Saturday, September 29, 2007

Learning experiences

What a week! Isaac is not doing so good in school, mostly because he doesn’t want to do his homework, Hana has been having a hard week with one of her co-workers/supervisor, and Ben, well, Ben just comes and goes and does his thing. I guess he is the consistency in the house. Then the fridge decides it’s just had enough! I mean, come on, 23 years of keeping milk, cheese, and fruit cool; ice cubes, popsicles and ice cream frozen is enough right. Time to retire. Time to give it up. Time to let the ice cream and the popsicles melt all over the kitchen floor. All over the old ratty rug in the back bump-out to the kitchen and ruin the carpet which necessitates having to pull it out and replace it with something less absorbent, like maybe granite or slate. Insert homeowners tip here: Do not put rugs in kitchen, especially kitchens that have old appliances and cat and/or dog litter boxes in them. Just a thought.

One thing learned this week: cats are very good about getting it all in the litter box. Dogs, and I refer only to the ones who have any inclination at all to use a litter box, well, not so good. Dogs like to stand with the front feet in and back feet out and aim and some dogs are not such great shots. Hence another reason the rug needed replacing.

Another thing learned this week: Kitchen counters do not have an infinite amount of space to hold the contents of the Starship Enterprise. There is no magical quality about kitchen counters that allows them to receive and to store in another dimension any item placed upon them and then, at some later date, regurgitate said item when a necessity for it’s use arises. For example; a four foot long counter which is approximately two feet deep can not hold much more than a microwave, coffee maker, dehydrator, toaster, can opener, television, two unopened loaves of bread, sixteen open and partially consumed loaves of bread, one box of Fruity O’s, three packages of bagels, a wire chicken , a pair of roller blades, an eight track player, a half eaten can of baked beans (pork bits added), a bunch of bananas, a small crate that once held Clementine tangerines, two pictures of assorted family members and the accompanying frames, and a full scale model of the Millennium Falcon (shuttle transporter and all 28,396 accompanying parts, pieces and action figures included). Something has got to go!

And one more educational experience for the week. This reminds me of Mom’s blog written a few weeks ago. You can go there later and see what she had to say.
Ok, so you went ahead and went there now.
I see how you are.
Well, just forget it. I’m not going to talk to you if you can’t pay attention and stick with me here and have to be running off to every hyperlink thrown into a blog.
No, that’s ok, just go on about your merry life and do things your way. I’ll just sit here patiently and wait until you are done.

(Jeopardy Music playing here)

Ok, are we back now?! Fine!

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, I had another learning experience this week. A little set-up here. Most truck stops have a section of their restaurants set up for professional drivers to sit apart from the general public. Not that we think we are better than others but we talk shop and smoke a lot and it’s usually one or two guys or gals by themselves so there are large counters (which would work VERY well in my kitchen) or small booths. These areas are often labeled “For Professional Drivers”. It was at one of these particular counters that I sat last Tuesday evening eating my supper and waiting for the clock to roll around to 8:30 so that I could head down to Woodstock, IL and pick up my load of Sports Illustrated to come home with. I had just returned from my trip to the buffet with a plate of brisket, garlic mashed potatoes, and a very small dollop of green beans when I noticed an elderly woman, at first glance she appeared to be in her late 70’s, slowly making her way into the drivers area. She walked with a cane and her movements reminded me of that old Tim Conway skit where he walks with slow mincing steps. She looked quite lost, glancing around as if unsure of her surroundings, but she resolutely moved forward into this strange foreign land of large and gamy men. There were very few open seats in this area, this being the prime hour for drivers coming in off the road, and one of those empties was immediately to my right. I watched as she slowly made her way across the room and headed directly toward the aforementioned empty seat on my right. It was with much bumping and jostling that she settled her self down and giving me a very apologetic smile, she said “Hello, young man,” and hung her cane on the back of my chair.

She settled herself in her seat and when the waitress came by she ordered a small glass of water with lemon and a bowl of vegetable soup. “That’ll be all, thank you so much.”

