We've Always been

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sidebar

26
Thu, Nov

Authors
Typography

So Arlene gets into the back of the ambulance yelling, “I left you a note.” And off she goes in her orange fuzzy slippers and pink housecoat with a full-blown case of Covid-19.

I didn’t see any note. And anyway, this was the first time she had spoken to me in two weeks. Look, after thirty-three years of marriage, you stop feeling like talking to one another.

It hadn’t helped that at the beginning of the pandemic we attempted to both work from home at same small kitchen table. After three days, I was fed up. She wanted her stuff everywhere. I wanted my coffee cup on the table. She had a rule no coffee cups on the “desk.” I said that it wasn’t a desk. She said it wasn’t a table. It was a table. It was categorically a table. And I was trying to handle business. She was blathering. I needed space. She had two monitors and a printer. Her phone was ringing off the hook. How could I think straight?

After a week, I moved into the living room onto a series of tray tables. I had my laptop balanced on one, my papers on another, my binders on another, and my office supplies on another. It looked as if my office desk had come home to play “train.”

“Roote’s Pest Control, Arlene speaking. How may I help you?” I heard this refrain all day long while I was trying to work. “Roote’s Pest Control.” “Roote’s Pest Control.”

The dinners she cooked were completely uninspiring. The cleaning was barely competent. And because I was home, she was constantly nagging at me: fix the toilet – it doesn’t help if you jiggle the hook, close up the hole by the attic window, get the leaves out of the gutter, and so on. It was a never-ending flood of reasons why I didn’t measure up.

Well, Earth to Arlene: I don’t measure up. I’m not ever going to measure up. I’m not ever going to be what you want me to be and I refuse to live the rest of my life as a sad shadow of myself. If a pandemic tells you anything, it’s that you’d better be happy now because tomorrow is not promised. So I decided that as soon as this pandemic was over, I was getting a divorce.

And then early summer she up and got sick. I think she knew she was sick long before she let on. All I know is that suddenly, one night, she couldn’t breathe and was whisked off to the hospital.

“I left you a note,” she yelled as she left.

Arlene landed right in the ICU on a ventilator. Just like that. Just like that I couldn’t find anything in the house.

I found the first note inside the dishwasher:
Dear Ray, the dishwasher doesn’t work. It last worked in 1986. The dishwashing soap is in the cabinet under the sink. Don’t worry. You can do it. Don’t touch my pink rubber gloves.    Arlene
The next note was in the mailbox:
Dear Ray, your mother’s birthday is next week. She might enjoy a card. The stamps are in the drawer under the microwave. Also, the water bill is high because the toilet is running.   Arlene
Then on the inside of the attic door:
Dear Ray, the noise is raccoons. Fix. The. Hole.     Arlene
In the freezer: Dear Ray, sucks to be you. Buy a cookbook.     Arlene
Taped to the mop handle in the basement after a series of hard rains:
Dear Ray, please don’t fall trying to clean the gutters. Pay someone.  Arlene
In the laundry basket:
Dear Ray, if you wash your red shirt in warm water, all your underpants will turn pink. Pull knob to turn on; push knob to turn off.   Arlene
Taped to the hose outside:
Dear Ray, Plants are people.
Love,    Arlene
In the fuse box:
Dear Ray, second down on the left. Don’t run both window air conditioners at the same time.     Arlene

In my winter hat in the closet, not because it was cold outside, but because I was looking for notes:
Dearest Ray, if you find this note, I think that means I didn’t make it. I’m so sorry, Ray. You know what I’ve never told you? I’ve never told you how much I respect you. I’ve always respected the work that you do. You work so hard. And when times were tough, you always figured out a way to keep us going. And I respect the man that you are. Everyone in the neighborhood knows they can count on you. It’s just that things got odd between us. I don’t know what happened. But here’s what will never change: I respect you as a man and as a husband. Thanks for being my partner all these strange wonderful and woeful years. We were a pair, weren’t we?
Be free, my friend,   A.
And under her pillow:
I miss you, too.
As odd things happen during a pandemic, I took my own turn in the ICU at the same time Arlene got well enough to come home. Arlene is at home fine. I’m in the ICU, but they tell me that my case is not so serious. I need a bit of oxygen and a bit of watching over. I left Arlene a note taped to the kitchen table:
Dear Arlene, I got us a new dishwasher. Sent Mom a card. Evicted the raccoons. Ordered takeout. Fell off the ladder. Just kidding. Paid Palmer’s to clean gutters. Am wearing pink underpants – proudly. Have been hot. Love and miss you. Plants are people. Oh, and also, I didn’t fix the toilet. It’s old. It’s impossible. It’s persnickety. I’m sorry. You’ll have to jiggle the hook.
Love you always, R.
While in the ICU, I got a note from Arlene:
Dear R., thanks for the dishwasher. The previous one was rather old and impossible, if I care to admit it. I’m sorry. And about the toilet, no problem. I’ll be glad to jiggle the hook.    A.

Sharon Houk is a writer and artist based in Joliet, Illinois and the official Poet of Daybreak Center for the homeless. She’s a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and is currently studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Sharon is a member of the WriteOn Joliet writers’ group, Latitude 41 theater group, and the Irish American Society of County Will.

Advertise

Paying For
Instructions

 

Athenry By Cahal Dunne

SUBSCRIBE: Buy 1 get 2 - Buy 2 get 3! - Buy 3 get 6 years!

