Fred was late coming in for lunch so I kept chipping away at my laundry mountain one sunny, early November day. He was busy moving canola, or rather shifting it from bin to bin. Our big aeration fans have been going high speed for weeks inside those big hopper-bottom storage bins to prevent our grain from over-heating. Damp and/or unripe grain will combust and harvest conditions this fall were such to make that a possibility. So he has been fighting the cold weather; engines and batteries on grain augers and trucks for about the last three weeks. Evenings he wonders why he is so tired. I remind him that he is among the last of the Canadian prairie baby boomers still scratching in the dirt trying to make a living on the family farm. We had a semi load of canola rejected at the grain terminal because of a hot spot from heated grain so he has been especially busy and loses track of time.
When he did come in, I heard his call from the front door. "Are you around? I'm really hungry." I quickened my pace up the stairs lugging an over-flowing laundry basket. He stood in the front entrance as I quickly assembled things to make a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. While I was doing this a horrendous crash behind me almost made me drop the electric grill. When I turned to see what happened, Fred was moving out of the way of a flying chair, as it landed, it struck the several cat food dishes and water bowl. The contents and dishes soared high in the air.
"What the heck?" I gasped watching in disbelief the scenario unfolding in front of me. Several cats scuttled like furry canon balls, "What did you do?" When the chair landed with a deafeningly crash, splattered cat food struck and stuck to the recently renovated textured kitchen walls, dripping down in thick gooey rivets. He picked up the chair, his big work boots making messy, mushy tracks in the spilled pet food, crunching under the dry morsels.
We stared at each other for a second. His face red and his hair, curling under his farm cap, wordlessly told me not only our canola was over-heating.
"I grabbed a chair to sit on out here in my work clothes and it got away on me."
That's all he said as he sat down on said chair waiting for his sandwich.
"Look what you just did?" I yelled.
"Yeah. Good thing you have a good vacuum! That's not a good place to leave the cat food."
Fighting words to me and rather than counting to ten before I went into battle mode, I hollered, "Their food station has always been there and how the Sam hill am I supposed to get that off the walls?"
He didn't answer and before I could stop, the grouchy lady in me took full command, "Look at that! Just look at it!"
He glanced at the wall and I could see his hair becoming even curlier. Removing his cap he wiped his hot, wet face and in a heated voice he asked: "Why is the furnace running? Don't you know it's a nice day out there? Why have you got the heat blasting on a sunny day? How come you didn't let the cats go outside today? It's one of the last nice November days."
I knew he was stifling inside insulated navy coveralls, wool socks and work boots. It didn't suppress the grumpy lady inside me; "It's not balmy in the basement where I am washing clothes, that's why."
I brusquely handed him his sandwich and fetched the vacuum. Surprisingly, the mess did come off the walls easily and without trace. A very quiet Fred ate his lunch, the vacuum roaring behind him. As he got up to leave without a thanks or apology, I yelled at his back, "Are you familiar with the word 'sorry?' It's in the dictionary, you know."
When the door closed behind him and I cleaned up the floor and lunch things, I decided for the moment I hated him. I recall something one of my favorite authors, Judith Viorst, had written about her husband, "Only when you truly love someone, can you also hate him."
Later, watching Dr. Oz as I took a coffee break from my chores, I decided it was time to rid the home and myself of the lingering negative energy. Even though he was only by the bins in our yard, I called Fred on his cell phone.
I think he was scared I was going to tear into him even more; his voice was quiet as he quickly said, "Thanks for lunch." I laughed and asked if he wanted to come in and play chair toss in the kitchen and have coffee with me.
I heard the grain auger running in the background as he solemnly replied,
"Don't think so. It's too much trouble."