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I’ve spent a long weekend, busy with Father, attending to his needs. While Brother #3 takes a much-needed rest I organized his closets and papers and tidied up his dresser drawers. I worked; Father supervised. 

Father is blind, so the procedure was for me to use my words to make a visual picture of the contents of the drawer, bag, box etc. with the goal of sorting the sheep from the goats. The sheep go back to their pens in some sort of order (for me anyway) and the goats to garbage bags for Goodwill. 

Father doesn’t just say ‘keep or toss’ but stops to reflect on each item or to ask details. Sometimes he changes his mind a few minutes after something has been sorted. I started making silent executive decisions what really needed to be saved. Example: he has checkbook receipts from the 80s and medical labs ‘this is not a bill” copies over two years old. “Oh I think we should hang onto that” was followed by a ‘why?” with a somewhat lengthy disquisition. This evolved into ‘oh I think we should keep that” ending with me quietly putting all in the ‘to shred’ pile. By the end I just sorted things without supervision. At the end he was pleased as Punch to hear we compacted three drawers-worth of papers into one folder. 

Occasionally Brother #3 passes by when I ask Father is this a keeper (say, one of five bathrobes, three of them blue). Father says ‘yes’; Brother #3 silently shakes his head ‘no’ and into the ghost-bag it goes.  

A careful closet sorting and inventory reveals he has nine pairs of identical khakis and ten polo shirts mostly U of M color and insignia. Due to diminished range of motion, he now only wears button-down shirts. We spent some time discussing the existential existence of ten polo shirts. “Take them’ he says, meaning all of them. That would leave his closet with a few sweat pants and three button down shirts, which is enough, but it looks bleak. *

I gathered up all six of his hand-held transistor radios and put them into ‘the junk drawer’. These I didn’t mess with, as he seems to know all of them. Good memory, for I suspect they have not seen daylight in decades. I should throw one out and months later he will ask where is that one.**

I whittled down his sock collection to a token pair of brown, blue, and black as he no longer wears socks but compression-type.  My crowning achievement was folding his twenty T-shirts so they all face upward, so he doesn’t just keep wearing the one on top.***

Now that the tidy-up is concluded we can just sit. He likes Sousa marches, and plays these all day long. Another guilt of mine is when sitting with a blind person I can be on a laptop or iPhone and this is not noticed.  

He thinks I am the best son there is and I feel a fraud. 🙂 

*I am taking only one, a maize polo shirt with a blue “M”. It is enough.

**He is a big fan of ECHO, to whom he talks throughout the day to play whatever tune or radio station he is suddenly thinking of. He has the brains of a hummingbird, shocking I know.

***Two of the night staff have given positive feedback on this. “Wow, I can find everything”. 

Yesterday Sunday I woke determined scour the world of grime and filth – or at least the part of the world that is my house. I’ve been sleeping badly lately, partially due to nasal congestion preventing me from breathing. If you are like me, being able to breathe is a vital element for a good night’s rest. So, I took a deep breath, channeled the ghost of Agatha Morley, and got to work. 

It is both horrifying and amazing how much dust accumulates around here. The worst places were the ones I would not expect to find dust. The ceiling fan may look lovely from below but on top of the blades were dastardly layers of filth. How can this be when the fan whirl about so?  Another culprit was the lampshades, which had to be taken out of doors for a good shake. The oddest spot was the walls. One has to admire dust its cheek to accumulate on the walls. 

“What’s the big rush all of sudden?” said Someone, (or words like this). I told him; I’d been talking to him along be before he arrived in the room to investigate what was all the racket (I dust noisily). We were going to clean up today – at least the bedroom and bathroom. I shepherded him all day as a dog drives sheep. Between us we did countless loads of laundry including quilts and armchair covers (filthy!). I got up on ladders to attend to the tops of the bathroom lights and the frames of pictures (dens of dusty inequities all of them). Working from top to bottom, I then shook out the rugs in the spirit of generations of women (and menfolk too) who took up arms against the loungers and loafers and lead-butts who are all too willing to accept filth as OK. It was tough work but then it was done. “Come into the bedroom,” I told Someone, “and look and smell the clean.”  I slept well that night, knowing things were good and dust-free. 

