THE ODD OLD COUPLE NEXT DOOR KEEP THEIR HOUSE

“Housekeeping,” says the Odd Old Woman Next Door. “What a very strange term for the actions we perform around our home.”

She’s contemplating the never-ending list of work necessary to keep the place semi-decent and functioning. “Clean the carpets” has been registered for at least three years. When she discovered most services charge as much to clean a rug as the item cost to begin with, and the cheaper companies couldn’t or wouldn’t do the work inside the house, she was thrown into such indecision, she’s never proceeded to hire a company.

            The Odd Old Man Next Door has started making the bed. She’s helping him although, as usual, she’s several beats behind him. Most mornings nowadays, he’s half-way through the chore by the time she gathers herself together to join him. Should she allow this inequity to disturb her equilibrium?

            No, she decides. For years the chore was assigned based on the time each one arose. The last one up made the bed. Most times that was she, so she estimates she’d made the bed, oh, twenty years now. In fact, they used to have a kind of competition. If they got up at nearly the same time, the rule was that they had to crow, “Ta-dah” and throw their arms wide, to overtly mark the time of their activation. She almost always lost.

            Now they often get going at nearly the same time, so they’ve started making the bed together. The bone of contention: just what the proper manner is for arranging the final covers. They agree on the initial approach with the military method. They spread sheets and blankets evenly on both sides, tuck in using a hospital corner with a 45-degree angle, smooth any wrinkles out.

            The OOMND, having received instruction in the Marines, believes the top sheet should extend only about two inches above the blanket, then he folds the sheet edge down over the cover. The OOWND, being more feminine and inclined toward artistic design, feels the sheet’s edge should be folded down between four and six inches over the blanket. Each morning they commence a tug-of-war. He folds the top sheet down only two inches, using his four fingers as a rude measure. She then flicks the edge of the top sheet down another few inches, smooths it across the head of the bed. He pulls it up again for the proper military appearance.

            By this time, he’s bored with the routine and leaves, while she hurriedly re-positions the top sheet so it will cover the blanket by a good four to six inches. Then she pulls the spread up and over the completed bed. She believes he won’t notice her handiwork. And he doesn’t, so they’re both satisfied with the handiwork.

 

A FATHER’S SECRET WAR IN NAZI-OCCUPIED FRANCE

Terrible times call for superhuman responses, and nowhere can we find better examples than war. Unfortunately, humans aren’t at their best unless challenged, deprived, threatened, or persecuted. An excellent example of this truth is this book set primarily in France In WW II. Based on notes, memories and interviews about Jean Claude Guiet, by his son Daniel Guiet and coauthor Timothy Smith, Guiet was a duel citizen. When time came for him to be drafted, Uncle Sam was smart enough for America’s sake to recruit him as a spy in occupied France.

He was the radio operator in one of a number of Allied underground teams parachuted into France, left to function independently, and survive if they were able. Blown away. Dumbstruck. Speechless. Lots of descriptors for a work that’s full of words, experiences and emotions about people in war. What sticks with me upon reading was not the thrill and chill episodes, but the sheer strength and courage of the team, one of whom was Violette Szabo, who eventually was captured, tortured and executed. Indeed, the life expectancy of any of the teams involved was estimated to be about two weeks. Jean Claude survived, playing his part not just in vital communications but also in assault and defense actions. All at the age of about 20. We also see the enthusiasms and energies of young adulthood. Incidents that would seem impossible for most people—climbing mountains, sneaking around forests, become challenges to be exuberantly overcome by Jean Claude.

This is a valuable work for anyone interested in military history or politics. More than that, it reminds us on every page that the words “Free World” came at an immense cost to humanity. Some things are more important than money, status, fame, even the law and rules. One of those is an individual’s personal code of ethics and honor. Regardless of nationality or religion, ultimately we each should strive to do what we think is right.

Scholars of Mayhem: My Father’s Secret War in Nazi-Occupied France, by Daniel C. Guiet  and Timothy K. Smith (Penguin Books, 2020)

THE ODD OLD COUPLE NEXT DOOR TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER DURING COVID

Have you gotten an appointment for our COVID shots?” asked the Odd Old Man Next Door of his wife.

The OOMND was in no hurry for the vaccinations, but he figured if he didn’t remind his wife, she’d forget entirely.

            The Odd Old Woman Next Door has spaced on the date, but fortunately she’d signed them both up weeks before with their health care provider. “Right as usual,” she answers. “I forget, but I can track it online. We were about number seven thousand, but I can look it up.”

            Shot day arrives, and they set off for the appointment. She’s not looking forward to this, for she remembers a car trip months ago when they wandered around in circles for hours near the city amphitheater, looking for the entry currently hidden by construction zones.

