Almost as good as the Discovery channel — 6-year-old grandson showing his grandfather how to attach license plates.
Living in a One-Ply World
By Robin Jovanovich
From what I can remember about my life, as recently as mid-March, bathing, dressing, and not opening a bottle of wine before 7 were standard procedure.
In those halcyon days, there was order and self-motivation. If I was going to leave a carbon footprint, I wanted to make sure it was something to be proud of. I would weed out all those dangling participles before the newspaper went to print and calmly explain to our contributors that sentences shouldn’t begin with “me” or “hopefully” and that “nice” was nebulous, which meant it was a “no-no”.
If I was going to stay in shape and not descend into elasticized waisted pants and caftans, I was determined to make it to the Y more than once a month and regularly perambulate, alongside the deer, through the Jay property on my way to the Marshlands.
These days I’m struggling to spell perambulate, to rise up from the family room sofa, or to plan one of the day’s endless meals.
My days begin early, usually on an already long line outside a market, notwithstanding the fact I’m approaching ancient and can therefore “enjoy” early- access hours. When I finally step inside, it’s only 8, and I race to the paper goods aisle, but the two-ply toilet paper is gone. I wait for what seems an eternity as a customer, who doesn’t look a day older than 55, surveys the dairy selection only to watch her put the last carton of 2 percent milk in her basket. Cleaning products? Not a chance.
When I return home an hour later with only a large bag of birdseed and a single roll of paper towels that molt when I remove the plastic, my husband, asks, “Where’s the half & half?”
As husbands go, I’d give him a “tolerable to live with” rating. Of course, that’s because for about two-thirds of our married life he was racking up airline miles. While he wasn’t always cheery when he came in after a 19-hour flight, he knew better than to waltz into my kitchen and ask what’s for lunch well before high noon, no matter how many time zones he’d traveled through.
Now grounded, he’s noticing things for the first time. Last week, he accused me of wearing the same exercise clothes three days running. My retort was: “At least I don’t come down to breakfast wearing a bathrobe that makes me look like Ralph Kramden!”
I’m noticing things too. For a man with no history of small talk, he’s taken to being annoyingly chatty: “What ya’ doing there?”
“Putting pen to paper, you know, the stuff writers and editors do.”
“Anything interesting happening in Rye?”
“Riveting stuff, especially the number of leaf blowers in use since the start of the ban.”
My formerly brilliant publisher spouse wanders off to catch yet another deathly (or comedic in the case of the President) episode on the pandemic.
When he wants to ruffle a few of my feathers, he suggests we tackle the photo albums, get rid of more clothes, especially mine, and curate our collections. (I’m thinking: <Did he use words like curate when we were dating in the 70s? Did he hum incessantly?>)
Two can play that game. I locate his copy of “The Serbian Who’s Who” and put it in the give-away or burn pile. We come to an agreement: the only things he’s allowed to discard are the things in his closet, like that Eisenhower jacket he still thinks makes him look like a bombardier — Dana Andrews in “the Best Year of Our Lives”.
Happily, I lead a rich fantasy life. I imagine late-night conversations with John Updike in which I ask him to rewrite his “Rabbit” quartet. “Don’t have Harry go out for cigarettes and keep driving. Let him stew at home and put a woman at the wheel.” On further consideration I add, “And John, you should have stopped at a trilogy.”
I sit in my new car parked in the driveway, supposedly reading the instruction manual, but ending up listening to old episodes of “The Tonight Show” on the radio. I was laughing so hard — at the interplay between Johnny Carson and Rodney Dangerfield, the one between Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters, and memories of Carson in his get-up as Carnac the Magnificent — that I forgot about the fact I missed the second round of funding for the PPP loans, and had neglected to put on all my PPE gear when I wandered out in the world that morning.
I never got around to reenacting the best skits because it’s Grandchildren Time. As we weren’t able to invent a world-beating product that would enable us to pay our school taxes or my employees this month, and my husband has underlying health issues that prevent him from getting out much, we played it safe and helpful family cause: Free Afternoon Recess. The kids run around, turn the place upside down, and exhaust themselves and us. Eventually, their parents come to collect them.
We’re already thinking ahead to summer, and fall… “If camp is cancelled,” we assure them, “we’ll create our own right in our backyard! And if school doesn’t reopen on time, we’ve got everything but toilet paper.”