Our federal and state taxes have been sent off, car and house insurance payments are scheduled on Bill Pay, and the utilities bills are set up to be paid automatically each month. I’ve made lists of doctors and medicines and lists of bank accounts and credit card info. Next on my agenda: make sure there’s some cash tucked away for Ken and some checks in the checkbook for emergency repairs and the spring property tax bill.
One by one I am checking off the tasks so that our household will run smoothly in my absence. No, I haven’t hired a cleaning service, but we don’t keep that tidy a ship around here anyway. The house will stay clean enough as my menfolk rise to the occasion. I trust the vacuum cleaner will make a few appearances. The bathroom sink will stay about as clean as when I’m home. The toilet? Uh, maybe not, but as long as it gets a good cleaning before I return, it’s–literally!–Ken and Kevin’s business, right? Floor washing…. How dirty can a floor get in two months? As for dusting, it’s not on our weekly or even monthly radar; we’ll get to that before putting Christmas decorations up once again. I promise!
The situations, “worries,” and “fears” that I am about to share will be the furthest things from my mind when I’m actually on pilgrimage. Of this I have little doubt. Now, though, as I complete my final daily and weekly quotidian tasks around the house that I’ll soon be vacating, I think a bit ruefully about what will and will not happen in my absence. I should just be grateful for Ken’s willingness to step up to the plate. And I am! I truly am! But I can’t help but stew just a wee bit about some of the following:
- as I fold the week’s laundry, I realize: this is the last fold these items will get until I return; Ken and Kevin will be content to dig their clean clothes out of a laundry basket….
- as I make our bed and replace the bedspread each morning, I know that once I leave the spread will remain on the chair until June and the bed will only be re-made when Ken bothers to wash the sheets….
- as I remove the plastic bag with the “dry trash” from the kitchen trash masher, dump its contents in our outside garbage can, and replace the now-empty bag in the masher, I know in my heart of hearts that while I’m gone the guys will be using a fresh plastic bag each week…. I think about how I can get a good three months out of a single bag before I consider its usefulness spent….
- as I unload a full-to-the-brim dishwasher which runs about every two-to-two-and-a-half days, I realize that it will run daily, very sparsely and inefficiently loaded because the guys aren’t going to be washing by hand any of the plastic storage containers or any of the pots and pans. Those items will go straight into the dishwasher, filling it quickly. And just how thoroughly will Ken and Kevin be scraping those stubborn bits of potato, cheese, and egg before placing them in the machine?…
- I know our bedroom drapes will not be opened on a daily basis and may well remain perpetually closed throughout all of April and May….
- I realize that some perfectly good food, bearing stamps with a “best-by” date going back to much earlier in this decade will be unceremoniously tossed….
- placemats will remain ON the table, the table half set from day to day….
And there’s not a blessed thing I can do about any of that! Those tasks which consume a rather significant chunk of my day all make a difference to me, but I have to resign myself to the fact that the same can’t be said of how the rest of the household view them.
Then there’s the fear shared by everyone who has “too much stuff”: what are the chances that a partner–as a “favor,” mind you… or so the partner will say…–might just “help” pare down those possessions in their owner’s absence? If that should happen at my house while I’m gone? There’s not a thing I can do about it! (You might tell me that I probably wouldn’t miss anything that happened to take flight, but I’m not so sure.)
Other ideas that haunt me:
- the end pieces of each loaf of bread will be tossed, along with perfectly good dabs of food that, when joined together, could make a decent, and, on the rare occasion, an outstanding “stone soup” kind of meal….
- I used to work so hard towards the goal of getting dinner on the table by 6:00; generally I missed that deadline by 10-20 minutes, said delay not going unnoticed or without comment by the house’s hungry males. Since Ken took over the dinner preparation a bit more than a year ago, the dinner hour has been inching its way to an ever-earlier time. Without me keeping an influential handle on things, I’m half expecting to come home and find that I’ll barely have consumed my late lunch when the call of “dinner’s on the table” will ring out….
- Do the guys even know that I clean hair out of the plastic stopper in the tub not only after I have showered but also after they have done so? (Ok, they’ll notice when the water no longer empties; maybe they’ll draw straws to determine who cleans the trap….)
- Will Ken get used to occupying the center of our queen-size bed and have trouble sharing it with me upon my return?…
- And that extra chair in the bedroom, the one I throw my clothes on each night, piling them on top of clothes worn earlier in the week…. (Yes, that chair; do you have one, too?) If I leave it clean and tidy, will Ken find it a handy place for his clothes?
And so on and so forth. When it comes right down to it, I can’t do a thing about any of that, can I? Come April 2nd, Kevin will get a hearty handshake and Ken a big hug, and then I’m out the door and it will be their house where they will negotiate and navigate according to their standards and their priorities. Breathe. A deep one. Again, another. One more now. “Let it all go, Katy. Just let it go!”
In the end, what really matters is that
- the guys figure out a pas-de-deux that works for them
- they look out for one another, stay sensitive to each other’s moods, remain respectful of each other’s needs for both attention and space (all of which they’ve done with great success during my–admittedly shorter–absences in the past), and that
- they miss me, not so much that they resent my “abandonment” of them, but just enough so that they eagerly welcome me home, even if it means having to share their bachelor pad with me and put up with my idiosyncrasies. My absence may not leave them convinced that they really do prefer folded clothes or, in Ken’s case, a neatly-made bed, but I’m certain they’ll be overjoyed to turn the kitchen clean-up over to me once again. That’ll be my ticket back into their good graces and their hearts and their home. Our home.
Right where I want to be!