Tuesday, January 12, 2016

of mouse and man 2

Our campaign to eradicate the invader of our home began with Mary going to the local armory (otherwise known as ACE HARDWARE ) to load up on the necessary supplies. According to the ACE man all we needed was a supply of little bitty mouse traps for a little bitty mouse.  He loaded her up with six of the gadgets that were guaranteed to smite the critter or whack the tips of your fingers off if you weren’t careful.  He assured her that the bazooka and flamethrower she asked for was a bit of overkill in this particular instance.

Once home we again went over the plan of action.  First order of business was to figure out where to set or guaranteed mouse eradicater traps.  After lengthy debate that included a powerpoint presentation, indelible markers on charts with arrows pointing every which way, and an actual “X” to mark the chosen spots where we planned to ambush the unsuspecting rodent, we turned our attention to learning how to arm our arsenal. The “ACE helpful hardware man” had shown Mary how to set the traps, but he was, of course, an old and highly experienced hand at this.  He made it look so easy.  Mary should have noticed that he was without 3 fingers on his left and most vulnerable hand.  That might have given us pause as we prepared for the scary task we thought would be so easy.

We are reasonably intelligent people generally capable of following directions. But the printed instructions on the packaging were indecipherable to nonUrdu speaking mouse hunters.  The drawings that illustrated the printed instructions were smudged beyond comprehension and appeared to be created by a gang of monkeys wielding crayons.
No matter how I manipulated the supposedly simple-to-use gadget, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to bait the trap and get it armed with that little bar that went over the killing bar and into the slot on the other side where the irresistible morsel of peanut butter (low fat peanut butter, of course.  We reasoned that if the intrepid mouse somehow defeated the trap and walked away unharmed, we didn’t want to be responsible for his getting fat and having high cholesterol) beckoned our unloved and unwanted guest.  After my blood pressure spiked to 220/109 I gave in and did what no real man would ever do.  I asked for help.

We are very lucky to have moved into a condo next door to a real live testosterol oozing manly man whose middle initials are DIY.  He was clearly nearly orgasmic at being asked to show me how those damn traps are supposed to go together.  His nimble fingers made short work of arming our weaponry.  But then he ignored the well laid plans that we had worked so hard on.  He ignored the arrows and all the meticulously drawn and placed “X”s when he showed me were HE would put the traps to provide maximum killing power.  Of course, my suggested placement was totally wrong and couldn’t possibly yield a single rodent.  I shed my pride and did it his way.  I simply planned to change the traps back to their proper place according to my plan once he left. Egos are fragile things and I had sublimated my substantial ego when I asked him for help.  There is only so much ego bashing that I can be expected to tolerate.

The vexing thing that has us worried is that a long lasting war with a legion of mice has just begun.  Everyone says, that “where there is one there are a hundred more.”  His invasion was only a recon sortie.  What our little innocent looking, even cute ball of fur was looking for was the right hidey hole for his extended family and friends.  Well, bring ‘em on.  I can still go back and get that bazooka and flamethrower. We would have to wait until the morning hours to determine the effectiveness of our battle plan. I was reasonably confident that the little would-be hero of his cohort would meet his demise sometime in the wee hours of the night. Mary claimed to hear him skittering around, opening doors and staking his claim. She was doing the hallucinating now.  I had to constantly reassure her that we would be rid of him in no time, and that she didn’t have to take that machete to bed with her.  Her apprehension was like a fog that permeated the condo.  With such an atmosphere tainting our existence, I, with my perverse sense of humor, couldn’t be expected to ignore the opportunity to scare the living hell out of her while in her fragile state of mind.  I know I’m taking one more giant step toward the hell she claims I deserve for all those other transgressions she has jotted down in her “Bob’s Behavior Book and Compendium of Sins. But it was just too easy a setup for me to not take advantage of it, too obvious, despite the major sin that would be jotted down in her book, for me to pass up.