She then turned her conversation to me.

Holding out her small, frail hand for me to grasp, she said, “Hi there. My name is Esther Whitaker. I’m not from around here. Just up here from Tick Ridge, Georgia visiting my sister in Waukesha who’s having surgery to remove this very unseemly goiter from her neck. Her husbands’ not much help to her so I thought I’d come up and give her a hand while she recuperates.”

I told her I thought that was very sweet of her and that I hope her stay was a pleasant one. I told her I was a truck driver and that I was from Ohio, just passing through, came this way every other week, waiting to go home, all that sort of stuff.

The small talk continued for several minutes and then her soup arrived. She asked the waitress if she could spare a few crackers to go with her soup and when they arrived she very daintily picked up her spoon and began to quietly and slowly sip her soup. I, meanwhile, had returned to the buffet for plate number two, this time returning with Sausage and cabbage, Macaroni and Cheese and some green beans with bacon.

As I sat down I noticed that she seemed to be sitting a smidge closer to my chair than she had been previously. The counter chairs were bolted to the floor and I really couldn’t move to give her more room so I just sort of scooted left a little in my seat. This also alleviated the pressure from her cane digging into my back some.

I finished my second plate as I listened to her tell me all about her children (who didn’t come visit anymore) and her late husband (who was a bookkeeper for a large Georgia peach farm and generally a boring man but was okay when it came to “personal marital abilities”) and her sister (who didn’t keep a very clean house) and her brother (who had served a three year prison sentence in Georgia for “borrowing things that didn’t belong to him”).

It was in the middle of her story about her brother that I realized that her hand was on my leg. I figured it was nothing really serious, just a little old lady who was a little out of touch with reality but I scooted a little left in my chair anyway, in order to give her more room. Halfway through her discussion of her nieces and nephews and their various failings I noticed that she appeared to be squeezing my leg a little tighter every so often, almost as if she were trying to keep herself from falling out of her chair. I tried to look at her and see if I could see something in her face that indicated what she was up to but her face was quite innocent and chaste. When her hand began to move higher up my leg I excused myself and went back to the buffet and picked up a piece of chocolate cake as I tried to ponder this predicament that I was in. Was this little old lady coming on to me? It sure seemed like it, but that was absurd! She had to be close to 80! Now I don’t consider myself an ugly man but I’m no Brad Pitt or George Clooney or Peewee Herman by any stretch of the imagination.

I sat back down and began to pick at my cake and her hand went right back to my leg. I dropped my fork, looked her right in the face and said, “Are you okay?” Which was the only thing I could think of to say. Quick on my feet, I am not.

“I’m fine”, She said, “Why do you ask?”

“Well, I was just wondering since you’ve been sitting here for the last 10 minutes with your hand on my leg”, I said.

“Does that bother you?” she said and it was at this point that I saw the glimmer. The corners of her mouth started to lift a little and her eyes got bright and she said, “You are a fairly handsome man, you know. And I like to think of myself as a fairly pretty woman. I know that I may be a couple years older than you but I’m here from out of town and I don’t know anyone around here and Harold has been gone for quite a few years and I just get so lonely. I’m sure you know how it is being out here on the road like you are, traveling these highways, driving those big, manly trucks, moving those big loads around our great country. You do such a very important job.” All the while she was moving closer and closer. “Besides, I’m single since Harold passed on three years ago, God rest his soul, and I see by your ring finger that you’re single as well and we are both consenting adults…so…” and she let it hang, right there in midair.

“But I’m not single,” I said. “I’m married and have been for 23 years and I have four children.”

Her face faltered for a moment and I saw her struggle with her determination to continue and she asked, “Why then, young man, are you not wearing a wedding band?”

“I lost it on a hay ride with my wife about 15 years ago and we just never got around to replacing it,” I said. By the look on her face I really felt that I should add an apology to that statement. But I didn’t.

“I see,” she said. “Well, I guess that changes everything, now doesn’t it?”