I woke up this morning ‘still here’; the Krampus did not haul we away in the night. In some ways this is a disappointment. Perhaps I will do better with The 13 Yule Lads who start showing up the evening of the twelfth. I prefer seeing Iceland to Austria anyway. 

The kitchen and pantry got a thorough cleaning this morning, after a sufficient waiting period to see if the mouse I trapped and released last week hadn’t found its way back. I love the smell of Pine-Sol in the morning. Later today I will probably ruin it all in my next attempt at making rye bread. It would be nice to have both a tidy kitchen and a decent loaf but this may not be humanely possible. 

I didn’t get a call from the Krampus last night but I did get one from Father called. He never calls in the evening as he is on EST and he goes to bed early. At first I was alarmed but instantly relieved to hear a cheery upbeat affect. Why the call? After a few days of ‘GI troubles’ he finally had relief thanks to the advice I had given him that afternoon to take a certain over-the-counter combination of softeners. Curious he didn’t ask Brother #2 the radiologist or SIL #3 the ER physician A.K.A ‘the real doctors in the house” what to do about the matter. My prescription worked; he was calling to thank me and tell me the good news. Pretty good for a psychiatrist! It was good to hear him cheerful about something after weeks of gloom. 

Sundays seem to be all about tidy-up and cleaning things out. As I write this the washer and dryer are going allegro non troppo. It still bewilders me how two O.B.s* generate so much laundry. The washer machine has taken to traveling. It starts next to the dryer but ends up at a 45-degree angle a foot or so away.  Someone the Rationalist thinks I am overloading the machine but I sense the Maytag is bewitched and it is trying to escape.  Someone didn’t call my bluff to take over all laundry duties so this constant backwards and forwards dance is likely to continue. 

Next step in La Casa de Spo cleanse is to get out the stepladder and change the air filters in the ceiling. We recently turned on the heat so I want clean filters to match. While he (Someone) is up there I want to change some lightbulbs.

How many psychiatrists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: none – I get Someone to do this. 

Later: Someone did a fine job with the changing of the filters and the lightbulb. The filters were quite schumtzig. The old ones were quite gray and opaque in contrast to the new white ‘clear’ ones. I will sleep better knowing this is done. As for the lightbulb – I see the hallway needs sweeping. This stuff never ends.

 

*Old Bachelors. Since we are married I should stop referring to ourselves as ‘O.B.s’ but it is a long time habit and I like saying it. 

I spent the day on the phone with my brothers going through our parents house preparing it for an estate sale. We were on FaceTime for seven hours. We went room to room sorting things. It was a quite a job. My parents have lived in the same house since the 70s. They were not hoarders nor was their house cluttered yet it seemed it was loaded up with old things of no worth. It is amazing how much they have/had. Once upon a time these things were precious or valuable but it is now no longer so. Mother has chests of silverware. The letters on the utensil handles suggest they are from several generations passed down from woman to woman. We four sheepishly agreed it is probably better to sell it en masse to a silversmith for the metal as no one uses silverware anymore. Whenever we opened a cupboard or closet we found heaps.   We would pull out figurines and plate and such and Brother #4 would look up on Ebay to find these things aren’t worth much. Mother had lots of costume jewelry we think she haven’t been worn in decades. The sister-in-laws don’t want any of it. I hadn’t thought One explained women just don’t wear such any more.  Father had drawers of old receipts and manuals many for things no longer in existence. Once in a while we ‘hit the jackpot’ as it were to find something we thought lost for ever. 

We each found a few things to take but I was the one actually ended up getting the most booty.  These are mostly old books and my artwork.  I didn’t need/want anything of value; these things are to be sold rather.

