The things I wonder about when I should be wondering about other things.
Like where is the water just before you turn on the tap? In the ground? Poised just above the spout? Somewhere between the two? Where exactly?
Or how do birds scratch their backs? Do worms get itchy?
So much stuff I should know, and berate myself for not knowing.
Okay itchy birds or worms, not so much, but some things I feel I should know more about.
And when I do find out about them, how can I retain that information?
See, I’m not always too hot at that either.
I’m really more of a big picture kind of guy. I can’t just look at something in isolation, I have to know where it fits in the grand scheme of things. And that’s usually where my thoughts end up.
For example, like most of us, I love autumn trees, especially forests, and the bronzed dapple of crispy leaves as you crackle through them, but I give out to myself for not being able to name more than maybe four varieties of tree.
So I say to myself stuff like if you really love trees, then why don’t you know more about them?
Like if the kids ask me I should be able to furrow my learned brow as I point out that’s a chestnut leave, or no, no, I’d playfully tut-tut, it’s an oak.
Nonchalantly. You know, ask Dad, he knows.
But I guess I just don’t have that engineery, IT kind of mind. The kind of guy who can tell you where the water is just before you turn the tap … I’m just glad the water does come out. Screwed if it doesn’t …
I leave these things to the experts.
Like I have a cousin who is an expert in cardiac pathology. I have just looked her up on Google and as well as being a professor, the hospital she is attached to says she has an “international reputation” in her field.
Now she is a lovely person with no airs or graces, and one time when I was asking her about her expertise, and struggling to follow, she just smiled, eventually, and told me she was a specialist, and that “specialists are just people who know an awful lot about something very small”.
So there you go, I could focus on one small thing and become an expert in it, but really my heart isn’t in it, unlike my cousin’s.
This kind of pointless pondering also gets me away, for a while, from trying to figure out important stuff, like how to keep my kids happy, or just how the hell are my wife and I supposed to turn the pair of them into half-way serviceable members of society?
And maintain what passes for our sanity as we do so.
Like we talked vaguely all summer long about going away on holiday, once I got my passport renewed.
Only it’s mid-November now and still no renewed passport.
I got as far as taking some awful passport photos, and made one visit to the police station to get them signed, only they didn’t have the forms I also needed, which were in the post office.
I went to the post office, it was closed. And I haven’t been back since.
So, the other day, I finally sat myself down and interrogated myself on the matter.
‘So, Enda, why the hell have you not got your new passport sorted?’
‘Well, Dr Freud,’ I responded, a tad superciliously, perhaps, ‘I just asked myself one question’.
‘Why would I pay out thousands to fly off to some exotic place, thousands more for accommodation, day trips, taxis and what not just to have a public row with one of my teenage kids outside some heavenly tavern in some idyllic Tuscan village, which would completely put me off that delicious local goat’s cheese salad I had been drooling over, when I could just walk upstairs to my daughter’s room here in my own house, tap politely and ask her to Hoover her room?’
Have pretty much the same type of row, only for free?
Why is it that one minute one of our teenage charges can crack open my bruising heart with a smile, or swell my bursting pride beyond all measure with another small triumph on their ragged path to maturity – or just talk nicely to me – and the next crack open my mental fortitude and empty the last of my self-respect into the gutter, and ponder once again the futility of my very existence?
Certainly my existence as a parent.
Why, yet again, do I find myself turning away from another potential flash-point for fear my mouth will actually say what my shoulders and white-knuckled fists are already screaming silently even before I reach the door?
So away from all that and back to worrying about how to fully toilet train Lily, our dimwitted but, luckily for her, otherwise delightful young dog.
She’s about eight months old now, and we still haven’t properly cracked it after two months.
She still often liquidises the floor with excitement before I can get her out the door to do her doggy business. And pees in fear when I admonish her …
After two months it can still happen that I can take for a long walk at night and she will not perform … and I arrive down in the morning to the kitchen to find that tell-tale glisten over by the back door …
She cannot be allowed upstairs, which is a shame as K was so looking forward to being able to cuddle her in bed last thing for a while, like O does with Bella. Every night. And it’s lovely.
Good job we love this adorable klutz of a dog.
Somewhere along her evolutionary journey Lily got shortchanged on the paws front, or long-changed on the body front; either way, the end product is sort of wonky. Long body, short, stumpy paws, and as awkward as terrier mix Bella is deft and dexterous.
Where Bella skips daintily onto the couch like a mountain goat, and darts sure-pawed along the back, Lily has been known to throw herself at the same settee and miss (yes, Douglas Adams, I know you know!)
Not quite miss but miscalculate her trajectory, and we hear the thump of her deep chest bouncing off the front of the chair and guffaw as she scrambles to remain upright as she hits the floor with a thump, and that deadpan Buster Keaton expression all the while on her gormless but beautiful mug.
But she loves me, and never, ever argues with me about anything. Not tap mechanics, not leaf composition, not parental competence.
Lily has something that is truly enviable.
She commits to affection as totally as she commits to eating, running … to being.
Now if we could only sort out her tap mechanics she would be just perfect.
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