One recent evening, Scott was teaching a workshop and didn’t get home until about ten. Â 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,â€œthere’s something I need you to take care of outside.”
He stopped and looked at me. Â â€œThere’s something dead in the backyard, isn’t there?”
The man knows me so well.
The “something dead” was a squirrel, located Â (ironically enough) right underneath the St. Francis shrine on the side fence. Â I’d noticed it earlier that day, when I was out watering flowers with Matthew; Â not wanting to get too close, I’d peered at it from a very safe distance. Â It was difficult, at several feet removed, to tell whether this squirrel was whole or partial, but the tail was unmistakable. Â 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. Â Beatrix Potter notwithstanding, I don’t have a particular fondness for squirrels, who seem inordinately fond of our yard. Â 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. Â Occasionally they climb down, chasing each other around the fence and eating my yellow rosebuds (this.is.war.) and just generally being a pain in the bum. Â I see all this from my kitchen window, which looks right out onto the tree.
Once, in fact, Â 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. Â One of them then proceeded to move towards the other in a way that left no doubt as to his intentions. Â I immediately threw open the backdoor with a great clatter, scaring them away. Â 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. Â 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 Â 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. Â (Actually, maybe it wasn’t the cat’s doing. Maybe the squirrel simply fell. Â 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. Â Call me a wuss, but I didn’t want them to be confronted with such stark evidence of the circle of life. Â And there was no way I was going to pick it up myself.
Because you know what? Â 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 Â people say, “Wow, you must be really brave.” Â Â So if I have an issue around removing a dead squirrel, I’m okay with that; overall, I think I’ve proved my courage. Â And though I am normally Â not one to fall back on old-timey gender stereotypes, in this one area I can make June Cleaver look like Gloria Steinem. Â The sun rises in the east, and men get to handle the vermin. Â (And, yes, I always say thank you.)
Bless his heart, Scott Â didn’t roll his eyes or push back or say, “No, you do it.” Â Instead, he sighed ever so slightly and asked a few questions (what? where? etc.) and took a flashlight to go investigate. Â He came back in and said, “Yeah, I saw it. Â 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. Â Then finally he said, “Okay. Â I’ll go take care of it.” Â 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 Â he doesn’t, he does read this blog. Â Honey: you truly are my hero. Â One of these days, I just might greet you at the front door Â with your paper and slippers.