Ely discovered water pooled on the laundry room floor and reported the flood to Mom. Together they mopped up the water with rags. Appliance said he could have a new pump shipped from Washing in a few days. I had procrastinated, and needed to wash my clothes that very day. I focused on yard work, putting off my evening trip to the laundromat. But when Terry and Pat, the nice neighbors, stopped by to visit, Mom told them about the washer and the laundromat and they insisted I come to their house to use their washer. “Do you want me to do it for you?” Pat asked kindly, but I do not allow anyone handle my dirty laundry, and told her I would enjoy doing it, thank you. Ely is a housecleaner. Dad has vacuumed the carpets and swept and mopped the floors and cleaned the bathrooms and scrubbed the shower walls his whole married life, but has run out of strength, mobility, and steam. Ely, a delightful, humble, thorough dual citizen, now takes care of what Mom and Dad can no longer take care of. They do not call her the cleaning lady; they call her Ely, their friend and indispensable helper. The house tidied, Brian and Avery arrived with two-year-old Lila to celebrate his 32nd birthday, and I was touched he wanted to celebrate with us. We set up cornhole and ring toss and a PVC scaffold onto which one tosses golf balls joined by short ropes. Lila objected to how my rope-tied-spheres hung from the rungs—“No! Gwampa Waja!” she insisted. She repositioned each hanging rope according to her adorable imagination, delightedly proclaiming the decorated structure her Christmas tree. At dinner, I decided ground sirloin is much tastier than hamburger, well worth the extra one dollar per pound. I had prepared a birthday dessert from my French cookbook—Brian chose chocolate mousse, which I have mastered after many trials. Into the dessert cups we jammed and lighted three candles. Lila made sure her daddy blew them out correctly. An unconventional birthday “cake,” still the result was superb (thank you Julia), with strong Pero substituting for strong coffee. The sun dipped low behind the house, and the air quickly chilled. Dad and I sat on patio chairs listening to the red House Finch sing with happy gusto, perched on a spiny blue spruce nearby. “Listen to that little guy sing!” Dad hooted. We commented on what a happy thing it is—a happy miraculous thing—that nature sings.
“Tell me about your day,” I ventured as I drove Dad to Smith’s in the Faithful Suburban (also known as the “Mighty V8”). “Oh,” he began, “I had a good day, even though I didn’t accomplish one blessed thing.” I said I supposed one’s perspective of what a good day is might change at different times in one’s life. “Indeed,” he confirmed. “For me, a good day is to survive.” That’s all: to survive. Gone are the days of ebullient striving and thriving. The point comes where mere living is sufficient—as opposed to dying, from viral meningitis or a car wreck or heart disease or aspirating on one’s food or falling down the stairs or eating too much sugar or an abundance of other morose possibilities. Changing the subject, I mentioned I had stopped at the Bosch store to buy a part to fix the dishwasher door, which one day had lost all tension in the springs and fell open with a bang. The belligerent door had already hammered at Mom’s leg, leaving a big long angry purple bruise on her leg. Dad and I had driven to Smith’s with a particular mission in mind: a rotisserie chicken for dinner. And after dinner I slid the dishwasher out and found the suspected chords broken and detached from the springs. Then I discovered that the 1/16 of-an-inch-wide plastic anchors holding the stiff springs in place within the dishwasher frame had deteriorated from their old weld, and the springs floated anchorless in their plastic sockets. The new chords would do me no good with nothing to anchor the springs. Discouraged, I discerned that the door could not be fixed: the integrated plastic anchors had simply disintegrated, on both sides of the door. Things seem to be crumbling all around me, I thought, as the clip that held the dishwasher in place buckled and broke and the machine lurched forward and the loaded dish trays rolled out clanking. Already the first week of May, with already several 80-degree-F days behind us, heavy snow blew at a slant outside the kitchen window from low black clouds. I had arrived home late from work, and did not have time or energy to cook, hence the rotisserie run to Smith’s in the Mighty V8, where Dad motored off in the motorized shopping cart and another older patron quipped, “Drive safe.”
I had taken Avery’s chili dinner to Sarah and Tracy, and read picture books with Gabe. Dealing with cancer treatments, they appreciated the meal. Arriving home, I could smell that Dad had gotten dinner ready: grilled bratwurst, baked squash, boiled cauliflower, sautéed onions—a feast! Forking a brat off the grill, I noticed a foreign electrical cord connected to the grill. Looking under the grill surface into the drip pan, I saw the correct cord, where I had stored it, covered in hot grease. I commented my relief that the foreign cord had worked, and lifted the grill surface to retrieve the hot, greasy cord. When Dad saw he had grilled not only the brats but the power cord, he let out a dismayed “Oh shit.” Not in anger, but in chagrined exasperation that he likely had ruined my cord. “I feel so bad I cooked your cord,” he lamented later. I told him not to worry, that now we knew other cords would work, and anyway the cooked cord looked no worse for the grilling. Nothing had melted or burned. I suspected when cooled and washed up, the cord would work just fine. And now Mom and Dad know I store the power cord inside the grill unit when not in use, where understandably one would not think to look for it. And the bratwurst were grilled to plump juicy perfection.