            “Now what in the hell, which way are we allowed to go here?” he’d said as they passed sign after warning sign. Of detours apparently directing traffic in perpetual circles, spirals, dead ends. “God damnit,” he said as he slapped the steering wheel with both hands. ”I’ll try it anyway.”

            Several blocks later, “Which way do we want to go here?” he asked. She had no answer because she lacks even the most primitive sense of direction.

            After another eon, she finally pulled out her smart phone that she’s still learning to use and was able to direct him.

            Today on the way to the clinic, she hopes they’re not ready for a repeat performance. They drive the 30 minutes needed to get to the health facility, not the nearest because that one was too busy, and they couldn’t get in. After reasonable progress, they glide into the parking lot, don their masks, and get their shots. The nurse gives them the record of their procedures on small cards and warns them to take great care of the record. “Bring it back for your second shot.”

            A month later, the OOMND asks his wife, “Do you have your vaccination record handy?” They’re scheduled to get their second today. He has been reminding her about the record daily for a week but today kicked it up to hourly. Fortunately, she’s able to pull it from her wallet immediately.

            He drives carefully. She recalls he seems to drive more carefully by the day. At times, like today when the weather is snowy and icy, she’s glad because she’s terrified of an accident in these conditions. Other times, if they’re late and he’s hyper-careful, the minutes creep by. She’s impatient. She wants to say, turn here, just swing to the left, feeling that foundation of frustration common to wives who have always catered to their husbands, without either of the partners being aware of it.

            No, he can’t, she reminds herself, he hates left-hand turns like the plague, always has avoided them since half-century ago when he caused a massive pileup doing the same. The damage included knocking all his bottom teeth out and breaking his jaw. He’s never admitted this to her, but she guesses that’s the reason for his avoidance of left-hand turns.

            As they exit the highway for the clinic, he mutters, “I hope they’re not working on Grant Street. Well, I guess if they are, they are.” He sighs.

            She’s gotten much more patient on trips like this since she asked her granddaughter to load Kindle and solitaire on the OOWND’s smart phone. She’s tolerant nowadays because she can distract herself with those without worrying about wasting time. Change is difficult at his age, she realizes. One advantage of growing old is you just don’t care about these minor irritations the way you used to.

            As he turns into the parking lot, he says, “This should do the job for me, I think.” She agrees.

TENTING TONIGHT

Tent sites for the homeless crowding the sidewalks of big cities make my skin crawl They appear to be hot beds for rubbish, litter, poor health, and crime.  Many cities fight against the eyesores, passing legislation, carrying out evictions, and tearing down the tents. Denver was one of those where government attempted to outlaw the gatherings and drive the homeless away. If we simply pass a law prohibiting sleeping outside, on sidewalks, under bridges, in doorways, we’ll be rid of the problem.

These ideas remind me of “A Modest Proposal,” in which Jonathan Swift suggested in 1729 fattening poor children of Ireland so they subsequently could be used to feed those wealthier, thereby solving several problems at one. Homeless projects have proven notably ineffective long-term. Yet no other approach is achieving notable success.

Some show promise. Cities like Seattle have approved sites for the homeless to use—set up tents or park motorhomes and cars. San Francisco’s approach during COVID allowed homeless people to voluntarily quarantine in repurposed hotels, which includes providing them with behavioral health support. Now a proposal to transform what remains of certain areas of San Francisco into a mass of sanctioned homeless camps has supporters, in view of the astronomical cost to the city of hotel housing 

Research shows the longer people live unsheltered, the more likely they are to face high barriers to finding and maintaining permanent housing. These barriers can be financial, medical, related to behavioral health, related to a poor rental history or a history in the criminal justice system. So the longer we delay addressing the issue, the bigger it will become. It’s no secret that homelessness has increased during COVID even though a definitive simple answer doesn’t seem to exist yet.

Like San Francisco, Denver is struggling to develop an approach to keep the homeless sheltered to some extent without trashing the environs. We’ve tried outlawing the practice of camping, swooping down to confiscate belongings, conducting cleanups, shifting camps from one area to another.

The neighborhood in which I now live is on the outskirts of the city, and I never see homeless here, unlike my old community. But I drive through central areas where tents and the homeless seem to spread like mushrooms, and I cannot support efforts to eradicate temporary housing. Denver’s tent cities are so important. You can’t close your eyes and pretend the poor and maladjusted aren’t with us. Our tent cities are a constant reminder of unresolved issues, of problems that still exist in the “best of all possible worlds.”

We always want simple answers to complex problems. That’s not ever going to happen. We can just close our eyes, ears and minds to the situation. Or we can use our brains, hearts, and compassion to dig out reasons and keep trying.

