Where’s Daddy? — or Why I Ran the Vacuum

Sweeping

I don’t vacuum.

When my husband was but a wee-one, he fell in love with the vacuum cleaner. Just imagine LittleBrother — my husband’s clone — pushing around a little toy vacuum cleaner. Just the thought makes me grin, makes me melt. His love of the vacuum cleaner never ceased. That long-standing love only grew over the years, blooming into the reason that we own one of those pricey yellow Dyson vacuums.

I didn’t even touch it for almost a year after he bought it. I didn’t have to. He vacuumed happily. I actually had to call him at work to figure out how to turn it on the first time I needed to clean up a mess. It scared me; I didn’t want to break his previous, beloved sweeper. Since that time, I’ve run the vacuum, oh, a handful of times. Even since getting a dog, my husband has lovingly (or, begrudgingly — maybe something in between) swept up massive amounts of dog hair.

Which brings us to this morning.

I’m still attempting to get over vacation exhaustion. I lounged about in bed a little longer than usual this morning, the gray of yet another rainy day encouraging me to stay between the sheets. As per usual, BigBrother arrived in my bedroom with a smile on his face, blanket in hand. Without asking, he lifted the covers on his dad’s side of the bed and slipped beneath, wiggling his warm body until it found rest against mine. I sniffed the top of his head; it smelled like summer sun and Peanuts soap-slash-shampoo and… boy. We rested peacefully for all of seven seconds before he rolled away from me.

“Where’s Daddy?”

“At work.”

He squinted at me. “He worked yesterday.”

I nodded. Overtime comes in abundance during the summer months. Between scheduled summer vacations and light duty for various co-workers and the other stuff of summer and, you know, fires, the phone rings a lot. Not one to turn down extra money, my husband often works the extra shifts.

“Is today his regular day?”

I nodded again.

“Ugh.”

Indeed.

Last summer, LittleBrother went through a similar issue when my husband worked several shifts in a row, taught a class, and had another training day. “Why does Daddy have to go to work every day?” His face scrunched up, mortally wounded and personally offended by his father’s lack of presence. I hugged him close. “It just happens sometimes, Bubba.”

Of course, other families send parents off to work every day, but it remains an abnormality for us. I greatly prefer when he goes to work for 24 hours and then comes home — and stays here — for 48 hours. Mainly, I like his company, but I also like the way he runs interference with the boys when I’m attempting to have a conference call. I like the way he does the dishes after dinner. I like the way he helps with laundry, plays with the dog, and, yes, vacuums the floors.

This morning, my husband at work in the midst of a broken 36, I decided to run the vacuum. Not because I thought, “Gee, I should be helpful!” No, I got down on the floor to play with my nearly-year-old puppy and got back up covered in hair. “Fine,” I thought. “I’ll run the vacuum,” I huffed to no one in particular. With one boy downstairs finishing up computer time and the other reading, reading and more reading, I figured I could knock out a quick sweep before I foraged for lunch for the three of us.

I fought it out of the closet, shocked by the weight of the thing. “Are you heavier?” I asked the vacuum. No reply. I unwound the cord, plugged it in… and then realized I forgot to pick up all of the dog toys and the dog bed. Callie peered at me skeptically as I returned squeaky toys and tri-colored ropes and “indestructible” rubber bones to her toy basket. I do this multiple times every day; stepping on the corner of the bright orange chewie that she has gnawed into a point is akin to stepping on four LEGOs at one time. I don’t enjoy it, so I pick them up. Every time, she peers at me as if she is formulating plans on when to get each toy out, where to leave it so that each toy annoys me as much as possible. I give her a pointed look that says, “I am the owner; you are the dog.” She sighs.

Returning to the vacuum, I start it up and begin my methodical sweeping of the room. First, where her dog bed normally rests; a German Shepherd Shedder, she leaves hair all over said bed, all over the floor around said bed, and everywhere. Ever. I move to where her toy basket sits. Along the front of the couch. Toward the bookshelf. My arm begins to tire. “I really need to get back to working on my arms. I can run for hours but I can’t push a vacuum for three minutes?” I’m talking aloud again, raising my voice to hear myself over the whir of the vacuum. The dog peers again from around the corner. “What?” I ask her. She hides.

