Sunday, May 9, 2021

Too Much Of A Good Thing

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 10, 2021] ©2021

There’s a lot of hoarders in my family.  Fortunately, I’m not one. Well, except for photos. But I personally think of photos as “artistic curation.” 

As I’ve visited various relatives over the years, it’s become clear to me that the tendency to accumulate what could politely be referred to as an excessive number of possessions – particularly  books and National Geographics - clearly runs in the family.  What is it about National Geographics that make people hang on to them forever?   I know people who have moved twelve times and while the dining room set didn’t always make the cut, the National Geographics invariably end up on the truck. 

The most egregious example of mass accumulation in my own genetic network is the ancestral home in Hard-To-Get-There, Ohio, which has been continuously in the family since 1865.  Let me just say that you can acquire a lot of stuff in 155 years.  The last surviving occupant, my favorite aunt, died 12 years ago but left the hoard, er house, in a trust.  My aunt encompassed the Hoarder Big 3:  child of the Depression, ardent conservationist, and OCD packrat (maybe that’s four).

It was a hoarder perfect storm.  The place was an absolute treasure trove of wonderful old stuff – Ladies Home Journals from the 1880s, gorgeous oil lamps, ornate ewers - intermixed, alas, with multiple cases of 40-year-old Jell-O, cartons of ratty underwear preserved in 1962 newspaper, and a huge freezer that was a veritable biohazard. Then there were the 10,000+ books, three-deep in the bookcases.  

I have to confess that when I went to visit her over the years, the first thing I did was to check the latch on the upstairs bedroom window to make sure I could get out onto the roof and jump in case of fire.  Because with the piles of old newspapers (which she intended to use for mulch for her gardens) and magazines (you can guess which kind) stacked up in every hallway, I figured I’d have approximately seven seconds to hurl myself out the window.  I simply refused to have my Cause of Death be listed as “National Geographics.”

Little did I know what a fire trap the place really was.  After my aunt died, we ordered up several 35-foot dumpsters and started dumping all the flattened cardboard boxes that had been on the back veranda in ever-increasing piles for as long as anyone could remember.  I suddenly saw the color drain out of my husband’s face.  Underneath it all was coal.  Eight hundred pounds of coal.  The old coal burning stove, unused for decades, was still in the living room.  I suddenly realized that the seven seconds of escape time I always thought I’d had was actually two.

You may have noticed that I am carefully avoiding addressing my photo habit which, as noted, I genuinely consider to be in a different category.  My sons disagree.

The kids had long been threatening to cremate me after my untimely death with the 65+ photo albums – an entire bookcase - that I had amassed over the years. It would be a two-fer; get rid of Mom and the albums all at once.  

I am proud to say that my pandemic project last year was to cull the 65 albums to 32. For me it is heartbreaking to part with a single photo. It’s like erasing history.

I just love taking pictures, and might possibly have been (over)compensating for the fact that my parents probably took a total of 20 out-of-focus off-center black-and-white box camera photos of me before I was 18.  My children’s lives would be documented. 

When my younger son and then-fiancĂ©e wanted to do a slide show for their wedding, I hauled some 40 albums out to the dining room table.  I swear my daughter-in-law said under her breath, “I hope this isn’t hereditary.” 

I was always the (self-designated) family photographer, the absolutely most thankless job in the world.  With every picture I looked at in my albums, I could replay the sound track of whining that went into getting everyone to pose for it.  The irony, of course, is that years later, friends and family would look at these pictures and ooh and aah over them with delight. 

Three years ago, I put together a 400-slide show of Olof and me to mark a milestone birthday. Afterwards, there were wonderful toasts made - Henry gave a 4-hanky tribute to both of us. I gave a toast to Olof, commenting on how different this evening would have been had Olof not come into our lives. Both kids simultaneously chimed, "200 fewer slides?

Yeah, you can put photos on CDs but honestly, you'd never look at them.  Photos are meant to be shared in albums over a cup of cocoa, or depending on your haircut in that era, several bottles of wine. Besides, in ten years, no one will be able to read the current CDs. So maybe CDs are the ultimate solution: self-expiring photo storage. 