It went like this:  You know that lint that accumulates in your clothes dryer vent that you’re supposed to clean out periodically? A little ball of that lint bears a remarkable resemblance to a little mouse.  You know where I’m going with this.  I hurried up the stairs from the downstairs battle ground, urgently calling to her to “Look what I got!”   
I didn’t get to within ten feet of her before she spotted the erzatz “mouse” in my hand.
The fire works were spectacular. I had no idea she could jump so far or screech that loudly.  She was hyperventilating while the screams continued unabated.  She was hurling epithets and condemning me to that special place in hell reserved just for me.
I calmly asked what she was getting so excited about.  I showed her the ball of lint in my hand and told her I was just showing her that I cleaned the dryer vent as I had promised her I would  do one of these days.  Mary was not amused.  And when Mary is not amused I can expect some difficulty getting back into her good graces.  I’m still working on that and suspect it will take a bit more time.  But it was worth it.

Morning arrived.  Mary refused to get out of bed until I had inspected the traps.  I ventured into the basement hoping that there would be a casualty to remove.  My hopes were rewarded.  The daring little critter met his demise in the trap set behind a stack of boards. He just couldn’t resist the peanut butter.  I know that I will never eat peanut butter again without thinking of that intrepid little rodent.

Friday, January 08, 2016

of mouse and man

We were just stepping inside the kitchen from the garage, having returned from a visit to my doctor, when just from the corner of my eye I thought I saw something skittering across the kitchen floor.  I was unsure if I really saw something or if I was hallucinating, being still somewhat sedated from that earlier encounter with my doctor. Mary saw nothing since she was behind me.  Then suddenly it happened again.  On the one hand I was relieved that I wasn’t hallucinating, but on the other hand I was pissed off that now I would have to hunt down that intrepid little mouse who dared to invade my home.

But first I had to deal with Mary.  I knew what her reaction would be to having a mouse as a house pet, so I adopted my calmest, most zenlike state of enlightenment, softened my voice to nearly a whisper, and prayed that the expected seismic disturbance wouldn’t drain the lake. 

“Uh, dear, I think we have a visitor sharing sharing the warmth of our home.” I broke the news to her as gently as possible. 

“ What do you mean, a visitor?” She was giving me only half of her attention, thinking that I meant a big fly or a moth or some other winged nuisance that had managed to survive the cold outside and had found a way into the warmth of our house.

“What?  What do you mean?” she repeated, a note of apprehension in her voice. 

“It’s actually a mouse.  I just saw him again in the kitchen.” It felt so good to have some important, consequence laden, honest news to lay in her lap that I wasn’t involved in or responsible for.  I didn’t have to lie at all.

 Her brain hadn’t quite kicked in yet to the possibility of the visitor being, in fact ,a “critter” from outdoors who managed to to get itself indoors where it could cause all kinds of problems, not the least of which was eating everything in sight and leaving the resultant excremental evidence of its comings and goings. The idea that a wild thing that is usually found only outside, was in fact, inside, was gradually beginning to snap those brain synapses that deal with mice into place.

“I mean, I just saw a little bitty mouse scoot across the kitchen and head into the dining room.”  I stayed calm and undisturbed, hoping she would feed off my calm and not go ballistic upon hearing the news. “ Don’t worry. He’s harmless.  The poor little thing is more scared of you than you are of him.”

Then, despite all my prayers and hopes that she would simply delegate the job of evicting our own Mickey to me, the feared eruption began, not with any kind of preliminary huffing and puffing, but with full blown fear and indignation.
“Eeeeek!!!”  She exploded. (her screams did actually sound like eeeeek) “You get that thing out of here right now.” She nearly choked on the words as she leaped up onto the nearest chair.  “How can you be so calm!?”  She acted as if I had personally gone out and recruited a suicidal mouse to live with us for the evening.  “ I am not going to live in this place unless you get rid of him. Now!  I’m staying in a motel as long as that rodent is in here,”  she hysterically informed me. “What if there’s more than one?  What if he gets in my bed ? (notice she didn’t say our bed.  That’s when I knew I was in deep mousey dodo) “How did he get in here?  You must have left the door open like you always do. “  (Notice how it is becoming all my fault.)  “You have to do something or I’m moving out! “ I was going to offer to pack her bags, but reasoned that that would only make it worse. 

And wouldn’t you know it, just then little Mick decided to make a run for it.  He careened full speed around the corner from the livingroom and made a mad dash for the basement stairs, squeessing his tiny tush under the closed door and disappearing as quickly as he had arrived. 