I continue my march around the living room and my mind begins to wander. What does my husband love about vacuuming? Why is this his “thing” that he does? Why does he find such joy in holding up the canister after sweeping every nook and cranny, every hidden spot within the couch. “Look! LOOK! GROSS!” So proud that he saved us from the mess of everyday living, the hair of dog ownership, the gross of having skin that sloughs off and floats through the air, of dirt and more dust and pollen and cheese puff dust and cracker crumbs and, dirty look at me, Pretzel Crisps pieces. I don’t get it, chalking it up to another one of the differences between the two of us.

I finish, clicking off the machine, proud of my brief work. The dog peers back around the corner, checking to make sure I am actually done before she slinks carefully around the corner. She walks slowly over to where her bed is supposed to sit and sniffs. She checks the toy basket area. More sniffing. She walks over to me. Sniff, sniff. She looks up at me, confused. I shrug.

My older son comes running out of his bedroom to tell me something about the book he has been devouring since yesterday afternoon. He stops short as I bend over the vacuum, winding the cord. “What are you doing?” He, too, peers at me.

I look at him, still winding the cord. “I vacuumed.” I smile, proud of myself. I don’t hold up the canister though.

“Why?” His tone drips with incredulous disbelief.

“Dog hair. Everywhere. My shirt got all Callie-fied.”

“But… but dad vacuums.”

I sigh, roll my eyes. “I can vacuum too, you know.”

He looks around the room, judging my work. “I think he does a better job.”

Sweeping

True.

 

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52 Weeks of Brotherhood, Week 25

52 Weeks of Brotherhood Week 25

52 Weeks of Brotherhood Week 25

52 Weeks of Brotherhood, Week 25

52 Weeks of Brotherhood Week 25

The day they learned to boogie board… oh, the sheer joy. If I could have contained it, bottled it for the winter months that loom ahead, I would spoon feed it to them on the days when nothing is going right. Those days when having a brother is the worst. When everything the other one does pokes and prods, annoys and aggravates, stresses and angers. I’d pour it over their cereal when they wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I’d pack it in their school lunches so they’d be on their best behavior upon returning to the classroom after lunch; their teachers would love me the most. I’d mix it into all of our dinners; I’d never, ever hear another complaint about what meal I concocted this time. No more time outs. No more arguments. No more whining. All would be well with the two brothers in our home.

I’d sneak a sip for myself now and again, of course.

For the joy they experienced on the day that they learned to boogie board happens to be a joy that we lose somewhere later in life. I remember it… almost. A hazy summer day on a beach not too far from where they caught a wave onto the shore, leapt up with joy, and ran back out into the ocean pulling the flimsy board on a long string behind them. My brown hair a mess with salt and sand, sunblock running into my eyes, I’d jump back on that board and wait. And wait. And miss one. And have a flop of a wave. And paddle and kick and shimmy back out a little bit. And then, and then, you’d know you caught the right wave before you even started to move. And whoosh, the thrill of racing toward the shore, the giggle with the open mouth which sometimes results in big gulps of salt water. But never you mind, because as soon as I washed up on shore, I was back at it. And so were they.

I watched, standing ankle deep in the waves. The parent now, on high alert, my gaze darted back and forth. Were the waves too rough? Had they been playing too long? Were they getting too tired? Did they need a break? “Close your mouth!” I’d yell over the rush of the water, over the giggles and laughter pouring forth from both boys. Despite myself, despite my position as lifeguarding parent, I smiled, awash in my own memories.

Sometimes I’d make them stop riding the waves so I could sit, take a break from my duty of eye-darting and close-your-mouth-yelling and general-parenting. They’d whine. “I don’t need a break.” “Well, I do.” I’d tell them to “surf” in the surf, standing on their boards in the very last offerings of the waves, of the ocean. They’d giggle and stand, offering each other tips for their surfing endeavors. They’d fall and crash into one another, but the arguing never equaled that which comes on dry land, land-locked hours from the freedom and fun of the shore.

Later in the week, I stole a boogie board from the boys or the cousins or whomever and went out to catch two waves. I almost felt that joy — that sheer elation of the power of the ocean beneath you. Then the wave slammed me into the shell shelf and I gulped a bunch of water — because I forgot to close my mouth.

The two of them decided they earned the rank of Professional Boogie Boarders. I agreed. “You guys did quite well.” Non-stop chatter as we walked back the boardwalk to our beach house. “You’re okay too, Mommy. You know, at boogie boarding.”

I’m okay, too.