There's hope, kids!



 

 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Sounds Of Silence

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 3, 2021] ©2021

You know that life around you has become too perpetually noisy when you hear a sound that you can’t quite place but seems familiar. Then you realize it’s birds chirping.  In fact, it’s your own aviary birds.

The eerie quiet is unsettling.  What happened to the leaf blowers and chain saws and jack hammers? Has the city been evacuated and you weren’t notified? 

For a while, I used to think that my nice residential neighborhood has always been really noisy but I didn’t realize it since I was at work all day. Or, that once the current construction projects were finished, the serenity I think I remember (but could have hallucinated) will return. 

But nope, I’ve been retired for a while. This is the new reality.

One obvious source of noise is lawn mowers, tree trimmers, and leaf blowers.  San Diego’s year-round growing season blesses us with perpetually lush greenery.  Which needs to be trimmed.  Constantly.

I grew up in the Northeast where lawn mowers (generally teenager-powered, and very quiet, except for the complaining) were strictly a summer event and leaf blowers didn’t exist. No snow-blowers then either, just kids shoved out the front door with shovels at 6 a.m. to clear the driveway so we could get to school (kids) and commuter train (Dad).  There was nothing my mother feared more than a snow day.

It would only be fair to note that on Wednesday mornings, the mowing and leaf blower noise comes from my house (and my next-door neighbors’ whose lawn service comes at the same time, creating a cacophonous mind-numbing stereo). And I have to cop to a half day of really noisy tree trimming recently too.

I realize that leaf blowers save lawn guys a lot of time. But I really hate the noise, and even more the fact that these machines are blowers not vacuums.  At my house, they simply relocate all the leaves and dust from point A to Point B, the latter being all over the lawn chairs stored on my back porch. 

We used to have a local kid doing lawn maintenance who was a holy terror with a leaf blower.  I’d be puzzled as to why my kitchen was full of leaves and dirt.  With his iPod turned up full blast, “Bentley” failed to notice that he was blowing all the detritus from the patio through my kitchen window.  One had to admire the technical skill that got so much lift in those leaves that he could get them up and over a four-foot high pass-through.  The stuff that failed to achieve altitude settled like Mt St. Helens ash on the plants. 

But it’s the on-going construction noise, both residential and commercial, that is really doing me in. By 7 a.m. six days a week, there are jack hammers, nail guns, cement mixers, skill saws, thundering lumber deliveries, and assorted power tools going on in seeming Surround Sound.  

Our (truly lovely) next door neighbors did a 2.5 year remodel a few years ago, having been promised by their contractor, “Ralph,” that it would be “six months maximum.”  (I stuck a lot of pins into Ralph dolls during that time.) My husband and I maintained that the noise was at least offset by our gaining a second language from the Tijuana radio station the construction guys boomed some seven days a week.  (But did they have to sing along?)

The average spec McMansion remodel seems to take at least two years (really). Then whoever buys it remodels it again to customize it and “make it their own.”  If I were mayor, I’d make it a law forbidding any house from being remodeled less than three years from the last remodel.  And I’d also make the those spec house/house flipper contractors live in the house for one year after the project was finished to give the neighbors on both sides opportunity to exact revenge. Lots of revenge. The Flipper Pay Back Act would allow anything short of arson, and only because then you’d have to start building again.

It isn’t just a multitude of construction and gardening noise.  There are at least six different kinds of helicopters that buzz regularly over our home: military, police, news, Coast Guard, tourist, and INS. Some days it sounds like the Ride of the Valkyries scene in Apocalypse Now.

The changing flight path from Lindbergh Field seems to be adding to the aerial pollution although I have to confess, I’ve been pretty good at tuning that out. 

And that’s the issue.  Tuning it out.  There’s only so much noise you can tune out. The batteries seem to have permanently crumped on my inner tuner-outer.

The (truly lovely) next door neighbors have just alerted us that they need to do an “upgrade” to correct some problems with the remodel they finished two years ago.  Three months max, they promise.

