Fortress of Solitude

     An eerie calm filled my house on Monday morning. The sounds of barking dogs and crying babies were distant echoes. The television’s remote control sat on the sofa in the same place I left it the night before. My books were in order on the bookshelf, not strewn about the floor in a random pile. My granddaughter’s highchair sat in the corner of a clean, undisturbed kitchen. The silence was deafening. And I loved it.

     Last weekend, my son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter (and Bob the dog) moved out of my home after a six-month stay. Their new house in Wilmington was finally ready for occupancy. When my son and his family moved in with my wife and I (and our two cats) in January, we knew there would be some major lifestyle adjustments for everyone involved. Gradually we grew accustomed to each other’s confusing schedules.

     My house is small but there was enough room for everyone (although the cats will tell you it would have been better with less dog). The biggest challenge we faced was sharing one bathroom. The girls in the house will tell you I spent more time in that room than they did. You think it’s easy to look this good? My skin regiment alone takes thirty minutes. I tried to speed up my grooming ritual during my allotted time, but the little hair I have left needs to be strategically placed on my head or I look like I escaped from a nursing home. I really could have done without people banging on the door shouting, “Let’s go, Miss America!”.

     Other than that our time living together progressed smoothly, not counting the dog poop on the living floor and the cat vomit in the laundry room. The dog blamed the cats: “Why do they get to go to the bathroom inside the house?”. The cats blamed the dog: “We can’t hold down our food because we’re under enormous emotional stress!” Seriously, the litter box was two feet away. The cats couldn’t take a couple of tiny cat-steps and puke in the absorbent clay?

     Having a baby in the house added another dimension to our lives. At a year-and-a-half, my granddaughter is an early riser, but so what? We had to wake up anyway. In the evenings we made sure we went to bed early. On weekends we planned our activities around her nap schedule. My activity during the baby’s nap time was trying to find time to take a nap myself.

     I’ll admit it was nice having family dinners at the table every night while my son’s family was here. We had some memorable meals – taco night , where my son’s cilantro rice recipe was such a big hit it’s now a staple in my own meal planning rolodex. We also had some forgettable meals – my wife’s improvised oriental barbeque pork stir-fry was very much enjoyed by the garbage disposal.

     I will miss bouncing my granddaughter on my knee after dinner while we watch Sesame Street (or Wheel of Fortune if I could distract her long enough to quietly change the channel with the remote control). I’ll miss her lilting voice singing her ABC’s even though she can’t quite pronounce the names of all the letters and she thinks “LMNOP” is one word.

    I won’t miss playing air-traffic controller for the four SUVs parked in the driveway so everyone could leave for work in the proper order. And the position of bathroom coordinator leaves a lot to be desired.

     At the end of June my son’s home was ready to welcome his family with open arms. Moving day for went fairly smoothly thanks to family and friends. My son has already started to deal with everyday problems like waiting for the cable guy (“Sorry, we have to reschedule.”) and an out of control washing machine thrashing around the laundry room like a bucking bronco. (Who knew the drum was bolted to the inside for shipping purposes?)

     Meanwhile, back in Stoneham, I’m enjoying my fortress of solitude. My cats have come out of hiding. My refrigerator looks bare with half the grocery order gone. I can spend time in the bathroom without any courteous time constraints. I know I have some Calgon Bath Oil Beads in here somewhere.

     Goodbye son,wife, baby and dog. Have a wonderful life the wilderness of Wilmington. I’m sure six months from now, I’ll be wishing you were all back living under my roof. Nah.

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