My wife dared me to tell it like it is. “It” is my (temporary?) position as “house-husband” due to my Wife’s recuperation from foot surgery. My Wife is confined to a wheel-chair as she is not allowed to put her weight on the repaired foot. So, all the housework is mine to do. After the surgery, I found out what “all” means! It means if I want something, I have to do it myself at my usual speed, slow. Everything else is done under my Wife’s direction using her priorities, and she has her finger on my speed control buttons. However, she only  has used two buttons thus far – “WARP SPEED” and “SLEEP”. This does not concern her in the least as these are the speeds she normally uses in her daily activities. I wish I knew where she gets her energy, because right about now I could use some of it for myself. If my situation inclines you to have some pity for me, you are most certainly a male person. Females have no pity for those in my situation. None!

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. My situation is not caused by incompetence on my part. I’m OK at cleaning the house, including the bathroom, although my sense of frequency is suspect. I am a good cook, baker, and yogurt maker. Everyone loves my home-made ice cream. I do laundry, although I must tell you my wife was really pissed when she saw one of her bras come out of the washer with the towels. Her reaction seemed somewhat extreme as the bra looked OK to me. No, my situation is due largely to our different attitudes about doing the chores in a timely fashion and the quality of the work. We had sixty years to work these differences out and we have recently made some progress.  A fair evaluation of our progress would, I’m sure, show my Wife to be ahead in that department. As my new situation unfolded, I sensed my attitude, about doing the chores, moving towards her’s. I’m a peacemaker – not a fool. And then the ants came!

Every year, for as long as I can remember, we have been “blessed” by a Summertime visit by our ants. This year our visitors are the “big” ones. Some Summers the “little” ones come. I took note of the relative size some time ago because the “big” ones are smarter than the “little”ones. This small difference in “ant smarts” becomes important when you are as smart as I am. My Wife’s attitude about the ant visitors can be summed up by her call to action: “Get rid of them!. Go get the spray can! now! “. My attitude, however, is like that of a pet owner towards his pet. I believe the simile is apt because ants, like all pets, need from their “owners” a sufficient measure of food and water plus occasional disciplinary action. And ants choose, like pets again, their owners – not the other way round. Also, ants are interesting to watch. So, it seems obvious compromise is required! But how? Read on.

My Wife has agreed I can watch the ant’s behavior until more than two or three ( no more than!) violates her person. But upon her call to action, I agreed to spray – right away with malice towards all. I was once a Sargent in the California National Guard and am a (retired)Engineer. These life experiences have equipped me with the skills necessary for planning and executing an ant extermination strategy. When I discover a covey of ants molesting a kitchen morsel, I lay out some corn syrup as bait. This serves to cause the ants to come to the bait in great numbers and makes the ant trail easy to trace back to the portal into our kitchen. I usually delay acting on the “call to action”, which comes soon after the discovery of the trail, to give me a short time to observe the hard working ants. If you get up close to the trail with good light, you see the ants moving along the trail in both directions in about equal numbers. Watch the individual ants as they approach each other and you will sometimes see opposite moving ants stop close together and have a brief “ant style” conversation, using their various smells as the communication media (so I’ve been told). After the majority of the meetings, the two ants continue on their separate ways along the trail. A few pairs, however, will reverse their directions to engage in what seems to be a new mission known only to them. These are very interesting creatures! I understand how some people can devote their entire careers to the study of ants. For me, I wonder what the ants are saying to each other.

After giving up on trying to “listen-in”, I move along the trail in the direction of the ant entry portal, spray can in hand. It is soon learned that local observation of the trail yields few clues about the direction along the trail which leads to the portal. You must know where the bait is located to follow the trail in the correct direction. The ants know! So, who is smarter? I have my suspicions. After following a few ant trails, you learn the paths taken by the ant trails are found along corners formed by the intersection of flat surfaces, such as ceiling and wall, counter top and wall, floor and wall, etc.. You also come to realize the paths tend to be older paths that remain after previous battles. Rarely are do the paths seen fallow the shortest distance between bait and portal. Not so smart! The “rules” of Nature require biological systems (ants) to evolve toward behavior which requires the expenditure of the least energy in the performance of the behavior. It seems this is not true in ant world. I wonder, is there a reason for increased energy expenditure? Who knows, I am sure I do not know.

It takes close observation  of the ant trail to discern the actual hole of the ant’s portal. The hole is usually at the intersection of baseboard and door frame. This is no doubt due to the construction details of my house. After a moment of reflection, I realize both the ants and I have reached the end of our respective trails (so to speak). I spray a minimal amount of ant poison onto the area of the portal to minimize collateral damage. More is not better. I try not to disturb the now disconnected ant trail unless its path is onerous to my Wife(and me). Left unmolested, the trail of ants will disappear in a matter of several hours. After the trail is gone and you look along the now empty path, you may find a few ants clustered together in a dark corner. I am not in favor of overkill, so I leave them be. The gathering may be an ant memorial service and who would want to attack that. Most, but not all, Humans would agree.

What have I learned from these experiences? Well, certainly ants are interesting creatures to observe. But I knew that. Sadly, I learned only one other thing! But this one thing is very important to the shaping of my new and improved attitude toward helping to do the household chores. Its a simple thing really. Having the responsibility to ensure all the household chores are completed in a competent and timely manner is HARD WORK for the Housekeeper!! What makes it so hard? It is not the physical labor required; it is the unrelenting pressure to “keep up” that makes it so hard. The Housekeeper dare not slack off. Doing so simply ensures  yesterday’s undone chores must be done today plus today’s chores. More pressure anyone? Certainly not the Housekeeper. I realize now the practical basis underpinning my Wife’s frequent admonition “do it now!”.

What and who are the sources of the “unrelenting pressure”? I blame the “what” on the examples of competent and loving homes our parents gave to my Wife and me. As for the “who”, my Wife and I are doing it to ourselves. The “unrelenting pressure” stems from our desire to match the example given to us by our parents and keeping our self-respect and pride  intact. You may ask why are we acting this way? I would direct you to the statement above.

One final thought. Not once in my sixty years of married life have I lacked for clean underwear – not once! I now have a greater appreciation of what our housekeeper had to bring to her career in order for me to make this claim. Besides that, I am allowed to sleep with the housekeeper. Life is good!



I am 89 years old and was married for 66 years. My wife passed away in 2016. I am a retired engineer and spent 35 years developing INS gyroscopes. I was a High School mentor in physics, a mountaineer, a model builder, a machinist and I have a degree in Physics. My interests include railroad history and photography, science history, cosmology, interesting people, and old engineering drawings. I place a high value on my friendships. I enjoying my life and I try look forward with a sense of anticipation and curiosity about what my future has in store for me.


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