“I guess it does,” I said. “But I’d like to say thank you. I am very flattered.”

She slowly gathered herself together and stood as straight as she could, determined to gather her dignity around her, and said, “Well…you should be.” And then with a shy smile and a twinkle in her eye she said, “You are a very handsome man. Not a Spencer Tracy, but very handsome still.”

“Thank you,” I said as she started away.

She was about six steps away when she turned and said, “Go get a ring, young man. Save the ladies some trouble.”

I sat there for another few minutes before picking up my check and my book and headed out through the main area of the restaurant still shaking my head over my encounter. I stood at the cashier counter paying my bill when I hear a slight small voice from a booth over in the corner.
“ Hello there, my name is Esther Whitaker.”

I turned and could just see a sliver of silver blue over the seat back and across from her a fellow who looked to be about 30. I smiled to myself as I headed out to my truck and on to Woodstock. I guess I’ll buy a ring when I get home.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

A sigh of relief.

Are you like me?

Do you compare yourself and your home to other people?

I have fussed at my wife for this very thing a great number of times. She will visit someone and say that their house is so beautiful and why can't our house look like that? Never mind the fact that they may have an income that is triple what ours is and they hire people to do their landscaping and decorating. Never mind that they have no children and spend all their money on art, furnishings and knick-knacks, where as we have an average of 1423 kids, some of which even belong to us, coming through our door everyday for this that or the other thing.

We have bikes in the front yard and toys all over the living room.

The top of the TV is covered with games that are played with regularity, movies that were watched and not put away, movies that were rented and either not returned yet or not watched yet, remotes that work and some that don't.

The kitchen has dishes that have not been washed yet and bread that can't find a place to live. We have limited counter space so that the microwave, toaster, coffeemaker, and medicine box are all constantly vying for position.

The computer desk is covered with printed papers that seemed so important at the time and yet they sit here for days gathering dust waiting to be discovered by the next generation of archaeologists. (Wouldn't that be a great scoring word in Scrabble?)

As I sit here, these are the things that are on the computer desk: Besides the computer monitor, tower, printer and mouse, we have a stereo with accompanying speakers, three open stacks of Cd's to burn, a Game Boy, nail clippers, a hair tie, Cd's from the library, Cd's from our own collection, a dog collar, two candles (one of which has about 2 mm of wax left in the bottom), a greeting card, an empty Welches Grape Soda bottle, two empty Diet Pepsi cans, the hook half of a hook and eye latch, a paper towel, a cook book with "365 Favorite Brand Name Casseroles & One Dish Meals", bank statements (which reminds me), tax forms (which reminds me again) student loan paperwork, a permanent marker, the remote to the stereo, the remote to a DVD player that doesn't work any more, the instruction manual for an eight track player (just kidding), and a coffee cup (travel size from Pilot).

And this desk was just cleaned off yesterday morning. Or at least that was the instructions I left with the two oldest "not yet supporting themselves" residents of this abode.

Which brings me back around to my original question of this post.

Do you compare yourself with other people and their homes?

I have and still do and so it is with great thanks and a large sigh of relief that I send a Veritable Monster of an "Atta-Girl" to Ann. Your post, Ann, regarding Working in Balance has freed me from my insecurities and my need to conform to the world's view of style. After seeing the pics of her computer desk I am very relieved that I alone am not fighting the war on clutter.

I no longer feel that everything in my home has to be just so and always in it's place. I do not have to have a table completely clear of everything except that precious antique bowl I found at that quaint antique store run by that cute antique woman in Woonsocket, Connecticut, which is filled with fresh fruit (the bowl, not Woonsocket, Connecticut) that my children and I picked at the Amish farm down the road on a family gathering.

My bed does not always have to be made within 30 seconds of me vacating said bed. (Besides, my wife is usually still in said bed.)

The dishes can sometimes wait until morning.

As long as I can reach the keyboard, the computer desk will still work with some extra clutter on it.

But the garbage and the dogs have to go out NOW!

Thank you, Ann. thank you very much.