is somewhat a mystery, but U.S. Postal Service officials believe it had been sitting unclaimed for years in a parcel locker for a multi-unit dwelling at Ackerman's old Mechanicville address. The parcel locker — which Ackerman says she wasn't aware of — containing the package had not been opened in years, but once the package was discovered it was promptly delivered, USPS regional spokeswoman Maureen Marion said. She said there is no way of knowing at this point if the package had in fact been delivered to the old address years ago, adding those parcel lockers will now be checked regularly for unclaimed packages.)

The contents in the eventually delivered box were, it seems, haphazardly thrown in. "It was the most random stuff, which made it even more bizarre," Ackerman says. "Recipes written on sheets of 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of paper. Kitchen utensils like kitchen knives and steak knives. Then there was this fireman's knife. A Nintendo DS for my son, and books. A makeup kit.

"It was all so random," she says. "Did he keep shoving stuff in there?"

There was a short note, stating he hoped she could use the enclosed items. On the back of the letter, one word was written: "Sanctity."

"Is it some sort of code?" she wonders. No clue. She feels sad her stepfather died thinking she was not thoughtful enough to say thank you.

"What does it all mean?" she asked aloud on Facebook.

"I don't know," she concludes.

It's two days later now. Ackerman has a health aide in the house. The lump on her head is still sore. She still ponders that Monday.

Ackerman, 41, says she was mostly raised by her father after her mother died when Ackerman was a teen. But the Linton High School grad remembers it was Griffin Couch who paid for her prom dress and limo, and provided an invaluable ear through her divorce. Through any major period of transition, he was there, at least as a voice on the phone or with a comforting email.

Ackerman, owner of the Blu Tea Company and director of the Arts Center on the Hudson, both in Mechanicville, has a lot of stuff going on in her life right now, even beyond her children's health and her own. She again is in a period of transition.

And what shows up? A package from beyond.

"Holy ...," she says in a moment of revelation. "This is freaking me out.

"When I look back, every time there was something major in my life, he was there for me."

And there he was again. Maybe that's it ... or maybe strange stuff just happens.

"There is something here. I don't know what it means," she says. "Or maybe it was just one of those really weird days."

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