Oy. Just so long as they don’t hire Ralph. 

 


 

 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Fearing I've Become A Pandemic Pariah

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 19, 2021] ©2021

The pandemic has changed all of our lives since it took hold in earnest in March of 2020.

It hasn’t always brought out the best in us. Unable to socially distance myself from both my refrigerator and the bakery counter at Gelson’s, I, like many others, have put on the Covid 19.  Which now, alas, has become the Covid 22.

While it pales in comparison to the losses so many other people have experienced, I have truly, desperately, missed social contact.

Olof and I are both really social people.  It’s actually fairly amazing for him since he’s an engineer.  Not to promote stereotypes (OK, I’m doing exactly that), when Olof went to Cal Tech in the early 1970s, some incredible percentage of his then-classmates would now be diagnosed as having Asperger’s.  (The rest would be simply be considered socially maladroit.) 

But in the last year, Olof has somehow managed to channel his social needs into sour dough baking and writing code for esoteric engineering projects. Sometimes at the same time. (Those were some pretty weird English muffins.) 

Me, I’ve just been lonely. Miserably, horribly lonely.

I even mastered Zoom (well, how to click on a link if someone else set it up which even then stretched my abysmal techno skills) but it’s not the same.

On Thursdays, I planned my non-day around the pool guy’s visit.  Most weeks he was my only human contact. Fortunately, Scott is a really friendly, fun guy.  I was always secretly a little glad when it had been windy and there were lots of extra leaves in the pool for him to clean.

I’d probably have been harassing the lawn maintenance guy too but it’s too hard for him to hear me over the mower and the leaf blower. I think he is secretly glad for this.

Now, if I’m being perfectly honest, I think I probably always talked too much even before the pandemic.  But in recent months, I’ve been noticing that if I’m in my front yard doing gardening work or playing with the dog that neighbors out walking are crossing the street before they get to my house.  In this way, they can simply manage a cheery wave and keep going.

And no, I don’t think it’s a Covid issue.

I can’t avoid the fact that I’m being avoided. Friends and neighbors are living in fear of being entrapped in conversation from which they cannot escape.

I asked my close friend and neighbor Jill if I were imagining this.  Was my desperation for human contact doing the opposite – driving people away?  Was I just plain talking too much?  Have I always been talking too much?

“Well, yes,” said Jill, without hesitation. “But it’s part of your charm.” 

Part of my charm?  Please note there was no refuting or assuaging of my fears. This, however, is one of the reasons I love Jill; she’s always honest without ever being mean.  But sometimes I hear her closing her garage door very, very quietly so as not to attract my attention.

Ironically, I myself avoid compulsive talkers.  In my husband’s college roommate group, which still has a reunion almost every year, one of the wives, Lucy, literally never shuts up.  Most of these folks have known her since their college days and affectionately tolerate her.  Well, to a point. 

During one of the group’s reunions, we all met in Toronto and were taking a day trip to Niagara Falls.  I suddenly realized that the other women had all made a beeline for the other two cars, leaving me in a backseat with Lucy for the two-hour ride.  A half hour in, I was literally contemplating opening the car door and hurling myself out onto the highway at 70 mph.  I pretended to be asleep but she kept poking me on the shoulder.  When we stopped for lunch, she followed me to the restroom and talked to me through the stall.  She literally did not stop talking for a microsecond the entire day.  Fortunately, when we were on the boat tour, the roar of the falls drowned her out.  But I could still see her mouth moving.

Have I become Lucy?  Or has the pandemic simply Lucified a natural tendency to talk too much? I do think I, at least, let other people get a word in edgewise.  (I mean, I do, don’t I?  Must ask Jill.)

I’ve actually spent a great deal of time pondering this.  Partly, of course, because we have had absolutely no social life whatsoever in more than a year and I have plenty of time to do so.  But I really don’t want people to fantasize stepping into traffic just to get away from me.  Maybe I need to keep one of those one-minute timers in my pocket so that if a neighbor comes by, it will alert me to let them escape.

Or maybe just learn to shut up?

