Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Love's First Flush

As Breakups Go, It Was An Ugly One.

Doors slammed. Insults hurled. Personal property destroyed. We both behaved badly.

Am I proud my myself? No, sir, I am not.

But come on. Seven years. Seven years he'd been living in this house, leading me to believe everything was fine, while behind that cool veneer of his, cracks were developing. Cracks that could destroy the very foundation of all we'd built.

By the time I discovered what he'd been up to, the damage was irreparable. How could I have been so blind?

In truth, I didn't want to see the destruction he'd wrought. It was too much; I was in denial.

For a while, anyway.

In the end, however, I had to acknowledge that something rotten was going on. I could no longer ignore the stench that hung in the air between us.

He had to go, but I knew I couldn't do it alone.

I had no choice but to reach out for help.

"Don't Blame Yourself,"

the plumber said and wiped his hands on a cloth he pulled from his hip pocket. "There was no way you could have known."

"Really?" I eyed the toilet leaning in the corner of the powder room, where the plumber had placed it after removing it from its perch over a large, open pipe in the floor. "I just feel foolish."

"You have to let that go," the plumber said. "Listen, no one would have suspected what was going on under there." He jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the toilet. "I can't even find the leak, and I went over the entire thing with a magnifying glass."

"Oh, you're just saying that to be nice," I said and rooted in the pocket of my MC Hammer pants for a tissue.

The plumber's voice softened. "I know it's hard for you to hear this right now, but he was no good for you. I've seen his type before. It makes me sick that a nice lady of the house like yourself got mixed up with a bum like that."

"But...but he didn't seem that way when we first--"

The plumber held up his hand, stopping me mid-sentence. "They never do," he said. "But look at this." He pointed to a widening ring of mushy, rotting wood that encircled the septic pipe - a malodorous blight on an otherwise pristine hardwood floor. "Good guys don't treat a lady like that. Nope," he said, shaking his head, "he's a bad hat, that one."

I glanced at the toilet again, looking for some sign of remorse, but cocked at a rakish angle against the goldenrod wall, he instead looked, well, smug.

Be strong, I told myself.

"Where do we go from here?" I asked the plumber.

"I've got just the fella for you," he said, his face brightening. "Lloyd."


"Yep." The plumber rummaged through his toolbox and produced a small catalog. He flipped through several pages, then planted his finger on one of the pictures and held it out for me to see. "Lloyd."

I studied the photo. Lloyd's smooth, clean lines and low profile were right up my all
ey, his water-efficient flushing technology and soft-close lid even more so.

"He seems...nice," I said then immediately regretted it. What if Lloyd was just another can-about-town?

Was I ready to take a chance - to bring someone new into my powder room? Seven years was a long time - what if everything had changed? What if [gulp] Lloyd didn't like me?

"I understand," the plumber said, his eyes kind. "You've been hurt."

I nodded and snorted into my tissue.

"If it helps at all," he continued, "Lloyd has been in my niece's house for four months now and she's very satisfied."

My head snapped up and my eyes met his. "Completely satisfied?"

"Let me put it this way," he said, lowering his voice and leaning toward me, "she
's the happiest I've ever seen her."

"Oh, my," I breathed and fingered the catalog I had unknowingly crunched into a wad between my palms.

"May I ask you one more question?" I said with a slight quaver in my voice.

"You want to know if you can wait a while and get back to me, right?" the plumber said.

"No. I want to know if you think Lloyd will like this goldenrod color or if I should repaint before he gets here."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Your Metaphysical Questions Answered

Ah, Children.

Aren't they great? Inquisitive little boogers - always wondering, always seeking answers to questions that would stump
Stephen Frickin' Hawking (as he is known to his close friends).

The science questions are bad enough - and they seem to come when you least expect them: in the grocery checkout line, through the powder room door, while gesturing at an idiotic driver as you pass him at high speeds with two wheels up on the curb.

You know - when you're

In these situations, I've found that the inquisitive youngster (and the folks waiting in line behind you while you try to find your coupons and your club card) are most appreciative of an answer that sacrifices a smidgen of accuracy for the sake of brevity.

For instance:

Child: Why is the sky blue?

Parent: Because no one looks good in yellow.

Child: Then why is space black?

Parent: Because they turned off the lights to save energy. In the 70s, space was lit up like a landing strip.

Child: Where does rain come from?

Parent: The ceiling.

And so on.

Life moves forward, dinner gets made and (bonus!) somewhere out there in the future, a science teacher is hugging himself with glee at the discovery that yet another kid in class thinks the rings around Saturn were built by Nintendo as a
Mario Kart practice track. (People like to feel good about their jobs, you know.)

The Bigger Questions.

Sure, these bite-sized science inquiries can be swatted away
before the kid realizes we don't know the answers either without too much effort, but what about The Big Questions?

You know, the thanks-for-the-
Legos-but-can-we-get-back-to-the-matter-of-where-we-came-from-and-why-we're-here-and-where-we're-going-next-type questions. (Known collectively among educators and parenting specialists as "The Widowmaker" or "The Flaming Chimichanga.")

Many of you probably have religious or philosophical foundations that provide ready-made answers to these fundamental questions. (
Lucky!) There are many folks, however (myself included) who haven't yet found that single, ideal belief system that has it all: profoundly comforting answers to life's monumental questions without the pesky purple-cape-and-hi-top-sneakers dress code.

And so, when our children come to us thirsting for knowledge about the workings of the Universe and beyond, we want to provide answers - boy, do we - but, alas, we simply don't have them. Nor does it seem appropriate to give a youngster a completely candid response along the lines of "It beats the crap out of me, kid!"

Which leaves us somewhere in the middle: we have to say something...right?

Why not say this:

Question: "Mommy, where did people come from?"

Mommy: "In the steamy dawn of the Time of Gorgon the Fluctuator, it was decreed that certain things shall be so. Then, before we knew it, Bob's your uncle and here we are. Now, then! [clap hands loudly] Who wants frozen yogurt?"

Question: "Daddy, who is God?"

Daddy: "Your mother sent you to ask that, didn't she? Listen, go tell Mommy that I said God is - are you ready? - Eric Clapton."

Question: "Hey, Mom, what happens to people after they die?"

Mom: "Hmm, well, I don't know the specifics, of course, but I'm under the impression that if you're a good person your whole life, you go somewhere that has free valet parking. On the other hand, if you're not a good person, well, two words: shuttle bus."

Question: "Dad, what's the meaning of life?"

Dad: [ahem] "Hey, sport! Did I mention we're getting a trampoline? Yeah! Let's go pick out that bad boy right now!

* Unless you have a really big yard, we recommend using this answer only once.

We hope you find these responses helpful as you are called upon to field The Big Questions. In the meantime, if you happen to know the REAL answers to any of the queries above, please post them in the comment box below. Also, I would really enjoy a pony and a zillion dollars.


[Note: No deities were harmed in the writing of this post.]

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tough Room

Love Stinks.

My son Gomez is a sentimental
romantic to the core. Always has been.

For years now, I've said that one of these days some woman is going to come along and break his big, tender heart to bits.

(It will be easy to spot me in the subsequent two decades' worth of family photos; I'll be the one wearing the orange jumpsuit with "California Dept. of Corrections" stenciled over the pocket.)

Come on
, I remind myself - he's only ten. Even though he's confided in me about a couple of schoolboy crushes, he's more consumed with baseball and Legos than with games of the heart.

Thankfully, dating is years in the future and Gomez remains snug in his unjaded, little-boy view of romance and evidenced by the illustrations on his school Valentine collection bag I found the other day while tidying his room:

Yep. Everything is
juuust as it should be.