THE ODD OLD COUPLE NEXT DOOR IMPROVE THEIR HOA, a continuing saga

The Odd Old Man Next Door stands at his second-floor bedroom window, peering out at the alley. Today, his neighbors in the nearby condos rolled their purple, green and black wheeled barrels out to the alley for collection, where the containers stand at attention in perfect rows. However, something’s still off. The OOMND fumes, “Today is not trash day. This week contained a city holiday, so all schedules are one day later. Can’t they get that through their thick skulls?”

            Downstairs, the Odd Old Woman Next Door hears his mutters. Ever-helpful she yells up the stairs, “Why don’t we write a flyer about this, and you can distribute them door to door. If people followed your suggestion, the alley would look much nicer and clear of the debris that collects when the wind blows.”

            “Great idea,” says the OOMND. “If you’ll write and print some, I pass them out.”

            “If you’d learn how to use the computer and printer,” snaps the OOWND back, “you could do all that yourself.”

            He thunders downstairs, thinning gray hair waving around his head like a halo. “But then we couldn’t work on this together.”

            How could she dispute that? She thinks he’s sooooo sweet for wanting them to be together.

            The next week he’s ready early for his project. In the dark house the windows show only the black of night outside when he crawls out of bed to drag on his regular outfit: gray sweatpants, navy blue sweatshirt at least twenty-five years old, ragg wool socks pulled up to his knees, sneakers frayed and ripped. His wife remains snuggled under the covers. After all, the temperature is only thirty-seven. She groans and mutters to herself, “Crazy as a coot.”

            As he thumps downstairs, she screeches, “Hang on to the banister,” just as she hears his shoe slip and he recovers his step. He calls to the OOWND, “If you hurry, you can come with me to deliver the flyers.”

            She groans. “Why would I want to?”

            In short order, the OOWND appears in the kitchen, dressed in jogging pants and turtleneck under her paisley bathrobe. “Okay, all set.” She holds a stack of colorful flyers alerting their neighbors to the revised trash collection schedule.

            After they finish their chore, they return home to breakfast. “Did you see Stacie?” the OOWND asks her husband over bran flakes (low cal, to promote regularity).

            “What?” he asks.

            She recalls he can’t hear her unless she repeats at least twice. “Did you see Stacie? Did you see Stacie?”

            “No,” said the old man. “Why?”

            “She was dragging her trash to the alley when she stopped to read the flyer. She shook her head and rolled her eyes, like What are those odd old people bitchin’ about now? Maybe we shouldn’t pass these out.”

            The OOMND snorts and shakes his head. “Bull,” he says. “She’ll appreciate the suggestion when she notices how tidy the alley stays.”

            “I imagine she’ll just tell her husband what the crazy old people next door are interfering in now.”

            “What? What?”

            The OOWND raises her voice. “I imagine she’ll just tell her husband what the crazy old people next door are interfering in now. . . I imagine she’ll just tell her husband what the crazy old people next door are interfering in now.”

            He splutters. “So much the worse for her if she can’t recognize a great idea.”

            “Right as usual,” said the OOWND. She received instructions years before that that is the appropriate answer in these situations from a wife to her husband.

            “Yes, dear,” said the OOMND. He received instructions years before that that is the appropriate answer in these situations from a husband to his wife.

(Perhaps to be continued)

The Odd Old Man Next Door stands at his second-floor bedroom window, peering out at the alley. Today, his neighbors in the nearby condos rolled their purple, green and black wheeled barrels out to the alley for collection, where the containers stand at attention in perfect rows. However, something’s still off. The OOMND fumes, “Today is not trash day. This week contained a city holiday, so all schedules are one day later. Can’t they get that through their thick skulls?”

            Downstairs, the Odd Old Woman Next Door hears his mutters. Ever-helpful she yells up the stairs, “Why don’t we write a flyer about this, and you can distribute them door to door. If people followed your suggestion, the alley would look much nicer and clear of the debris that collects when the wind blows.”

            “Great idea,” says the OOMND. “If you’ll write and print some, I pass them out.”

            “If you’d learn how to use the computer and printer,” snaps the OOWND back, “you could do all that yourself.”

            He thunders downstairs, thinning gray hair waving around his head like a halo. “But then we couldn’t work on this together.”

            How could she dispute that? She thinks he’s sooooo sweet for wanting them to be together.

            The next week he’s ready early for his project. In the dark house the windows show only the black of night outside when he crawls out of bed to drag on his regular outfit: gray sweatpants, navy blue sweatshirt at least twenty-five years old, ragg wool socks pulled up to his knees, sneakers frayed and ripped. His wife remains snuggled under the covers. After all, the temperature is only thirty-seven. She groans and mutters to herself, “Crazy as a coot.”

            As he thumps downstairs, she screeches, “Hang on to the banister,” just as she hears his shoe slip and he recovers his step. He calls to the OOWND, “If you hurry, you can come with me to deliver the flyers.”