 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Just Rolling In It

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 12, 2021] ©2021

I’ve written before about some of the curious behaviors of dogs, but ours has taken up an unwelcome new one: rolling in her own poop.

She has always loved to roll in the grass. We have a huge fenced yard and the odds that she would manage to roll in poop seems statistically unlikely, especially as my husband takes her for a long walk in the morning.

No, we feel it is deliberate.  We figure she did it once, accidentally, decided it felt really good (we’re not sure why) and now seems to seek poop-rolling opportunities.

It’s bad enough when this fluffy white dog seems to have suddenly turned herself two-tone.  But how did she get it in her ears?

And does she then have to run inside and roll around on our bed? The light beige leather sofas in the living room? The white guest room duvet?

As you might guess, a dog covered in poop is a DefCon One Emergency.  It doesn’t matter what else you might be doing.   It has to stop instantly while one of us grabs her up and quarantines her in a sink before she can inflict any more mayhem in our house. 

Invariably, it happens within 48 hours of an expensive grooming.  In fact, she’ll still have the little red bows in her head.

Inquiring minds want to know:  Is she trying to get rid of the foo-foo-y products in the groomer’s shampoo?  Get back to a more natural dog smell?  Get in touch with her more primal canine origins?  Actually, this last could be likely.

I queried my very dog-knowledgeable neighbor across the street to see if she had any theories about this behavior. Jill replied: “Go for it, Lily!!!  That's my girl!!!!  Celebrate your inner wolf!!!!!  Ahh-whooooooooo.”

Thanks, Jill.

A pressing question is why is Lily suddenly doing it now???  She’s 11.  She’s a rescue whom we’ve had for four years so we don’t know her early history. We think this bichon-poodle mix might have been a breeder since she hadn’t been spayed. She was turned into the pound by her previous owner and the first thing we noticed was that she had no idea what dog toys were.  How to play fetch. How to play tug.  In fact, how to play anything.

We’d throw a small ball for her and she’d merely look at us like, “Am I supposed to be doing something with that?  If so, I’m not interested.” 

Finally, I found her some small round rubber squeaky balls that did pique her interest but not as toys.  She would gather them up protectively in a group close to her chest, her paws around them, and lick them affectionately as if they were her pups. 

From time-to-time visitors to the house, not realizing that these squeaky balls were offspring and not play things, would pick one up and throw it for her.  Lily would be enraged, chasing after it but immediately returning it to the rest of her litter and glowering at the guest.

“You just threw her child,” we’d explain to them.  “She’s very sensitive about it.”  They were always hugely apologetic.

So maybe she’s just catching up to behaviors that other dogs got to experience at much earlier ages.

In other ways, she demonstrates perfectly normal quirky dog behaviors. She follows us to the bathroom, preferring to come in and supervise, but if locked out, content to hang right outside the door ready to trip us the second we emerge.  We’ve had to warn guests to be sure the close the bathroom door tightly or she will barge in ready to provide moral support in whatever function they might be executing.

And of course, like all Southern California dogs, she does not like getting her feet wet.  In fact, she is absolutely offended by wet grass or pavement. If it is so much as sprinkling, she will walk out to the end of the front porch, sniff the air, and go back inside with a “Sorry, don’t need to go that badly” look.

But back to the poop issue. In a yard as big as ours, she truly has to seek out a patch of poop to roll in. I decided to research this on repugnantdogbehaviors.com.  

Among the evolutionary theories is that since many species of wild dogs were scavengers, they'd be drawn to smells such as rotting carcasses (which would smell not unlike feces.)  

Alternatively, they might be trying to mark their territory.  Although frankly, there's not much competition for territory in our yard.  It's all hers.  

And last: apparently, sometimes dogs just get bored.  Yup, don't we all. Especially in a pandemic. I guess after a year of no doggie playdates, who wouldn't be tempted to roll in their own poop? I confess the idea has occurred to me too. Maybe once she can start going to dog-friendly restaurants again now that we're back in the orange tier, this behavior will stop.  

Our furniture sure hopes so. 

Yup, did it the day after she went to the groomers.





