It’s Sunday afternoon. All is right with the world. The air is autumn-crisp, the sky is crowded with fluffy clouds and the birds are singing. But that’s MY world. In the kitchen, a strange and scurried existence is eating up the afternoon. That would be my hubby’s life. All is NOT RIGHT with his world.
John is moving the cans we keep in the cabinet next to the sink. They’re already in order according to their contents (thanks to him): and stacked in tidy rows. Seldom-used cans are relegated to the upper shelf, their labels facing front in perfect “why did you buy these if you’re never gonna use them” formation.
Today’s project is much more complex than simply categorizing the cans. John is taking them from the area they’ve filled since the 90’s and moving them to a different cabinet in the back room. The things on THOSE shelves – boxes of mac and cheese, crackers, etc. – will go into the vacated cabinet. John is a “project man.” I am a “task person.” I like to take my work in little bursts. Do what has to be done. Find that pin, pick it up, and revel in my good luck for the rest of the day.
John will find the pin. Pick it up. Scour the floor for any other pins. Hand-craft a pincushion from carefully selected fabric that he’s sewn the words, “Found Pins” onto. That pincushion will be placed, carefully and proudly, in a logically correct and carefully chosen area of our home.
With an entire house to take care of, women “straighten”. We have other things to do – meals and laundry and dishes – every day. Cleaning is done by schedules we’ve developed over time and follow religiously.
Not John. He sees a cluttered cubby or an illogically arranged area and immediately starts measuring it with glowing eyes. Geometry is involved. A level appears. If a pencil is perched behind his ear, I know a “project” is underway.
All of life ceases around him when John begins his project. Storms can rage. Rivers can run backward. I could announce an untimely pregnancy. He would hear none of it. Blinders firmly attached, he’s happily occupied with stripping and re-applying the dingy grout around the bathtub.
His fingers fairly sing as they flutter through the medicine cabinet: checking expiration dates, bottle levels, and usage indications.
“When was the last time anybody used this calamine lotion?” He has clumped the length of the house and found me outside by the back fence. “Don’t you think it’s time to toss it?” I have to pretend to care.
While I’m prying bits of toilet paper from the dog’s mouth and trying to keep up with the mounting trash, John is blissfully occupied. He doesn’t see the big picture. He’s busy turning little pictures of acceptable artistry into a chaotic, Picasso-y masterpieces nobody will ever see or appreciate.
“It just needs to be done,” he tells me through a mouthful of nails he’s using to make a hat/coat/key/whatever rack on the back porch. “We need a little order in this place”. Beneath his feet, grit from his boots crunch into the tiles. I’ll have to sweep that up, when I get a minute. My life with John is like a seesaw. Delight is occasionally the chubby kid but as the years pass, frustration is putting on weight. There is never a balance; our playground isn’t always a happy place. However, one thing will never change. I’ll keep doing things my way – a little at a time – and John will come behind me to make mountains from those molehills.
I just peeked into the cabinets. The cans are in their new home. They look like they’ve been dusted.
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