            She groans. “Why would I want to?”

            In short order, the OOWND appears in the kitchen, dressed in jogging pants and turtleneck under her paisley bathrobe. “Okay, all set.” She holds a stack of colorful flyers alerting their neighbors to the revised trash collection schedule.

            After they finish their chore, they return home to breakfast. “Did you see Stacie?” the OOWND asks her husband over bran flakes (low cal, to promote regularity).

            “What?” he asks.

            She recalls he can’t hear her unless she repeats at least twice. “Did you see Stacie? Did you see Stacie?”

            “No,” said the old man. “Why?”

            “She was dragging her trash to the alley when she stopped to read the flyer. She shook her head and rolled her eyes, like What are those odd old people bitchin’ about now? Maybe we shouldn’t pass these out.”

            The OOMND snorts and shakes his head. “Bull,” he says. “She’ll appreciate the suggestion when she notices how tidy the alley stays.”

            “I imagine she’ll just tell her husband what the crazy old people next door are interfering in now.”

            “What? What?”

            The OOWND raises her voice. “I imagine she’ll just tell her husband what the crazy old people next door are interfering in now. . . I imagine she’ll just tell her husband what the crazy old people next door are interfering in now.”

            He splutters. “So much the worse for her if she can’t recognize a great idea.”

            “Right as usual,” said the OOWND. She received instructions years before that that is the appropriate answer in these situations from a wife to her husband.

            “Yes, dear,” said the OOMND. He received instructions years before that that is the appropriate answer in these situations from a husband to his wife.

(Perhaps to be continued)

The Odd Old Man Next Door stands at his second-floor bedroom window, peering out at the alley. Today, his neighbors in the nearby condos rolled their purple, green and black wheeled barrels out to the alley for collection, where the containers stand at attention in perfect rows. However, something’s still off. The OOMND fumes, “Today is not trash day. This week contained a city holiday, so all schedules are one day later. Can’t they get that through their thick skulls?”

            Downstairs, the Odd Old Woman Next Door hears his mutters. Ever-helpful she yells up the stairs, “Why don’t we write a flyer about this, and you can distribute them door to door. If people followed your suggestion, the alley would look much nicer and clear of the debris that collects when the wind blows.”

            “Great idea,” says the OOMND. “If you’ll write and print some, I pass them out.”

            “If you’d learn how to use the computer and printer,” snaps the OOWND back, “you could do all that yourself.”

            He thunders downstairs, thinning gray hair waving around his head like a halo. “But then we couldn’t work on this together.”

            How could she dispute that? She thinks he’s sooooo sweet for wanting them to be together.

            The next week he’s ready early for his project. In the dark house the windows show only the black of night outside when he crawls out of bed to drag on his regular outfit: gray sweatpants, navy blue sweatshirt at least twenty-five years old, ragg wool socks pulled up to his knees, sneakers frayed and ripped. His wife remains snuggled under the covers. After all, the temperature is only thirty-seven. She groans and mutters to herself, “Crazy as a coot.”

            As he thumps downstairs, she screeches, “Hang on to the banister,” just as she hears his shoe slip and he recovers his step. He calls to the OOWND, “If you hurry, you can come with me to deliver the flyers.”

            She groans. “Why would I want to?”

            In short order, the OOWND appears in the kitchen, dressed in jogging pants and turtleneck under her paisley bathrobe. “Okay, all set.” She holds a stack of colorful flyers alerting their neighbors to the revised trash collection schedule.

            After they finish their chore, they return home to breakfast. “Did you see Stacie?” the OOWND asks her husband over bran flakes (low cal, to promote regularity).

            “What?” he asks.

            She recalls he can’t hear her unless she repeats at least twice. “Did you see Stacie? Did you see Stacie?”

            “No,” said the old man. “Why?”

            “She was dragging her trash to the alley when she stopped to read the flyer. She shook her head and rolled her eyes, like What are those odd old people bitchin’ about now? Maybe we shouldn’t pass these out.”

            The OOMND snorts and shakes his head. “Bull,” he says. “She’ll appreciate the suggestion when she notices how tidy the alley stays.”

            “I imagine she’ll just tell her husband what the crazy old people next door are interfering in now.”

            “What? What?”

            The OOWND raises her voice. “I imagine she’ll just tell her husband what the crazy old people next door are interfering in now. . . I imagine she’ll just tell her husband what the crazy old people next door are interfering in now.”

            He splutters. “So much the worse for her if she can’t recognize a great idea.”

            “Right as usual,” said the OOWND. She received instructions years before that that is the appropriate answer in these situations from a wife to her husband.

            “Yes, dear,” said the OOMND. He received instructions years before that that is the appropriate answer in these situations from a husband to his wife.

(Perhaps to be continued)