That’s when Mary finally calmed down enough to realize that this wasn’t the end of civilization as we know it.  As long as she was reasonably certain that the cute little adventurer would remain downstairs and not violate the upstairs/downstairs boundary, she would be content to wait until morning for my mandated killing rampage to begin.

You will have to wait to learn the outcome of my battle with the mouse that nearly brought us to the brink of insanity.  If you don’t hear from me again you can assume the worst.   Getting fitted for your mouse ears at that point might be a good idea.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

mary's ordeal

By now you all know that Mary has been going through a very difficult recovery after her gallbladder surgery. She is still in the hospital, now due to an infection that has lodged itself in there somewhere and is causing her considerable pain.
If any of you have gone through something like this, then you know the helpless feeling that beats down on you while you watch your loved one suffer. You know that you wouldn't hesitate to change places with her if that were only possible.
You want to attack anything that's related to her pain. You want to scream at the doctors who are obviously not doing what they are supposedly trained to do, that is cure her, or at least mitigate her suffering. When you visit her you see all the nurses busy with other patients and you want to shove them into her room because she deserves all the attention. And then you feel so terribly guilty when you get to walk out of the hospital, get in your car, and drive home to your comfortable existence, while the hurting, the pain and the despair continue unabated in that hospital room. It is hard not to rail at the God that we want to believe is beneficent and loving, and question why He allows this suffering to happen to so many.
In the past when we have been hit with some illness or other misfortune, we have always used the rationale, to make us feel better, that there is always someone out there in the world who is worse off than we are. But that only works for the minor setbacks that come along. This time we are so tuned in to our plight that thinking that there is someone else suffering doesn't help us to cope. I don't want to think that there is anyone else out there who is suffering worse than this. That seems too cruel to contemplate.
For me, coping with the realities of what we are going through, would be nearly impossible if I had to go it alone. I'm not whining or uttering woe is me. In the best of times I have some difficulty coping with the physicality of daily life due to my many skirmishes in the war against Parkinsons Disease. So when you pile on the unusual circumstances of a severe illness of a loved one and all the many changes that brings to bear on someone who requires a daily routine as a coping mechanism, you have someone who also needs a lot of care and attention. I am very fortunate to have friends and neighbors who have stepped up and lent a hand whenever I've needed it. There are times when I simply can't drive a car safely
and friends have generously hauled me around to where I needed to go. Every one I talk to has offered any kind of assistance I might need. Those people have saved me and helped me hold it together. But no one has done more to care for me and to help me to lead a normal life while all this is dragging me down than my daughter, Carrie.
Carrie showed up abruptly and quite unexpectedly last Tuesday with her 4 year old, Ezra in tow. We had expected a visit from her later in the summer, but because of her very busy and somewhat unusual lifestyle we didn't know exactly when that would be. One week she'll be home in Oakland with husband Jeremy, then she will be off to Princeton to do some research, then she will be in Africa doing field research for several weeks (with Ezra following in her wake and learning, learning, learning), then attending a conference of some sort somewhere, and then back home for a short while to recharge her batteries before the next round of activity. This past week she was supposed to be at a conference of some scientific sort in Atlanta, but she blew them off so that she could come here now when we most needed her help. And has she helped! We are most certainly the only people in the world who have a veterinarian research scientist with PhD playing housekeeper and nursemaid to her overwhelmed parents.
Carrie stepped right into the fray, got herself and Ezra settled in, organized and took inventory of the depleted pantry, bought a lot of what she claims is food, and pronounced that from now on she would see to it that I ate properly, took my meds on time on a regular schedule monitored by her, and that she would brook no arguments from me. So there! And she has acted as interpreter of much of the medical jargon and procedures that were thrown at us by haughty doctors who tended to talk down to us. All I have left to do while she is here is worry about Mary. And do my best to spoil Ezra and teach him naughty stuff that only a grandpa (or Papa as he calls me) can get away with.
Having my exceptionally bright, inquisitive, and endlessly curious four year old here has been an unexplainable joy. When he walked into Mary's hospital room that first time and surprised her, she nearly jumped out of bed to hug and squeeze him to make sure he was real and not fevered apparition. That was the first time in a long time that Mary looked happy. I can't wait to see that look on her face again. That will mean she really is getting better.