 

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Cure For Local Parking Problems

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published April 5, 2021] ©2021

There have long been allegations that there are plenty of parking structure and off-street spaces in downtown La Jolla if the local denizens weren’t too cheap to pay for them.  Well, OK, we are too cheap to pay for them, but that’s the least of it. 

If the pandemic has shown us nothing else, it’s that expecting the senectitude set to navigate baffling vaccine appointment sites and to have to access menus from Rorschach ink blots taped to restaurant tables is, for many of us, a non-starter. Ditto parking into parking garages and street parking lots that require downloading an app.

Subterranean parking structures are dark, sky-challenged, and creepy, and the stalls are really tight, even for persons such as me who own a compact car. The only spots will be at the very bottom.  Level P4 will be reminiscent of descending into the Fourth Circle of Hell, an image eerily reinforced by the fact that was one is indeed circling ever downward.

They are populated with large pillars, strategically designed to be backed into. Black SUVS will be parked on either side of you in spaces marked “small cars.”  There is rarely (never?) angled parking. The dim light doesn’t help us oldies, whose depth perception isn’t what it used to be, to try to inch out of a space keeping track of both sides of the car AND that pillar behind you.  My last foray into a parking structure ended with my bumper having an encounter of the paint-removing kind. 

Another major problem with parking structures is that they involve machines. If you have trouble operating your cell phone, ticket machines are likely going to present a problem for you, and not just because even to get into the lot, you have to get out of your car to get the ticket which was maliciously placed 1.5 inches from your farthest reach. (Do arms get shorter with age?)

But the really scary part is that on your way out, after you have finally located your car and fought your way back to Planet Earth from the bowels of P4, you have to deal with that machine again. It wants money. And unlike the old days, there is no human in a booth to take it from you and wish you a nice day. There is always one techno-disabled idiot who cannot figure out how to use the machine and holds up the whole line.  I know this for a fact because I am that idiot. I hate lip-reading people disparaging my mother in my rearview mirror.  It makes me sad.

I make every effort to shop locally as I truly want La Jolla’s long-time emporia to stay in business.  And just to be clear, I don’t expect to park out front.  I’m willing to walk five blocks. The exercise is good for me.  But if my parking place involves technology in any form, I’m not parking there. I’m ordering it from Amazon.

But alas, even the street-level paid lots are fraught with obstacles toward the techno-impaired.  It’s one thing to have to shoe-horn money into a teeny slot that corresponds with your stall number.  But those have mostly disappeared and been replaced with requirements that one text a number or download an app.  Seriously?  You lost me at “app”.  And probably at “text” too.  And now some of the lots confront you with those same nasty ink blot things that afflict restaurant tables. (My husband says they are called “3-D bar codes.”)

The clincher is that after you do all that texting and apping, they’re charging a flat fee of $10!  Hey, I just wanted to pick up some drain cleaner at Meanley’s!

All those intimidating paid lots just take so much time! And stress! And make you feel stupid! And require your bumper to be repainted!  So if you could park in a nice free angled street spot in visible daylight instead somewhere approaching Middle Earth, which would you pick? 

 I’m going to make a suggestion that I haven’t thus far seen, and I’m hoping the good folks on the La Jolla Traffic Board will consider it. It won’t make us oldies park in subterranean parking garages, but we might be persuaded to park in those icky app lots if we could just buy a yearly parking pass, sort of like a handicapped placard, that allowed us to park in any street-level lot. I could pop into that $10 fixed-rate lot across from Meanley’s, grab my drain cleaner, and be gone five minutes later. 

To qualify for this pass, you’d have to be 65 or older, and have a signed affidavit from your kids that you are certifiably, untrainably techno-challenged despite heroic efforts on their parts over the last decade to put you on the road to modern living. 

I’d buy one in a heartbeat.  So long as I could write a check to pay for it. 

                                        I wouldn't have a clue how to park in this lot



 

 

Monday, March 15, 2021

Vaccine Wars

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 15, 2021] ©2021

It continues to amaze me that we can land the Perseverance rover on Mars but that San Diego, two-plus months after vaccine rollout, cannot sort out the horrific daily traffic jam of people trying to get into Petco Park for their first and second doses of Covid vaccine. 

