Monday, July 25, 2016


     Lately every single day starts with a slew of irritations. Not calamities or crises, mind you; just minor niggling nuisances that obtrude and obstruct my progress.

     For example: I have dogs. Two. One of them is the size of a small horse. The other is...well, for a female German Shepherd Sophie’s pretty large (77 lb), but she's nowhere near Rufus’s size. And they have the unholy habits of:

  1. “Following me from in front;”
  2. Penning me into whatever room I occupy.

     I know their behavior is fueled by affection. I know they’re simply doing what they can to protect me, though from what or whom remains unclear. But that doesn’t make the back spasms any less severe when I have to brake to an instantaneous halt in the bedroom hallway because over two hundred pounds of canine companionship has slammed to a stop directly in front of me. (Catalogs of “hazards in the average home” really should include this.)

     Then there’s the “penning / herding” stuff. This can be particularly trying when I settle myself in front of my main computer. (I have five.) Rufus immediately lays himself down in such a fashion that I can barely get out of my office chair and must perform like a master contortionist to get out of the room. Does he care that I desperately need a coffee refill? Of course not. Neither does Sophie, who immediately gets up from her dog bed to “escort” me the instant I a stir a muscle.

     Yet somehow, despite advancing age and early-morning perceptions and reflexes that are, shall we say, not at their best, I get by. I manage to conduct my morning rituals, eat a dubious kind of breakfast, and write these intolerably sententious essays for your reading displeasure. Eventually, I get to Mass...Rufus permitting.

     Then there’s my wife Beth. Now, I love my wife. She tolerates me, a challenge that’s defeated a number of other women. But...well, let’s just say she has some odd ideas about what constitutes “putting away.” On various occasions I’ve asked her please to put away whatever she’s finished using. Her replies would stagger Socrates:

  • Piles of magazines mounded on the living room coffee table, some of them approaching a year old, and crossword puzzles printed out from various websites and completed long ago, scattered over the sofa-back table, are “put away.”
  • Bags, cans, and dishes of ingredients littering the kitchen counter, the baker’s island, and the kitchen table are “put away.”
  • Huge masses of her work papers that detail miscellaneous deviousnesses among her accounting clients, spread over the dining room table and its six chairs, are “put away.”
  • Six years’ accumulated detritus from her minivan, removed and scattered over the garage floor – “so I could get the car washed” – are “put away.”
  • And lately, she’s been leaving bags of groceries on my basement workbench. When I ask for the wherefore, she shrugs and says, “I thought I put them away. Would you take care of it, Sweetie?”

     (BONUS ROUND: Late yesterday, I noticed that the currently deployed roll of toilet paper in our master bathroom was getting near to exhaustion, so I took a fresh roll out of inventory and left it on the counter next to the Porcelain Throne. This morning on my first...visit, the deployed roll was down to three single-ply squares and the replacement roll was nowhere in sight. So I called out plaintively, “Sweetie, what happened to the fresh roll of toilet paper?” Her reply? “Oh, I noticed that was out and I put it away.”)

     I’ve checked; this is not considered a symptom of ingressive dementia.

     I know, I know: Women are just “like that.” No man will ever understand them. But it would chafe a bit less if she hadn’t started trying to “put away” her adult daughters’ relics in my closet.

     Finally for this morning’s curmudgeonry, there are the books. I have a lot of books: something over 13,000 physical volumes plus God alone knows how many ebooks. I need my books; they’re my tutors, my entertainment, and my boon companions. But when I’m doing research, I need to be able to find particular items swiftly rather than comb through the entire library for the volume of interest, and they’ve started to migrate.

     He who lives alone would have only himself to blame...but I don’t live alone. One wife, two dogs, four cats, and (I think) a doppelganger who rises in the wee hours to rearrange the bookshelves. Despite all my efforts, I can’t keep the reference volumes segregated from the pleasure reading. Just yesterday I went looking for Paul Johnson’s Modern Times – highly recommended, by the way – and despite a clear recollection of having installed it in my office next to my other histories, after a two-hour search I found it in the basement, between John Ross’s Unintended Consequences and my collection of cartoons by the late, great Bernard Kliban!

     You know I didn’t put it there. I don’t drink that much. So who did?

     Clearly, there’s villainy afoot. The scoundrel must be pursued relentlessly, caught, and brought to book. But for a change, most of the indictable miscreants are holed up at the Democrats’ National Convention, and as W. C. Fields once said, “One day I spent a month in Philadelphia.”

     Time was, life was a lot simpler. At least, it seems that way in memory, though the memories of an old man aren’t perfectly trustworthy. Get up, get clean, get dressed, get in the car and go to work, do software and management stuff for nine or ten hours, get in the car and go home, eat something, and collapse into bed. Repeat as needed. Plain instructions and few complications. If we overlook the tendency of the lawn to keep growing despite my express disapproval, that is.

     Maybe this is the dark side of retirement: finally noticing all the little stuff that seemed unimportant when I was bringing home the bacon...most of which Beth and the animals would consume before I could even get to my seat at the table.

     Surely there’s a silver lining to all this. A plot for a novel. Maybe a thriller about a sexagenarian driven by the minor garbage of exurban existence to become a serial killer. Has there yet been a blockbuster about an old fart who strangles passers-by with a garden hose after torturing them with atrocious puns? And for which of those categories of offense would he be more roundly condemned? (Soon to be a minor motion picture!)

     “Man plans and God laughs.” (Old Yiddish proverb. Use it on the old Yids you know.)


Anonymous said...

I believe Beth is "Gas lighting" you. :)

Arthur said...

“Following me from in front;”

In the spy shows I've watched they call that a 'front tail'. Even more appropriate for a dog.

Malatrope said...

Fran, I say this from the heart: I suspect that every single person who lives with another person has precisely the same silly complaints (about toilet paper, piles of magazines, etc.)

If you asked her, I'm sure your wife has an equally-long list of ridiculous habits you have that drive her bugfutz also.

You need a hobby that gets you out of the house. Get away from the damn computer for awhile! Take the dog (the smaller one) on a walk to Pennsylvania or something!

Francis W. Porretto said...

Mal, you did notice the "humor" tag at the bottom, didn't you?

Malatrope said...

Of course I did! Why do you think I suggested walking the dog to a nearby state? ;-)

But, as you know, all humor is based on grains of very serious stuff...