This is when I’m a fan of old-time gender roles

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One recent evening, Scott was teaching a workshop and didn’t get home until about ten.  After kissing me hello and shedding his computer bag, he poured himself a drink and headed over to the sofa, untucking his shirt, getting ready to relax.

“Before you get too comfortable,” I said in a tone that was part beseeching, part apologetic,“there’s something I need you to take care of outside.”

He stopped and looked at me.  “There’s something dead in the backyard, isn’t there?”

The man knows me so well.

The “something dead” was a squirrel, located  (ironically enough) right underneath the St. Francis shrine on the side fence.   I’d noticed it earlier that day, when I was out watering flowers with Matthew;  not wanting to get too close, I’d peered at it from a very safe distance.  It was difficult, at several feet removed, to tell whether this squirrel was whole or partial, but the tail was unmistakable.  Through great artfulness and strategy, I managed to get Matthew out of the yard before he noticed it, but it had been looming in my mind all day.

It’s not that I was mourning the little critter.  Beatrix Potter notwithstanding, I don’t have a particular fondness for squirrels, who seem inordinately fond of our yard.  We have a very tall palm tree, and the squirrels love to nest high in the dead hanging fronds; it’s basically like a luxury penthouse for rodents.  Occasionally they climb down, chasing each other around the fence and eating my yellow rosebuds ( and just generally being a pain in the bum.   I see all this from my kitchen window, which looks right out onto the tree.

Once, in fact,  I was standing at the sink when I saw two squirrels venture out from the fronds and move partway down the trunk, where they stopped.  One of them then proceeded to move towards the other in a way that left no doubt as to his intentions.  I immediately threw open the backdoor with a great clatter, scaring them away.  It’s not like I relish the role of rodent morality police, but I’ll be darned if I’m going to just stand by and allow more squirrels to come into being.   In fact, when I’ve seen the local homeless tabby cat look with alert longing at the squirrels as they scamper down the trunk, I’ll admit that my usual pacifism is tempered by  the thought, Well, that would be a nice way to keep the population down.

But when confronted with evidence of the cat’s success at the base of the palm tree, I quailed.  (Actually, maybe it wasn’t the cat’s doing. Maybe the squirrel simply fell.  Or was he pushed?)

At any rate, this unfortunately meant that I had to keep the boys out of the backyard all day, reneging on my prior suggestion that we do an afternoon sprinkler party.  Call me a wuss, but I didn’t want them to be confronted with such stark evidence of the circle of life.   And there was no way I was going to pick it up myself.

Because you know what?   Over the course of my life I have gone to live alone in a foreign country and have taught high school and have done other things that have made  people say, “Wow, you must be really brave.”    So if I have an issue around removing a dead squirrel, I’m okay with that; overall, I think I’ve proved my courage.   And though I am normally  not one to fall back on old-timey gender stereotypes, in this one area I can make June Cleaver look like Gloria Steinem.  The sun rises in the east, and men get to handle the vermin.  (And, yes, I always say thank you.)

Bless his heart, Scott  didn’t roll his eyes or push back or say, “No, you do it.”  Instead, he sighed ever so slightly and asked a few questions (what? where? etc.) and took a flashlight to go investigate.  He came back in and said, “Yeah, I saw it.  I’m going to relax for a bit, and I’ll get it later.”

He watched TV and unwound for about half an hour, during which time I started to fear that maybe he’d forgotten.  Then finally he said, “Okay.  I’ll go take care of it.”  I channeled my best Bette Midler and sang, “Did you ever know that you’re my hero?” as he resolutely and generously headed out to do the unmentionable.

I think he already knows, and if  he doesn’t, he does read this blog.  Honey: you truly are my hero.  One of these days, I just might greet you at the front door  with your paper and slippers.

7 responses to “This is when I’m a fan of old-time gender roles

  1. Carlos and I had a similar possum situation a few weeks back. Oh the joys of homeownership and having a yard – I revel in the beautiful cardinals and blue jays I get to see daily, but every once in a while, apparently, a dead possum (really dead, not playing dead), makes a cameo. And the hero of the house had to take “extreme measures” to take care of it. And I’m totally cool with that. Marriage is a team effort and each person in the marriage should play to their strengths (much like on an actual team you have different positions based on talent and capabilities). Carlos is the vermin removal guy, and I love him for that (and a million other reasons). He gets the job done. Now I think I’ll go put on that strand of pearls and do a little vacuuming ;).

  2. Alan Kubitz

    Being your dad, I can vouch that you come by your aversion to dead “critters” honestly. Your mother has similar issues, especially with dead birds. All of this merely furthers my already strong belief in the influence of genetics. The scene you describe is very familiar to me. In the plus column, mom gave you plenty of “good genes” as well!

  3. Your article made me laugh out loud. Rodent morality police.

    Then it made me remember … the day our beloved border collie was hit by a truck. At least, judging from the crime scene when we found her, that’s what happened. Thankfully the kids were not with us, and I made a deal on the spot with my DH: If he would get Missy off the road, I would tell the kids.

    For both of us, it was the hardest thing we’d ever had to do. And I have no doubt that the division of labor was exactly what was needed. I will always be grateful that, apart from the momentary glimpse from 50 yards away, I never had to see or touch my beloved pet’s remains. And he is grateful that he didn’t have to find the words to explain. (He sat with us, and let us cry, silent but equally heartbroken.) And THAT is why I love my husband.

  4. Viki, you made me laugh with the pearls comment. Seriously, did women really wear pearls to clean house during the 1950s? — or was that just on TV?

    Dad, yes, I have vivid memories of you dealing with all the dead pets. I think Mom might have handled the fish (easy enough) but as my memory serves, you got to inter the rabbits. I come by it honestly!

    Heidi, that is such a touching story. What a great way of showing the power of marriage — each person brings his/her strengths to the equation and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

  5. Love. It. My husband just got home after three weeks away and I had to bite my tongue not to launch into my laundry list of Men’s Tasks That Need To Be Completed as soon as he stepped in the door.
    Call me a firey feminist, unless there are spiders, snakes, or smelly garbage to deal with. 🙂

  6. Three weeks without the hubby??!? Ouch! I’d also have to restrain myself from blurting out the “Honey Do” list right away. 🙂

  7. Ginny, tell Scott it is time to bring the boys into the picture. They can help you dispose of small critters with Have-a-Heart trap or an impromptu funeral in the garden.