our best idea ever

It all began with the seed of an idea.....
Somewhere along the way to wherever, we planted that seed and, each in our own way,

nurtured it until it broke through the last of the fertile deliberations we had supplied. Mary was the first to broach the subject, being the sentimental one in our relationship. I surprised even myself when I didn't immediately dismissing the notion out of hand, since I don't usually abide such potentially emotional quagmires. I might have been influenced by Jim Christus and his wife, Barbara, who did it when on vacation in Hawaii recently. Jim, it's all your fault. Of course, I'm talking about renewing our wedding vows.
For whatever reason we both felt that this vacation would be an excellent opportunity to do it, since we were meeting our new/old friends from last year's vacation, who were returning here for another round of raucous jocularity and ribald conversations with us, but didn't make the final decision to go ahead with it until we were on the plane heading south and even then the final decision was contingent on our friend, Dawn Mays, agreeing to officiate at the the ceremony. Dawn is a Baptist minister and bishop in New Jersey. We met Dawn and her husband Bill, 1/3 of the group we call the rental gang, last year when we all vacationed at this same place and agreed to meet here again this year to continue our fledgling friendship. Of course we never considered her not accepting our proposal, and when she said she would be honored to play her role in our little drama we were committed. There was no turning back. When the second third of the rental gang, Jay and Maggie, who hail from upstate New York near Saratoga, arrived to share their vacation with us again the die was cast.
The final third of the gang is, of course, ourselves, Bob and Mary, the principles around whom all the hoopla revolved. We decided that Thursday would be the ideal time to seal the deal. We planned to have a little foodish get together just for the 6 of us (although everyone in the area was aware of the impending ceremony, and if they had attended it, we would have needed a truckload of chow to satisfy them) after the formalities were dispensed with and made sure to have a good supply of wine of various vintages on hand to calm everyone's nerves. No big deal. We frequently do the same thing at happy hour, but without the ceremony preceding the wine drinking and food eating.
What was far more difficult for both Mary and me was the need to write something to say about each other at the appointed time in the ceremony. I dashed my tribute off in a 2 hour burst of creative energy. It was easy because there is so much good I can say about my Better Half that the process was more an exercise in editing. If I were to cover all the attributes of my wife/best friend/lover/cheerleader/critic/caretaker/maid/financial manager/companion I would still be writing and everyone would have gone home, leaving me there talking to myself. Mary, I'm sure, had a much more difficult time fulfilling her obligation to find anything acceptable to say about me. She was working on the treatise right up to the moment we took our places facing the Reverend Mays. The thought that we might be heading to divorce court after this ceremony instead of partaking in the party goodies, crossed my mind more than once. Since she had the chance to enumerate all my faults and idiosyncrasies while searching for positive things to say, I figured I had no chance of coming out of her research with a glowing report. I was certain she would feel that I wasn't worth the effort it would take to keep me around anymore. But she surprised me by making up a bunch of good stuff that nobody questioned.
Dawn did a wonderful job with the ceremony she wrote for us. She lent a certain dignity and solemnity to the ceremony that touched us deeply. I was as nervous during this go around as I was at our wedding 46 years ago. I knew when the time came for me to speak my piece, I would
be too emotional to speak, too nervous to remember what I wanted to say. Parkinsons Disease plays a strong role in my emotional state. I now wear my emotions on my sleeve, easily brought to tears for the most mundane reasons. There is something in my brain that says it's ok to cry for any and all reasons that I encounter during the typical day. So I wasn't surprised when I choked up, looking into Mary's eyes, and had such a difficult time getting the words to make sense as they tumbled out of my mouth. Somehow everyone seemed to understand or at least get the drift of what I was trying to say. Or they faked it just to be nice.
When Mary's turn came to speak she performed admirably as she always does. She found enough good to attribute to me that I was reassured that we will most likely stay together for a while longer. After Dawn was finished with us and we officially stuck with each other again, it was time to party. This is where it gets a little weird. You'll have to wait for that chapter of Bob and Mary's Excellent Adventure until I have more time.......so to be continued.