For weeks, TV reporters have been interviewing massively-stressed senior citizens who have literally been sitting in their cars for hours without moving.   One recent interviewee said he had called the San Diego police multiple times while sitting in his car begging them to create some traffic control.

TV news on March 6 featured an elderly Poway couple with appointments who had spent 10.5 hours locked in gridlock traffic -  and never even got to the front gate.

What is truly puzzling is that people are trying to get into a lot designed to accommodate 30,000 cars on game days, yet cannot accommodate 5,000 vaccine patients who the city knows will be showing up daily. 

To add insult to injury, since it is really difficult for couples to get appointments together (don't get me started), many couples have to endure this travesty four times

I do know some people who have had a relatively easy vaccine experience.  But not many.  Scheduling has been the biggest hurdle, followed by chronic cancellations. Once you’ve got that first shot, you’re on the clock for the second one. 

But in true government fashion, when three million Americans couldn’t get their second shot in time (CBS News, February 26, 2021), all of a sudden, it’s not really all that important to get your second dose in the originally-specified efficacy timeline. 

Inquiring minds are suspicious.  

Since I could never manage to get an appointment on the Fall-of-Saigon website of my main health care provider, and my other "invitation-only" health care provider failed to ever invite me, I finally got, through sheer serendipity (and a hot tip) my first dose through a smaller venue.

But then they ran out of vaccine.  As my date for my second shot came near, they were clear it wasn't going to be on the date originally scheduled. Or possibly ever. I began looking elsewhere.

On Saturday, Feb. 27, vaccine appts were opened up for the next tier: teachers, fire fighters, child care workers, grocery workers: an estimated 500,000 San Diegans.  I was now competing with a younger group, more computer savvy, faster fingers.  My second shot was doomed.

Never mind that there seemed to be the Allocation Re-Allocation System Du Jour where x percent of the dosages would now be designated for a specific group. Unfortunately, it adds up to 160% and doesn’t include the current eligible tier.

I’ll confess that a chief motivation was the hope that proof of two doses would make friends we haven’t socialized with in a year willing to come to our house for a meal. Who cares about immunity? I just want dinner.

For weeks, the first thing I did every morning – and multiple times during the day - was to go to all the sites, even the dread evil Petco, to see if they had any appointments available.  Nope.

I was told by several people that one place did actually have appointments but every time I tried to sign up for one (specifying second Moderna dose, which was one of the options), it would say that there were no appointments in San Diego County.

Finally, someone in the Underground Vaccine Railroad tipped me off that this was a computer glitch.  You just had to say it was your first dose, then when you got it, cancel the second dose appointment they gave you.

How is it possible that IT people don’t catch this stuff?  No, don’t answer. This kind of idiocy has been rampant throughout the vaccine scheduling process on multiple appointment apps.  One of my fellow oldies said he tried to sign up on a site that instructed him to “enable Java script.”  Seriously? They might as well have said, “To use this site, you must speak Urdu.”

We oldies really hate perfidy and deception. But these are desperate times. I went ahead and booked an appointment for a first dose that was really a second.  But I lay awake nights worrying that when I arrived, they would cancel me (an already too-familiar experience), a Nurse Ratched-type perp-walking me out of the injection room announcing to all waiting, “Do not even think of pretending this is your first dose if it isn’t!”

I did want my second dose put on my first-dose card so when I showed up and the nurse confirmed that it was my first dose, I said, “Um, hypothetically speaking, if this were my second dose, would that be a problem?” 

“Nope,” she said. “Our website is a total mess.” 

30-plus hours (at least!) and the sheer stress of it, knowing that my health could well be depending on my least competent set of skills (computers). 

So, child care and grocery workers, welcome to the world of Refresh-related Carpal-tunnel-Syndrome. 

Meanwhile, my also-much-cancelled husband got his second dose appointment confirmed. Two hours later they cancelled him again. And so Vaccine Whack-a-mole continues.   


