The butler did it, but we don’t have one

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Mary Ann Fitzmorris

When I returned home from a brief trip without the troops, my husband greeted me with some disquieting news. “While you were gone, someone broke into the house,” he said.

“What?” I shrieked.

“Yeah,” he said. “But it wasn’t ransacked or anything. Nothing was disturbed at all. I wouldn’t even have known some stranger came in here, if it weren’t for one thing,” he continued mysteriously.

“That’s strange,” I said. “What tipped you off to an intruder?”

“I noticed that the toilet paper dispenser in my bathroom had a fresh roll on it. No one here would ever make the effort to do that,” he laughed.

He’s right. He’s so right that I’m not even sure that there wasn’t an intruder here. If I asked either of the children about it, they would look at me like I was speaking Greek. Neither of them have the slightest idea where they would find extra toilet paper.

That doesn’t upset me particularly, although it should. What does disturb me is the degree to which they refuse to take care of themselves in a much more essential way.

They both know where the food is in the house, but neither of them can bring themselves to touch it in any way other than with a fork.

Yesterday my daughter asked me to melt some cheese on chips for her. Nachos. I know that she can do this herself, but my usefulness as servant is dwindling fast enough. I’m happy to get her a snack.

Just as I picked up the cheese, my husband called from outside. After talking to him I noticed a few things I wanted to pick up out there. By the time I remembered to go back into the house, more than ten minutes had elapsed. The microwave was churning and my daughter had a disapproving look on her face.

“Wanna go outside?” I asked.

She smiled sweetly and said, “As soon as my chips are done.”

Her tone was very clear. I had failed her again. “Oops, I forgot all about the chips. I was talking to Dad,” I giggled.

She scowled, “You finished talking to Dad five minutes ago.”

I deserve her lack of patience with my memory. Hours before she had asked me to make some lemonade with a bag of fresh lemons. As usual, I agreed to do it and got sidetracked, further sidetracked, and further sidetracked until I noticed her walking toward the sink with a few lemons in her hand.

It was over an hour since her request. She shook her head when she saw me.

At least she will take care of herself if it becomes necessary. The same can’t be said for my son. Not long ago I decided on a new plan to elicit cooperation from him. When I call him for dinner, I sometimes don’t see him for a while. After three calls, I make sure he’s heard me, and I don’t call him again. When he decides he’s ready to eat, he can warm his food himself. I don’t do it.

There is no need to contact Social Services. He is nearly fifteen: He CAN feed himself.

But he doesn’t. And I noticed that he is getting a little thin. Even opening the microwave seems to be too much trouble. When I ask him about eating dinner that he was supposed to get he tells me he’s on a diet.

Once I placed hot food in a serving dish in front of him. Lifting the serving spoon seemed to be too much of an effort.

Last night I caved. I put a plate of food in front of the boy. All he had to do was eat it. Hopefully that wasn’t too much trouble. “I don’t know why you did that for him, Mom,” my daughter said in disgust.

“It’s no more than I do for you,” I said, making my way over to the dining room where my daughter had finished her school project days ago and left it there. Shredded styrofoam coated a small area of the floor like snow.

As I finished cleaning her mess, I thought, how DID that toilet paper get on the dispenser?

It was a scary thought, but no scarier than anything else written here.