SUB SPECIAL

November Linked Edition

Oct Digital Edition w/links

Irish Book Club

Advertising Rates 2020

Shop Irish!

ARTIST
Bryan Boylan
ASSISTED LIVING
Aishling Companion Homecare
Homecare Angels

ATTORNEY

Murphy & Smith Ltd
Dwyer and Coogan
Healy Law

Miller & McGing Law Firm 773-467-8000
BAGPIPERS & DRUM CLASSES

Chicalba Bagpiping

BAKERY
Doughs Guys Bakery
BANKS
First National Bank of Brookfield

Marquette National Bank
BANQUETS
Gaelic Park
Irish Am Heritage Ctr
BEAUTY SALONS
Appearances Pk Ridge
 847-825-7615
Hair by O'Hara & Friends-Hometown
BOOKS - IRISH
TheIrishBookClub.com
BRICK REPAIR/REPLACEMENT
Shamrock Tuckpointing
CARPET CLEANER
Sheila's Carpet Shampooligans
CATERERS
Harrington's Catering & Deli
Unforgettable Edibles
CHARITABLE ORG

Mercy Home
IrishCommunityServices
CAULKING & SEALING
Shamrock Tuckpointing
CHIMNEY REPAIR

Shamrock Tuckpointing

CHOIR
Irish Heritage Singers
COTTAGE RENTAL
Cottage Mary Rose
Dingle Cottage: 312-399-8793
Gurtenard Hse - Listowel Co Kerry
CRUISES

Andy Cooney
Phil Coulter Tranquility Cruise
CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS

Chicago Gaelic Park

iBAM!
Irish Am Heritage Ctr
Irish Am Society Co Will
Irish Heritage Singers
DANCE SCHOOLS

McNulty School of Dance
Trinity Irish Dance
ENTERTAINERS

Chicalba Bagpiping

Paddy Homan
The Larkin Brothers
Catherine O'Connell
Joe McShane
Whiskey Mick Irish Rock
FESTIVALS

Arlington Heights
Dublin

IAHC
Indianapolis
Kansas City
Milwaukee
Naperville Aug 7-8 2020
FINANCIAL PLANNER

Corrigan Financial
FLORIST

Garland Flowers
FUNERAL HOMES

Blake-Lamb

Gibbon's Funeral Homes
Roberty J Sheehy & Sons

GAELIC YOUTH FOOTBALL
773-719-2847 Jerry
GARBAGE REMOVAL
Flood Brothers Disposal
GOLF COURSES
Palos Golf
GRAPHIC DESIGN

Laura Coyle 773-343-7268
GROCERIES/MEAT

O'Connor's Market

Winston's

HOTELS

The Irish Cottage 1 866 CU-IRISH
HUMAN RESOURCE CONSULTANT
James Fitzgerald
IMMIGRATION SERVICES

IrishCommunityServices
IMPORT SHOPS
Ann's Irish Gifts

Celtica Gifts 773-784-7712
Donegal Imports
Gaelic Imports
Irish Shop
INSURANCE

American Family-Joan McKee
Riordan Insurance
JEWELERS

H. Watson
MUSIC SCHOOLS
Chgo Academy of Piping/Drumming
Irish Music School of Chgo
MYSTERY SHOPPER
Cathy Cooney-Millar 224-944-9654

PARTY PLANNERS
That Special Event

PENNY WHISTLES
Michael Burke
PHOTOGRAPH CAPTURING
Memoirs for Me
PHYSICAL THERAPY
SPORTS-ORTHOPEDIC
Athletex
PLASTERING

William McNulty & Son
708-386-2951
PUB/RESTAURANT RECRUITER
Cathy Cooney-Millar
PUBS & RESTAURANTS

Ashford House
The Celtic Knot
Clancy's Pizza Pub
Corcorans
Emerald Loop
Fifth Province
Fiddler's Hearth
The Galway Arms
James Joyce Irish Pub
Lizzie McNeill's
Mickey Finn's Brewery
Peggy Kinnanes
R
ed Apple Buffet
Six Penny Bit
Vaughan's Pub

REALTORS
Dreamtown - Patrick Carney
Koenig & Strey
Mary Ellen Considine  773-769-2500
RESTAURANT/HOSPITALITY RECRUITER
Cathy Cooney-Millar 224-944-9654
SPORTS CLUBS

Chgo Celtic Soccer Club
stbrigids.chicago.gaa.ie
ST PATRICK'S DAY
St Patrick's Day Parade
SWEATERS

Anne's Irish Knits
TABLE RUNNERS
All 32 Counties
TELEVISION-CABLE

Irish Journal 708-366-4665
THEATRE
Late Nite Catechism
TOURIST ATTRACTION
Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home
TRAVEL /TOURS
Authentic Irish Tours
BestIrishTours.com
Gadabout Travel
Shay Clarke - Inter Trav Corp
TUCKPOINTING
Shamrock Tuckpointing
VACATION RENTALS
Dingle Cottage
Cork - Cottage from $450 weekly
Don at 608-274-1180
WASTE REMOVAL
Flood Brothers Disposal
WEDDING PLANNER
That Special Event

WEDDING VENUES
Gaelic Park
Irish Am Heritage Ctr
Palos Country Club
WOOD FLOOR SPECIALIST
The Sexton Group

Irish Ann