 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Inga's Ten Steps To A Closer Relationship

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 8, 2021] ©2021

Anyone who has been reading my column for a while knows that I’m a sucker for those internet articles about how to make yourself look 20 pounds thinner (Photoshop?) or what your car says about you (cheap?)  Recently I reviewed an internet article entitled “14 mistakes that will kill your home’s value.” I concluded that we probably wouldn’t be able to give our house away (although quite a few of those mistakes came with the house).

A recent Valentine’s Day-inspired listicle offered “10 Steps to a closer, more loving relationship.”  I mean, who’s not going to read that?

Well, my husband for one.  Olof is disturbingly sane but there is not a sentimental bone in his body. As of January 20, 2021, we have known each other for 56 years, having met as 17-year-old high school exchange students headed to Brazil for the Southern Hemisphere school year.  After a 23-year hiatus during which we went to college, married other people, and he spent 10 years as an Air Force pilot, we reconnected again. 

So, here’s how those 10 steps to a closer, more loving relationship would work for us:

1. Hang some photos of the two of you together. Go to Michael’s for some cute new frames. Aside from the fact that our house is already filled with pathological numbers of photos, I honestly, I think I could replace every piece of furniture in the house all at once never mind stucco the exterior, and Olof would merely look around for the briefest moment with a look of puzzlement and query, “Is there something different here?”

2. Send him lexts (love texts) such as “I love that you get me peanut M&Ms when I have PMS.” This text would find my husband racing to the nearest toilet so fast I’d be afraid he’d break a hip. 

3. In terms of relationships, positivity means those little fun, romantic gestures.  For us, “little fun romantic gestures” means both of us getting our second doses of vaccine (not yet achieved, by the way) or finally getting grab bars installed in the bathrooms. 

4. Let your partner know the real you.  Hell no.  We’re strict advocates of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  In 2006 we were in a devastating auto accident, hit at 85 mph by a drunk driver. Even after I recovered, I found driving very difficult and began seeing a therapist.  It’s not that Olof is against psychotherapy per se; he’s just puzzled why anyone would do it.  In his personal view, if one has a problem, one mulls.  One ponders.  One might even create a flow chart.  No, one especially creates a flow chart.   One certainly doesn’t pay after-tax dollars to some charlatan with a pseudo-degree in what he refers to as the “squishy” sciences to engage in sharing of Too Much Information.

I didn’t mention my therapeutic activity to Olof although if he had asked, I certainly would have been happy to discuss it.  Which, of course, is exactly what he was trying to avoid. I know he wouldn’t have begrudged me any help that the quacks could inexplicably provide although I am sure that he thought if I would just get in the damn car and drive, we could cut the witch doctor out of the equation.

5. Make a relationship bucket list.  I think after 56 years, that bucket is pretty much at the bottom of the well. But Olof is still hopeful that he will be able to go back to the Oshkosh AirVenture Air Show which has been cancelled for two years due to the pandemic. I wouldn’t mind being back in Sweden.  (Sorry, kids!)

 6. Don’t try to change him. OK, I don’t really expect to change him.  But I will never give up trying.  This whole thing of me turning on lights and him turning them off two seconds later has got to stop.

7. Schedule a double date night.  Believe me, we are desperate to socialize with another couple.  It’s been a year since we’ve been able to have anyone inside for dinner.  We are really social people.  Gotta get those vaccines! 

8. Dress up in something special just for him. French maid costume? Does it come in XL? Actually. we both pretty much became bag people when we retired but during the pandemic have descended in a look best described as “homeless.”

9. Let him know you’re committed.  No problem there.  Given that we’ve both been divorced, we’ve agreed that if the relationship doesn’t work out, we’ll pace off in the street with 45s and see who’s still standing.

10. Have gratitude.  This one’s easy. From time to time I try to imagine what my existence would have been without Olof. On every level, the kids’ and my lives have been utterly, totally, vastly improved by Olof being part of them.  I don’t know what I did right to get Olof, but whatever it is, I’m sure going to try to keep doing it.