There were a few funny moments. I asked Brother #2 to please carefully go through Mother’s cookbooks as there was a particular one I wanted he couldn’t find it I pressed him to look more only to realize last time I visited I took the cookbook and I have it already. “I guess it’s not there” I told him.  

By 6-7PM EST we had gone through the first and second floors. The basement resembles King Tut’s tomb and needs a day all to itself. 

It all presses me to minimize my own place. It is a funny goal knowing the guest rooms in Michigan is piled up with things  someday coming my way.

Oh the pain. The laptop had an alleged ‘upgrade’ last week the consequences being I can no longer log into work nor leave comments on certain blogs. The humidifier’s light is glowing an angry red to suggest my attempt to fix it has failed. Someone’s garage door opener won’t work.* My mind shudders at the growing number of La Casa de Spo items that want desperate attention and needs of repair. The last straw was the sewing machine whose light went out in the middle of a delicate stitch.

I am not a handy man. I’ve learned it is better to hire someone who knows what they are doing than trying to repair things myself. This costs time and money and a bit of pride I cannot deduce on my own how to change a sewing machine lightbulb.**

When something goes kaput at our place our usual approach is to just go without it. Every repair seems to always require an awful lot of time, energy, and money. This lazy solution of non-repair may ‘work’ for an inoperable fireplace but not so for the dishwasher. One of us (usually Someone as he loses less money to take off work) must contact the proper authorities and thus stay home all for the mercurial arrival of the repairman or somebody like him. Less tedious is finding time to get the defunct item to the repair store and hope for the best.

Despite my fondness for making lists I’ve avoided making a “Things to repair” list lest I realize how bad off it all is. Emerson said to always do the thing you are afraid to do so I shall face my fears and get it going.  Best case scenario: hiring some nice local handsome handyman to get it all done for me. Someone will be appalled but he will be able to get into the garage again.

 

OIP

 

*He calls me just before his arrives home to ask me to open the garage door for him. If I am asleep or I miss such requests he has to come in via the front door, go to the garage and open it from the inside and go back out to bring in The Precious. An awful lot of fuss.

**How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: none. This is done by the good folks at Joanne Fabrics.

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It’s been cold enough to turn on the heat* and get out the flannel sheets. The linen closet is a frightful mess; this afternoon I plan to take out the contents and refold them or better yet put them in the donation pile. I recently read a shocking report nearly all clothes donations that go to thrift shops end up in land fill. I hope this not so. I’ve learned consulting others in the house about discarding something usually gets a veto of questionable rationalization and back on the shelf it goes. I’ve discovered it is better to put long-forgotten items into a ghost bag and haul them to Goodwill without mentioning it to anybody.  Others in the house solve the stuff/space ratio problem not by discard but through better organization.**
I recently read of a word or term describing the phenomenon of needless material goods proliferating while our backs our turned. Now I cannot remember the word. Spo-fans who know please say so in the comment section.

We keep things mostly for three reason:
#1 Guilt
#2 Sentimentality
#3 Fears we may need it someday

Examples:
#1 – As I type this I see nearly a dozen pencils in the office organizer. I haven’t a clue how they got there. Most don’t have erasers and/or are stubs. Although they are still usable I will toss out most of them leaving 2-3 good ones.
#2 – This is the hardest one for me. Useless utensils that were my grandmother’s I can take a photo of I suppose and look at that if/when I need to.  I have a little sentiment box of knick-knacks and cat collars I just can’t throw out, so I am guilty as charged on this one.

#3 – For the ‘but we may need this someday’ anxiety I use a formula: if a replacement would cost less than 50$ then the chances of my actually needing it are slim enough to make this a cost/keep ratio worth chancing.
So with that all in mind today I am waging war on useless bulky things. Wish me luck. Anyone want a collection of mismatched flannel sheets? We have heaps.

 

*Someone has it in his head a ‘no heat on until January’ rule. I am not sure of its logic; perhaps he is just being cheap. Despite his protestations I have the heat set at 65F.
**He does a fine job at this. He could fit a rhinoceros into the car trunk.

