With Valentine’s Day still in the rear view mirror, I decided to write a romantic ode to my wife. The first time I met Day in person, after we’d corresponded on-line and talked by phone for many months, she greeted me at the Atlanta airport with roses, Belgian chocolate, and best of all—since it was breathtakingly hot and humid—an ice cold fountain Diet Coke. Despite the heat, she also wore faded jeans and a crisp, white, long-sleeved shirt, because I’d once mentioned that I liked that sartorial combination. From all this, it would be easy to mistake my wife for a hearts-and-flowers romantic. She definitely has that in her, but she’s also very practical. So rather than traditionally romantic gestures, she has unique ways of showing how much she cares. For instance, she has taken on the responsibilities of bug-catching, and the removal of the many live and decomposing critters we’ve encountered over the years, because I’m a big, squeamish wimp.
One of our early encounters was while working out in the yard years ago. We were pushing a wheelbarrow of yard supplies from the front yard to the back, and had a very strange encounter with a squirrel. He confronted us, stood in the middle of the sidewalk, and stared unblinkingly. He didn’t yield an inch—very unsquirrel-like behaviour. So we backed off and went around him. Later that afternoon, we saw him flopped, belly-up, on the far side of the lawn. We deduced that he’d been ill and had subsequently died. I couldn’t bring myself to go near him, so Day picked up a shovel and went to scoop him up. However, he hadn’t completely expired and when the shovel touched him, he jumped. So did my wife. We left him to complete his passing on to the Great Forest in his own time, and by the next morning, she was able to safely dispose of him.
Last summer, we visited a dear old friend, whose guest room is very small. It only has a single bed, so we’d brought along an air mattress. It wasn’t ideal, but my wife kindly volunteered to take the air mattress on the floor. Halfway through our stay, she woke me from a sound sleep at three in the morning, to ask if I could hear something. I could. It was the distinct sound of a rodent chewing something inside our room. I was so tired that other than making a perfunctory offer to swap places, which she generously ignored, I went right back to sleep. Not so for my wife. She lay there all night, listening to the unseen rodent chomping mere inches from her head. In the morning, we saw the clear evidence that the rodent had been on and behind the dresser that the air mattress butted up against.
It was not my wife’s first close encounter with a rodent. Several years ago, we camped in Algonquin Park in northern Ontario, and were entertained by a chipmunk with half a tail who ran around our site. One evening I prepared supper at the picnic table while Day built a campfire. Suddenly she squawked and started dancing around. Chippy Half-tail had run up her bare leg as far as her knee. He ran back down just as quickly as he’d gone up so we’re not really sure what he was looking for, but we did get a good laugh out of it. Okay, I got a good laugh while my poor wife nursed scratches.
Critters don’t just cross our path in our travels. We walk regularly in our neighbourhood, and often encounter dead possums. This year there has been an unusual amount of road kill lying on the sidewalks. Over Christmas, in the pre-dawn darkness, I nearly trod on a dead possum lying on the sidewalk. It must’ve tried crossing the road and been thrown some distance when it was hit. My wife grabbed me in time to prevent me from blithely stepping on it, and in the days to follow, she shielded me from seeing it by blocking my view with her body. Could we have gone another way for our daily walk? Yes, but this was our favourite route, and we weren’t going to be denied it just because of a rotting corpse. I kept hoping someone or something would drag it away, but no such luck. So my wife once again came to the rescue. One morning, she picked up a couple of abandoned election signs and used them to shovel the possum off into the brush, while I looked everywhere but at what she was doing. My hero.
But the day she truly showed her mettle was the day we discovered the source of an unpleasant odour near the side of the house. For weeks we’d thought the neighbour’s cat was using the area for a litter box, so we purchased and dispersed cat repellant and odour-busting sprays, but nothing worked for long. We were outside, trying once again to eliminate the gamey stink, when my wife spotted something under our screen porch. When she mentioned it, I leaned over to take a look, and jumped back about five feet. It was a nightmarish sight—at least for me—squeamish, remember? A black cat had crawled behind the lattice that enclosed the base of the porch and expired. We’ve watched enough crime shows that we really should’ve recognized that we were smelling decomp, but it never occurred to us to check under the porch. My wife suited up for disposal duty and dispatched me to get last night’s pizza box out of the recycling bin, along with a roll of duct tape. I couldn’t even bear to hold the box or rip the tape, so she did the whole thing. In my defence, I did spray vigorously under the deck once she’d removed the corpse, so I wasn’t totally useless.
I’m sure many couples went the flowers and chocolates routes for Valentine’s Day. And my wife has given me both over the years. But nothing says “I love you” quite as much as a woman gallantly prepared to hurl herself into the breach whenever a decomposing critter or gigantic bug crosses my path.
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