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Replacing the Irreplaceable Mom Doesn’t Come Easy

Jon Kaufman
Jon Kaufman

Every family has a member who is the essential cog in the household machine.  My mom was that person when I was growing up. Through any crisis situation my mom remained steadfast, without even a hint of panic. Though she often would strike a Machiavellian pose, professing that she “rather be feared than loved,” Mom was in fact a soft-hearted matriarch who loved her brood unconditionally.

On several occasions, my mother was briefly hospitalized with chronic lower back problems, leaving my father, sisters and I to fend for ourselves in her absence. Although a palpable void was apparent to all, everything ran rather smoothly until Mom’s return.

Like my mom, my wife Janet is the captain of our family vessel and similar to my mom, she runs a tidy ship. A former gymnast who spent years hurling her body hither and yon, Janet also has issues with her lower back which will require surgery within the next few weeks.  Unlike my mom, who had four brilliant and capable daughters and a loving husband with an abundance of household skills to keep the boat afloat, Janet has only me, my son and three goofy hound dogs to bridge the gap until she regains full mobility.

Adrift in uncharted waters and void of any domestic skills, Will and I struggled to decide which one of us was proficient enough to step up and fill Janet’s shoes. (Note: Had our dogs been blessed with opposable thumbs we would have invited them into the conversation; however, we felt that we had to draw the line somewhere.).  We proceeded to compile a list of “Pros and Cons” describing our strengths and challenges, opting to explore this matter scientifically.

My list of “pros” included age and experience and we agreed that Will’s “pros” were youth and strength.  So much for the short list of positives.  The discussion regarding our weaknesses became a lengthy volley with each candidate recalling tales of the others inadequacy.

Being male, the first topic we debated was food. Clearly (I thought) I would have an advantage in this category.  Aside from a few dishes he can actually create, Will’s culinary experiences normally begin with our hungry boy shouting his order at an electronic menu, and ends by driving to the second window for pick-up.  Pulling from his historical data bank, Will then reminded me that I was the guy who once set himself on fire while making spaghetti.  This was a difficult point to dispute as I had nearly incinerated myself when the bottom of my t-shirt touched the stove eye as I reached for pasta in the cabinet above.  As flames rose towards my chin, I discovered the true function of our sink’s sprayer attachment (I always wondered what that thing was for) and doused the inferno inches from my beard.  Will: 1, Dad: 0.

Cleaning was next on our list, a chore foreign to most men, and Will and I are no exception.  If not for Janet, our home would be considered a bio-hazard and would be condemned by the City of Roanoke if the Sheriff’s deputies could fight their way past a twenty foot ball of dog hair to serve the subpoena.  Recalling that Will had once tried to help his Mom clean the house by firing up a gas-powered leaf blower in our living room (and setting off all of our smoke alarms in the process), it became clear that I would be manning the mop and vacuum.  Will conceded his case without rebuttal. Will: 1, Dad: 1.

The next topic considered was dog care and maintenance.  To our pack Janet is the sun, the moon and the stars.  The dogs see Will and me more as temporary boarders, occupants in the postal vernacular.  Responding only to their mother’s voice, Shiloh, Roscoe and Mya will often turn a deaf-ear to anyone who tries to summon their presence, opting to await official word from the top. Hounds are rarely in a hurry which is precisely the reason I love them.  In comparison my dogs make me look “dynamic!”

Will argued that he would be a better choice for this detail due to his standing in the household chain of command which is as follows…

1. Janet

2. The dogs

3. Will*

4. The fish

5. Me (I used to occupy the sixth slot until the lizards passed away).

*Will was in the number two spot until age five, when he jumped on the back of Tara (our since departed Coonhound) and rode her around the house like Roy Rogers.

We quibbled on through the night about who would handle Janet’s work during her convalescence yet, in the end, agreed on only one thing. We concurred that neither one of us could handle half of the stuff Janet does on a daily basis, and that the scope of her work stretches from the obvious chores to the little unseen tasks that both of us have either never considered or have always taken for granted.

Relax and recover, Janet. With a little luck and a metaphorical can of WD-40, the family machine just might survive the calamitous care of your two favorite men; however, I bumped up the homeowners policy just in case.  Rest well.

By Jon Kaufman
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