Patience above! Everything is falling apart here at La Casa de Spo! It’s like some wicked fairy is bopping about slapping its wand on the appliances making them all inoperable. 

Last weekend I went to the wine fridge to discover its inside is as warm as a sauna; goodness knows when it gave up the ghost. I tried to cram as many of the more expensive bottles of vino into the main refrigerator.  If you were to open it now and peer inside you would see ~ twenty bottles and some half-consumed condiments and not much else and conclude we are a couple of dipsomaniacs.  I thought of putting them all in the pool but I did that once before and the labels came off. Let’s hope they are not too off.  We may be ordering out for a while.

The dishwasher – long in its decline – ceased to operate  entirely last night. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. Both boxes can be addressed by the same at-home repairman if we can find one. 

My antique clock isn’t doing well either. It stops every few days as if is tired and needing a rest to get back its bearings. After all it is over one hundred years old. I was able to resurrect it (again) but unfortunately this happened on the dining room table and I am now afraid to move it lest it die again. It’s a lovely timepiece but it doesn’t make a good centerpiece. 

The laptop contents mysteriously disappeared (I suspect Nargles) but thanks to ‘back up’ I was able to retrieve it.  Thank goodness I do back up. 

There’s more but you get the point. I’ve not had a moment’s peace running around attending to the crisis de jour. 

The clock and the laptop are working for now and the repairman (or somebody like him) is scheduled to show this Thursday.  Meanwhile I have dishwasher contents to attend. Oh the pain. I am suddenly aware how many glasses and plates go into a load. It is just too easy to put a once-used glass in the Kenmore than reuse it.  I’ve instructed The Cup Sprites to knock it off until Friday and let me drink out of the same glass for awhile hoping to cut down on the dishwashing. Have I mentioned it takes forever for the hot water to arrive to the kitchen sink? When we first moved in I thought the heater had been turned off.  It’s nutters it’s hot as hell outdoors yet it takes several minutes to get even lukewarm water out of the taps. I don’t mind washing dishes – provided there is hot water and I don’t have 800 other things to do.  The Skanks (the dears!) came out of their absence to inspire me to use paper plates and cutlery for awhile and I am half tempted to do so. 

I should be grateful the washer and the dryer haven’t crossed the appliance strike line to join their brethren.  The car better behave as I have to drive to San Diego this Wednesday.  Let’s see what shenanigans happen in the meanwhile. 

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Patience above and Lord love us! This is another entry causing angst with the brave and bold TBDHSR. They suggested (again) I post one of those ‘He doesn’t really mean any of this he’s attempting at writing humor” warnings, as if Spo-fans can’t figure this out themselves. Thems who are worried Someone is soon to be in court for a divorce or as a defendant in a homicide trial can rest easy.  Please don’t write in.

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Over the years I’ve heard from many patients their mixed feelings about their spouse’s retirement. They love their husband but now that he’s home all the time with not much to do he’s following her around being needy or worse ‘helpful’ and it’s getting on their nerves.  I am thinking of this today for Someone is home. Normally he is away, working on the weekends, and I have the house to myself. While I try to do my routine he’s come in to point out a few problems around the house that need addressing right now. In our domestic tennis game I return the ball in the form of a honey-do list we could be doing which really means what he could be doing  but this so far has proved fruitless. My usual sobriquet Dr. Smartypants has been altered slightly to Dr. Bossyboots…..

….I have just returned from the office where Someone has figured out how get my dictation headphones to operate independently of the PC speakers so he can hear Youtube. He also managed to streamline der Kabalsalat into something better organized. He is a dear. It was on the agenda of things to do today. Don’t you just love it when your spouse picks up your telepathy and does what you want them to do without the drudgery of saying it plain and out loud? The downsize of this is he’s now at the computer getting in the way of me charting. I am not too peeved at the inconvenience as I get to write this rather than work. 

