Jeff Astrof has 100 days off. See how he spends them.

Day 78

with 2 comments

I’m fairly certain that when the history books are written, May 1, 2011 will be remembered more as the day that Osama bin Laden’s death was announced than “Day 78”, but then again, according my browser, what’s “Trending Now” in LA is Tiger Woods, Paris Hilton, Hayden Panettiere, Cloris Leachman, then Osama bin Laden , so I’ll press on.

Today started with me getting out of bed and pronouncing that I’m feeling better– followed by a solid two minutes of coughing that seemed to have dislodged an 8 ounce jellyfish that I must have inhaled overnight. If there was ever a time to get my wife to be attracted to me, this was not it– although my favorite type of joke is going in for a kiss after a moment like that. My wife, not such a fan of that type of joke. Anyway, I knew this would have to be my last day with this cold, mostly because our family dynamic was starting to change in subtle ways: without me able to provide the counter to my wife’s sweetness, my wife was forced to play both good parent (her) and bad parent (me). Although I enjoy hearing sharp disapproving tones come from a voice other than mine, it’s not fair to my wife, nor my kids who have expressed in no uncertain terms that my wife is their favorite parent and I don’t want to ruin that for them.

The biggest issue for me today would be to try to make myself useful. Usually Sundays are divided up with one parent taking one kid one place and another watching another kid on a playdate somewhere else until finally I can’t take it and go to yoga. Today, since I was homebound, there was a change in strategy: both kids would have their playdates at our house and I would try not to get in the way. The first glitch occurred almost immediately when my daughter’s playdate cancelled because she had spent the previous night throwing up. This, of course, sent shockwaves of panic through me: what if my daughter– who spent the morning making welcome signs for her friend– doesn’t get another playdate? What if she feels like an outcast? Who can we call, dammit? WHO CAN WE CALL?!

Of course, my wife’s reaction is, if she doesn’t have a playdate, it’s not the end of the world. But we both have a heightened sensitivity towards our daughter’s social life because of her shyness and sometimes quixotic behavior with friends. I can’t imagine that my parents ever cared about how many friends I had or who they were when I was a kid– maybe because I only had one– but for some reason, both my wife and I are very invested in our children’s social lives. In any case, after trying unsuccessfully to shuffle some things around with a few different people, Sasha decided that she would hang out with Caleb and his friend who was coming over to swim. (Note: if Caleb had decided to hang out with Sasha and her friend, disaster would ensue). In the meantime, Shawni would take Caleb to tennis leaving me at home to do whatever I had to do.

That was the problem: what did I have to do? One of the most disgusting things I ever saw was when I was at dinner at a friend’s house and after he cleared the plate from the table, he gave them to the dog to lick. I asked him what the hell he was doing and he said, “I read that dogs need a job to feel worthwhile. This is his job.” “But isn’t that the dishwasher’s job?” Since that time, I will only eat on paper plates at my friend’s house, but I also now get what he was saying. With that in mind, I did a load of dishes while my wife was gone. It was somewhat satisfying, but still left me with a lack of a sense of accomplishment. I then turned to my daughter and recreated the famous scene from the movie, “Marty”: “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” My daughter wanted to watch videos of her performances in some of the plays she was in. I could not handle that, so I decided to confront my own demon: the garage.

As you may recall, my battle with the garage ended abruptly after my wife cleaned it while I took a two hour nap. But alas, in an effort to clean out the basement, we removed half of the clutter from that disgusting room, and put it into the garage, thus leaving both areas uninhabitable. Immediately upon entering the garage, seeing the hybrid of junk from both storage areas arranged with no particular order, I started having a panic attack which merged effortlessly into a coughing fit where I hacked up half a squid. I staggered out of the garage and headed towards the tranquility of our backyard pond. This soothed my nerves until I realized, “I don’t have a backyard pond”. This was a sandbox that was filled with all of the rain from the last year. It was next to a garbage can that was filled with the rain from the last two years which was next to a giant tupperware basin filled with similar rain. If we needed proof that the drought was over, I had it. I immediately became disgusted: not only with the brackish water that was slopping all over my legs and shoes as I tried to spill it down the driveway, but by the notion that I was so far removed from the maintenance of my house that I could let 60 gallons of rainwater accumulate without my even knowing it. I was reminded of the time when my kids were at Shawni’s parents’ home in Oregon and they heard someone with a leafblower outside so they ran to the window and then exclaimed with shock, “Mommy, Daddy, grandpa is the gardener!” When I was young, my father and I mowed and fertilized the lawn and I raked leaves, but that was not a skill I would bequeath to my own kids.

Shawni bailed me out by giving me an assignment: to blow up some rafts for the pool. My first thought was, “what do we pay our pool guy for if I have to blow up our pool toy?!” but then I took to the challenge. I held my breath and dove deep into the garage, not only to find two uninflated pool rafts, but a pool raft pump which for some reason only had a car lighter accessory. Tapping into some unknown white trash roots, I went to my car in front of my house and pumped up the pool rafts, once again feeling like a man. This feeling would deflate a half hour later when I went back to my car and realized that I had left it running and had completely drained the battery– which for a Prius is a pretty big deal. I was loath to call AAA and once again deal with a guy whose every glance seems to say, “really, pussy, you can’t jump your own car?” Fortunately, I was saved from that burden by two factors: one, I had my wife make the call, and two, at the exact moment the AAA guy came, I opened the car and it started right away.

That was the nature of my day, with one emasculating event after another. I then went to find my wife who was in the office loading vacation videos and photos onto the computer to make memory books for the kids. I looked at pictures of us as a family– I couldn’t believe how young and fit I was back then. My wife pointed out that these were pictures from our Israel trip four days ago. Still, those were the good old days, when I was climbing tanks and riding camels. We went through the pictures of me taking each of the kids out on the final day: Sasha horseback riding, and Caleb sailing a ship. The kids looked more exhausted than ecstatic and I wondered aloud if they appreciated it. Shawni said that she appreciated it, and someday the kids would, too. Probably the same way that I appreciated mowing the lawn with my dad.

Just then I heard the plaintiff moan from my daughter who realized that it should be she and not I who was sick. “Daddy, carry me!” she said and I picked her up and kissed her very warm forehead. She had a fever. I put her upstairs in her bed, took her temperature and gave her Tylenol and a went washcloth across her forehead, the same way my dad used to do. Even if she didn’t appreciate this, I know I did.


Written by 100daysoff

May 1, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Makes me wonder. Maybe a Prius doesn’t need to be jumped?


    May 2, 2011 at 7:33 am

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