I clean Sly and Doris’ fridge. I did this last time, too. Did I tell you about it? I can’t remember. If I can’t remember, you for sure can’t.
I remind myself that they are old and this kind of thing is hard for them, but it is kind of gross. Still, it is a way to kill time rather than sitting by them pretending to be enthralled by the TV. And I am a really good cleaner. I love to throw stuff away and end up with a spare, clean, minimalist environment.
Which clearly is not going to happen chez Sly and Doris, but I can at least make the refrigerator look good.
Doris: I don’t even know how to thank you for doing this. I am such a dreadful hostess. I feel terrible that my home is in such disarray. I can’t clean and I can’t prepare meals. I am so ashamed.
I pause my mp3 player, take the earbud out of my right ear, give her The Hand of Stop Talking but with a smile so it doesn’t seem mean because I don’t intend it to be taken that way, and say lightly, "Stop. I don't want to hear it. I really don’t mind doing this. It’s good to be busy."
I mean it. I hope she takes it as an, "Oh don't give it a second thought" kind of thing, which it mainly is, but I really and truly do not want to hear it. That’s why I am listening to the mp3 player and not to her. I want to block out anything that isn’t something I chose to hear.
Doris: I didn’t used to be like this. Now I’m useless.
I take out my earbud again.
Me: Doris. I really and truly do not mind doing this. Don’t worry about it.
SLY! This is where you are supposed to jump in to reassure your wife that she is not useless! This is what a loving husband does.
Sly doesn’t say a word.
Poor Doris. She doesn’t care what I think about her. She cares about what the man who promised to love and cherish her all her life thinks about her. She wants to feel useful and valued. I don’t think that’s something I could give her.
I replace the earbud, turn up the volume on the mp3 player, and clean.