When Will I Ever Learn?

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Ours was a casual conversation that took place in our closet.  The General called my attention to the empty laundry basket on my side of our closet.  It was empty and she wanted to know what happened to the contents or that is how I initially calculated her question. I actually was anticipating a compliment.  When will I ever learn?  The empty basket was more of an expectation.  The expectation also included that I not leave things better suited for the trashcan in the laundry basket.  I hadn’t even noticed, but there they were bigger than life.  At the bottom of the laundry basket were two yellow tags off of laundry and one orange tie that held the laundry bundled together.  I won’t bore you with the details, but the conversation didn’t go in my favor.  Of course I made a strategic error when I suggested she’d save us both a lot of stress if she simple took two seconds and took care of it herself.  That obviously was not an option.  She made that abundantly clear.

The laundry basket in question is the basket where I leave my shirts and washable slacks until I take them to the cleaners about once a week.  I always use a coupon, but even then it is $2.39 to get a shirt washed an ironed. I don’t recall what they charge for the pants, but it is more than that.  In addition, to get that “bargain price”, the laundry has to be accompanied by dry cleaning.  On a regular basis, when I look at what I’m spending on my laundry, I have the sense that I’m being taken to the cleaners.

When I was a kid growing up, my mom did all of the laundry.  We took dry cleaning to the cleaners, but the thought of outsourcing washing and ironing wasn’t even a consideration.  My mother did the washing and ironing.  Of course, by the time Ronnie, Larry and I were older adolescents; we assumed responsibility for doing our own ironing.  It was part of our independent living skills training.  However, in all of my years, I don’t think I ever saw my dad use an iron.  Whether he didn’t consider the task manly or he thought Mom would be dishonored if he lifted a hand to do what some might call “women’s work”, is unknown.  What is known is that my dad didn’t iron. 

I know, some of you are thinking I’m near the edge and the General might well push me over the cliff.  No offense intended!  I’m certainly not prudish enough to assign labels like “women’s work” to any tasks associated with today’s routine.  But, like I said, times were different when I was a kid.  For the most part, the lines were clearly drawn.  The man was the breadwinner and the woman made the bread. Everything pretty much fell clearly in the husband’s role or the wife’s role.  There wasn’t a lot of blending associated to responsibilities.

I don’t know how things factored out for single parent families.  I only had one close friend during childhood whose parents were divorced.  My friend lived with her father.  I can’t recall if her mother left her husband and daughter during our elementary school years or junior high, but what I do know is that my friend became the chief cook and bottle washer in her home as soon as her mother was gone.  Her dad was a kind man, but he clearly thought tasks were associated to gender.  Consequently, his daughter was next in line to fulfill the household responsibilities.

Seriously, times were different when I was a kid growing up.  My mom was a stay-at-home mom during my childhood years.  I was fifteen or sixteen when she started to work outside the home.  Consequently, Mom negotiated all of the hoops to make things work inside our home.  Dad took care of the yard work.  I say that tongue-in-cheek.  He outsourced it to his three sons.  For the record, we didn’t have a mower with a gasoline-powered engine.  The only horsepower our mower had going for it was the push power of the kid behind the mower’s handle. 

At the risk of sounding as though I’m whining, we lived next door to my paternal grandparents.  In addition to mowing our own yard, we also mowed their lawn for them.  That sounds a bit more labor intensive than it really was because neither of our yards were all that big.  In addition, the back yard wasn’t totally covered with grass.  I know that because one of our favorite childhood games was playing soldier.  Consequently, we took great pride in digging foxholes in the back yard.  Trust me, if we’d had a good stand of grass over the totality of the lawn, digging up the yard wouldn’t have been an option.


Consequently, when the General and I took on the roles of a married couple, I don’t recall that it was a matter of discussion.  She ironed her clothes and I ironed my clothes. We were living in the days of wash and wear, so I’m not sure either of us devoted that much time ensuring things were crisp.  We didn’t look unkempt, but I don’t recall that ironing was a prerequisite for wearing a shirt.

For that matter, I have to confess that I enjoy the process of ironing.  It is a lot like painting a room.  It is one of the few things you do where you can see immediate results.  Most of the investment of my time goes into activities that may or may not make a difference.  When you iron a shirt, “presto” – you’ve made an accomplishment that you can immediately see.

When and if the General reads this blog, she’ll be tempted to add her two cents. Obviously in my laundry list of things that make a big impact, besides painting a room and ironing a shirt, I inadvertently left off yard work. That, too, has the capacity to show immediate accomplishment.

Time is the precious commodity needed for investment in activities that yield immediate impact. The impending threat that I’m out of time weighs heavily in the routine of my day.  I don’t get it all done and at times it weighs heavily on me.  Obviously, the need to triage the unexpected things that come my way in the course of a workday yields the thought that somehow I’m keeping my head above the water, but I’ll never catch up. 

If I’ve ever had the passing thought that the General might want to take on my ironing as part of her regular routine during her retirement years, it had to be a delusional thought on my part.  If I were to give you the version right out of the horse’s mouth, it would sound like this: “When you retire you’ll only need one ironed shirt a week. That is for when we go to church.  You can iron that yourself”.

Perhaps I need to work until I die.  I like the crisp look of a starched dress shirt.  Of course, the General is of the mindset that I won’t need a dress shirt except for church.  What’s the world coming to?  Have we lost all matter of reason?  You tell me. Never mind, I’ll get the scoop from the General.  That is the only answer that ultimately matters.

All My Best!

Apple Computer, Inc.




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