This week on Monday, Spring done sprung. The yard is awash in mounds of pink roses and showy evening primrose. The honeysuckle on the fence is sending wafts of sweet breezes hither and yon. And the cheery cherry trees have finally started to blossom. On Tuesday, I saw the male Hooded Oriel return, and the female Hooded Oriel showed up a moment later. After a long winter apart, their’s was a joyous reunion. A harbinger, I hope.
On Weds my job ended. Technically I was furloughed, because in California you can’t let someone go without handing them their final check. So companies avoid extra hassle in accounting by never firing anyone, instead they get furloughed and after they get the final check, they’re let go. But, when you’re from CA, you understand the drill.
I was just glad to be back to one job, 24/7 carer for my Gran. Even if it’s unpaid. Even if it’s way, way harder than any “real” job. I can now get extra Z’s. And I have time to clean up the house and garden to a reasonable standard before my mother arrives. On Thursday I woke up late, and actually cleaned something! And if felt sooo good.
Gran would never complain, but when every surface of the house is covered… Does she really need to? When no one is coming to the house, does it matter what the inside looks like, or even what you’re wearing? It does. But in a crisis, those things go out the window.
The last several months have been crisis mode. I admit that. My friends’ stress has been such that they have developed ulcers, vertigo, recurrence of cancer, migraines, all sorts of things. But they’ve been working, sometimes 2 or 3 jobs. And doing care giving, and homeschooling.
Honestly, I don’t know anyone who is dying to leave shelter in place to go out and buy clothes, see a movie, or eat at a restaurant. I don’t know anyone that’s bored. Everyone I know is just tired and stressed out and tired of being stressed out.
They just want one job that pays the bills, to be able to sleep at night without fear for the future, to go to a doctor when they need to without facing financial ruin, to have their kids well educated (preferably at some distance away) and to live in a place that is safe and well ordered.
These are not big unrealistic asks. These expectations shouldn’t be hard for a government to meet. But…in some countries? In countries with terrible people at the top? Even simple, basic things like these seem wildly unattainable.
I just want to go home and enter quarantine. I want to sleep and sleep and sleep. And when I wake up, I’m going to take a long, long shower, just because there’s water and I can. And if there’s clean clothes and chocolate cream pie left beside my door when I step out? Bonus points for you when I’m free!
On Thursday, I got a letter from my bank. Apparently due to lack of transactions they were thinking of escheating my meager horde. Hell no. To stop them, I had to send a notarized statement with 60 days. 60 days is donkey’s years during a pandemic.
So I found myself standing in front a total stranger, the notary, both of us with a face masks on, me holding up my ID and gloved right hand, swearing it was me. She taking $15, and okay with signing off on my attestation. Life is weird. And then it gets weirder.
I mowed the lawn and sent my mother a video of the gardens in bloom. We all love a good garden. (Yes, I was convincing her the grass was always 3″ and not 3′ high.) She called me on her coffee break, from my kitchen, to talk flowers. She wanted to send some to Gran, for mother’s day on Sunday.
I told her I could pick up now, if she called our local shop down here. And so we chatted, and eventually I did what I’m prone to do even when I’m really engaged in a conversation. I started looking at the background. I usually do that during my mother’s calls make myself feel better. I can see my home. It’s reassuringly still there.
But I can’t ever turn off that little thing in my brain that scans for anomalous things. And there was an anomalous thing. Right on the fridge, between the “There are never enough I love yous” sign, and the “Always remember you are loved” magnet, I saw the handles had been chained and padlocked. Small chain, small TSA padlock. But still.
They say, never look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s a saying I’ve never understood. I thought the whole point was you were supposed to look, so you didn’t end up with Trojans in your city. So, I mentioned to my mother Der’s quarantine, and asked if I could send her a list of his favorite things so she could stock it up and he didn’t have to go out for the two weeks. She said no problem.
At which point, I segued to the chain on the fridge.
“Why is there a chain and padlock on the fridge, Mutti?”
“Ask your Da.” she said with a sigh, and then picked up her tablet and started walking “me” to him.
In the ranking of possible worst replies you can get to a question, an exasperated “Ask your Father” from my mother is at the top of the list. “Ask your Da” was a degree down from that. I was sure there would be a plausible reason for the chain. At least I was hoping so.
That fridge was pretty new and Der spent a month deciding what features he wanted on it. If that fridge was damaged? I enjoyed the free tour of my home as she walked. As I suspected, the house was looking tidy. I felt oddly upset. I mean, glad for Der. But I felt one upped.
She carried me out to our sunroom / Der’s office. Da was working away on his computer. She set me down on a table nearby so I could talk to him while he was working. It was nice to see the sunroom and my Da. We talked about this and that. I almost forgot about the fridge. Almost.
Finally I went over the top. I just asked straight out. “What’s up with the chain on the fridge? Mutti putting you on a diet?” Da paused in his typing and looked up. He smiled his guileless Welsh smile with an earnest cast to his eyes. Lies were about to spill forth, I knew it.
“Oh, ’twas nothing.” said he, which of course meant it was really quite something. He said he had trained Hastings to do a new trick. Hastings is our very intelligent but extremely food motivated dog. (And yes, there is a cat, Poirot.)
