March 3, 2021 — Earlier this week, Herman and I got our second COVID-19 vaccines. Anticipating a rough time, we made a big pot of chicken noodle soup for our recovery. Both of us had sore arms, and yesterday felt a tiny chill all day. When I checked the thermostat about 9 p.m. last night, I realized we hadn’t turned it up that morning. So, the chill was self-imposed. More proof that we have lost all sense during the pandemic.
Now we talk about what we will do post-shot-recovery. I want to go to Cracker Barrel for breakfast sometime. Do I know how to live or what? And maybe take in the new Frances McDormand movie in an actual theater, not in pajamas five feet from our TV. But my social skills and discernment seem to have disappeared under the weight of isolation. It’s like all the muscle memory I had for a normal life has dissipated. I’m terrified of re-entry. Will the fire from my capsule burn me up as I return to earth?
This week marks the first anniversary of Herman coming home for good. He was scheduled to retire at the end of May when the school year was over. But the university sent everybody home on March 6th. I wasn’t quite ready to relinquish the remote. I had not processed what it would mean to have both of us in this house. Nor was he quite ready for the fact that the only time he would return to a workplace of more than 32 years was to clean out his office months later.
In some ways, it feels like a century. In other ways, it feels like a weekend. All sense of time is lost. I joke with my brother that the only way we can measure time is by Garbage Day. It’s the only fixed point in our lives. Andy’s day is Tuesday, and ours is Wednesday. The church is still at 10 a.m. Sunday, but it’s on Zoom and YouTube, so I can watch whenever I want. There are no regular coffee days with friends, no lunches out, no Gal Pal days. We have doctor’s appointments, but they aren’t regular.
We’ve been fortunate, as my Grandmother McVay used to say, “If you have a warm house and food to eat, you better enjoy it.” For years, we’ve talked about downsizing when Herman retired. But I’m glad we had not made that move. Having a big house was a godsend during this time. My space. His space. My bathroom. His bathroom.
He has a small ETSY business, and I’m always writing a book, so we’ve kept busy for a year. The plague has only whisked by us—a two-year-old relative got it and had no symptoms. It was discovered on a well-baby checkup. The in-laws of my cousin died days apart. They had been masking and social distancing. One masked visit from their adult son sickened them. My small church has had four deaths from this awful disease. The plague is everywhere in wider and wider concentric circles around us, touching and destroying so many lives that it is almost impossible to grasp the enormity of the loss.
We are beginning to think about downsizing. We hired a home inspector to tell us what surprises were in store. Whew! The roof and the foundation are good. But something was going on, under our noses, that we didn’t know. We have a potentially exploding toilet. Yes, that’s what I said. It turns out the Gerber FlushMate has been known to be a porcelain projectile, a sh##ty shooter, a rear-end rifle. Okay, I’ll stop, but I don’t want to. A butt bullet?
You live in a house for 26 years, and you think you know it. And right in front of your face is danger. Or rather, behind you is danger.
Anyone who has known us for longer than five minutes knows that our most significant problem with this house hasn’t been an exploding toilet. No, it has been an overabundance of critters. We weren’t even that impressed at the San Diego Zoo. They didn’t have that many animals, compared to what lives under our yard barn and deck. Well, the yard barn is history, having suffered an enormous hole in the roof from a storm earlier in the year. Add a Skyride to our yard and its practically the same property as the big zoo in San Diego!.
Under the deck is a magical world of its own. And before I go on, I have to say a word about decks. Fire. That’s the word. The best thing for a deck is a lighted match, according to my brother. I will never again own a home with a deck, a basement, or trees. Decks are a huge pain, and this deck is the biggest pain of all. It is the entire length of the house, and L-shaped so there’s another large portion that juts out into the yard. The deck is made of wood and requires enormous effort to keep it up.
I’m late getting to the punchline, but it has been home to more critters than seen on “Wild Kingdom.” (Dated reference for Baby Boomers.)
We’ve paid Greg the Ground Hog Guy to trap and relocate whatever monstrous beings have settled in for several years now. These include opossums, raccoons, groundhogs, and now skunks. We’ve seen plenty of deer, fox, lions, tigers, and bears, and we hear there are bobcats out there. This year, we decided enough is enough. Eventually, we want to downsize, and we don’t want to have to declare this as a national
wildlife refuge when we sell.
Greg will be constructing a barrier under the deck to keep the critters out. To make sure he isn’t closing anyone or anything in, he has posted two web-cams under the deck. I like to call them Gopher Cams. Herman keeps saying, “Au revoir, Go-pher,” imitating Bill Murray in “Caddyshack.” I have to think like a gopher. Superior intelligence and firepower.
You have Hulu or Netflix or Sling. So what? Every morning, I can watch monsters frolicking in living color on my big computer screen. Last night we had an appearance by Pepe Le Pew and Meester Ground Hog. Both of them appeared to be significant. Both showed up, looked around, and left. There’s a hole under the deck, likely a former groundhog residence, that Greg put something in to discourage settlers. The night before last, which was Gopher-Cam’s premiere, Pepe Le Pew made his grand entrance.
The hole is directly below my office window. I wonder if the camera goes the other way and the critters can see me? We live in their world, you know. Do they wonder why I’m wearing a Sandra & Ruth & Elena & Sonia T-shirt? And pink fuzzy house slippers?
Their fate is knowable. They will be leaving soon. I know this as much as I know my lilacs will bloom in late April. And it’s not like the Roach Motel where roaches check-in, but they don’t check out. They can visit, but they cannot stay. In the words of Jean Paul Sartre, Au revoir, Go-Phers!
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