Speaking of work I suppose I should stop sitting and typing and get up and do some. After all there is work to be done. Confucius (or one of that crowd) says the best way to lead men is by example and this includes spouses at home on weekends. I daresay Someone needs structure and discipline if we are ever going to get all these chores done. We may be not speaking by day’s end but the house will be more tidy for it. 

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While I am on a roll of tidy-up projects I thought to confess my actions at the office. Where are work there are two kitchenettes used by many and supervised by none. From time to time I take it upon myself to organize the kitchen drawers and throw out what I believe needs purging. No one objects and no one seems to notice either.*

Thanks to continual pharmaceutical luncheons we are up to our oxters in packets of salt and pepper, soy sauce, and other condiments. I daresay they multiply on their own. I tried once to put them all into a clear glass container on the shelf at eye level so others would use them. Alas the amounts that come in weekly overwhelmed the jar.  When the drawer is overflowing I throw them all out and no one is the wiser. Plus – the mayonnaise packets tend to plumb up like overstuffed helium balloons and that can’t be good.

In another drawer dwell enough chopsticks to supply all of Shanghai despite a relatively lack of Chinese food at these shin-dings. These look perfectly useable so throwing them out seems silly. I imagine taking them en mass to Pei Wei and leaving them like a box of unwanted kittens but I worry if caught in the act I would be looked upon as an object of suspicion.

Who keeps bringing in the multi-colored coffee sweeteners is a mystery especially in light of the fact no one seems to bring in coffee. I don’t throw out the sugar substitutes as blithely as I do the condiments but I do like to organize them into taxonomic trays keeping the yellows away from the blues and the pinks. As Rocky says to Bullwinkle but that trick never works – or not for long. By week’s end they have all crept back into a communal pile in the back of a drawer usually behind the condiments.  The columnar boxes of unused sugar and coffee creamers stay put on the counter like Ozymandias.

I recently threw out the clinic can opener. It’s been sleeping in a drawer underneath a thick blanket black plastic fork/knife/spoon/paper napkin sets. I suspect no one has used it in years. I recently tested it as it is inoperable.

On the kitchen counter is a glass jar into which I make a periodic contribution of nibbles. These are quickly consumed but no one asks where they come from or even says thank you. This doesn’t bother me really. I feel like one of those Elves in the Shoemaker story and it gives me a good feeling to do a small good for my fellow man.

On the other hand after a round of tidy-up I get peeved enough to consider bringing in not trail mix but something else for the glass jar.

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*I realize this perpetuates the problem viz. self-responsibility and an agreed-upon plan to keep things clean. Alas, years of remonstration has been to no avail.

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I swept and mopped the floors today; it was some job. They were quite dirty with dog hair and dust bunnies the size of tumbleweeds. Oh the embarrassment. The weather was warm enough to open the doors for awhile and let in some relatively dog-free air. Piles of laundry, high as Fafner’s hoard, were cleaned, ironed, folded, and put away. I can sit down now wholly satisfied how much tidy-up was accomplished. I can be proud in my industry. 

Tomorrow is Monday and the whole bloody business starts again. 

I sometimes wonder what other people do on their weekends. I imagine while I am running errands and doing the tidy-up others are out jet-skiing and hand-gliding followed by dining, theatre, and dancing. I want to know when do they buy the groceries and iron etc. Probably the have hired help or indentured servants to fry the eggs and dry the sheets for them.

Perhaps there is no greener grass to wit even the hoity-toity 1% lead mundane lives on weekends staying home to clean their kitchens

Unless Mary Poppins should unexpectedly shows up housekeeping here is strictly do-it-yourself and that’s that. Henry II (or one of that crowd) once said “There’s no point in asking if the air is any good when there is nothing else to breathe”. No one is going to pick up the dog poop for me.

On the positive I got through all my podcasts and a medical lecture and Harper got in a couple of good walks. While I ran around with mop and broom she basically slept all day. I gave her one task to do to earn her keep: change the bed. It is 7PM and she still hasn’t done it. It is so difficult to get good help these days. 

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