Hastings is always hungry. We have to break up his meals so he doesn’t get bloat, and cover all the trash cans tightly. Hastings loves my Da and attaches himself to him every time he visits. Mostly because my Da gives him lots of treats, under the guise always of teaching him a new — typically annoying — trick that we then have to undo or modify.
This time the new trick was to get my Da a beer from the fridge. But over time, Hastings came to understand that when Da wasn’t around asking for beer, he could pick up “a little something” for himself.
“Uh-huh.”I said. I mean it made perfect sense. Of course, what my Da didn’t notice was Hastings walking past the doorway behind him, and stop to itch himself. At which point I noticed Hastings’s stomach was not hairy and black, but pink and shaved. Hastings entered the room and sat down beside my Da, looking at me, happy.
I talked Hastings a moment, and seeing I was in no position to give him a treat, he wandered away. Exit, stage right. He seemed okay. But I decided to pursue the matter. I asked “What little something did Hastings take from the fridge that wasn’t a beer?”
“Oh,” sighed my Da, “It was only a hamburger I was going to grill.”
I decided to just let thing drop there. Sort of. After he’d rung off, I called our vet and asked if Hastings had been in recently. I was told yes, a couple weeks back, for acute pancreatitis and emergency surgery after he at 2 kilos of hamburger, and some shards of the tupperware it had been in.
The bill was $1200, which my Da had paid in full. I wondered if my Da had called Der and told him. Probably not. I wondered if I should say anything. I decided to sleep on it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, take considered action. If you’re always reacting, you’re never acting with intention. You’re at the mercy of the winds. You won’t end up where you want to get.
So I slept on it. And today I woke to a new love song. Sort of.
If you ask Americans to name a people that’s known to be frugal, you’ll likely hear the Scots. But if you ask a European, you’ll likely hear the Dutch. Which is why, knowing Der to have purchased cowboy accouterments for a video (that ended up in the bin) and knowing he only had access to Luke’s considerable talents for one more week, I was almost certain my last love song from Europe would have a western theme.
I was curious to see if last week’s Vietnam era, gritty, black and white, outlaw country was going to reappear of fall by the wayside. There many wonderful Country Western love songs, thousands, tens of thousands. But is that what he sent? Nope.
This week, he went post WWII, technicolor, musical, with a twist of Chaplin. He went Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! The Gordon MacRae version. Definitely a western theme, but I didn’t see that coming. If you don’t know Oh What A Beautiful Morning, check it out before proceeding because they riffed on it.
The version I received opened with a shot of bucketing rain coming down through a window. Definitely not “a beautiful morning.” The camera pulled back into Der’s bedroom and over to a rumpled bed where he was lying on his back on the bed, in just jeans and a cowboy hat covering his face. The pan continued to a calendar beside the bed, which had the 8th circled in red and where “home” was scrawled, and then down to an old-style alarm clock. The clock begins to ring.
The cowboy awakes super chipper and singing (lip syncing) “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow” as thunder crashes and lighting erupts. To him, it’s a beautiful day. He’s irrepressibly happy. He proceeds to get dressed over the course of the song, but clearly nothing is going his way.
He discovers holes in his socks. The cylinder falls out of his gun when he opens it. His lucky coin comes up tails. The whiskey bottle is empty. His saddle bags have been robbed by his previous evening’s lady who has left nothing but her feather boa, corset, and a silk slipper. But to him it’s a beautiful morning and everything’s going his way.
He finally slaps on his slicker, throws his saddlebags over his shoulder, pops on his hat and walks to the front door. He opens it, and looks out at the rain. The camera is behind him as he stops at the threshold. Is this the moment reality will set in? The camera then cuts to the front and he’s smiling. It doesn’t bother him at all. He holds out his hat to the rain with a grin, then slaps it on his head and sings the final quite “Oh what a beautiful day.”
After which he strolls blissfully out, throws his saddlebags on his bike, this is the Netherlands after all, and happily pedals away in the rain to the instrumental finish. It was absolutely impossible to see that much sheer goofy happiness and not be happy. Which made me realise, that fridge episode was between Der, Da and the dog.
And okay, too, I wanted to see if they’d cover it up, and for how long. Because by the time I get home, the dog will be healed and I’m betting the hair will be grown in pretty much. Which means, they never have to tell me. My Da would never tell. And Der….probably not.
Sure, I might find out someday, next time I went to the vet. But that could be months away. Maybe a year. Why stir the pot? And that was my thinking too. Why should I stir the pot? If I say nothing and they say nothing, I’ll always know have an Ace to play in future, should I do something equally life threateningly stupid bu accidental.
I’m sure my Da will tell Der. My guess? He’ll leave Der a note on the kitchen counter. Hopefully Hastings doesn’t eat it. But not my problem. He’s eaten paper before. Including an uncashed paycheck which happened to brush up against sandwich meat in the grocery bag one time. He’d be fine.
So, yeah, for I’m gonna let that puppy go bounding off into the meadow, then everyone, including myself, can have a beautiful day.