I’m guilty—I haven’t done anything really thoughtful for my wife in a long time.
On the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, she woke up from another nightmare. She told me that in her bad dreams I’m usually there, not doing anything really thoughtful for her.
“What?” I exclaimed in real life. “I do really thoughtful things for you all the time.”
I couldn’t let her think I wasn’t husbandly anymore. I went to my desk, got a pen and paper, and I listed a bunch of thoughtful things I could do for her, to be appropriately executed on Valentine’s Day.
Meanwhile, my wife went to the kitchen to surprise our 9-year-old son and me with breakfast.
“Ant!” she shouted from the kitchen as she prepared the meal.
“What?” I asked. “We don’t have an ant. Not in over 10 years of living in this house.”
“Well, it’s here,” my wife replied. “And here are another two . . . three . . . more.”
I went to the kitchen to check it out. She was right. We had ants.
And even though we never had a reason to own ant spray, I kept some handy under the sink . . . for close encounters. I grabbed the can, sprayed the line of the pests.
“That looks like all of them,” I said.
“That’s not all!” my wife yelled at me like she was the Sigourney Weaver character in the movie “Aliens.” “Because if we have a few, then we have more. And if we have more, then that will be all. This breakfast I’m making and all our food—you can kiss it goodbye.”
Our son heard the commotion, came in, saw the ants, got aggressive. He grabbed a bottle of glass cleaner. “Let’s rock!” he shouted, and then he lit up a line of crawlers near the toaster.
“No!” I yelled. “That glass cleaner’s expensive. It’s the kind that doesn’t streak. Besides, we can’t just keep wasting spray on surface ants. We gotta get poison, get them to bring it back to their nest.”
“And how long’s that gonna take, Daddy?” my son asked.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “No more than seventeen minutes.”
“Seventeen minutes?” he exclaimed. “This kitchen isn’t gonna last seventeen seconds.”
He was right. I went back to spraying the ants with my ant spray. When the can was empty, I used the expensive glass cleaner. At least it didn’t streak. Eventually, I ran out of that, too. And the ants kept coming.
“That’s it, game over,” my son cried. “Game over.”
“Are you finished?” I asked him.
“Maybe you’re not up with current events,” he sulked, “but we’re getting killed here, pal.”
The ants were now crawling on my wife and kid. My wife said I needed to think about her and our son, not just the kitchen.
Fine. I pulled my family out.
In the front yard, I discovered where the attackers were getting in. And I found what looked to be their nest and I took it down with a few kicks.
“Someone’s gonna have to go back in there and get the rest of them,” my wife said.
“Oh yeah, sure, with those things running around?” my son bellyached. “You can count me out.”
I volunteered. My wife looked at me in awe of my heroics.
“Look,” she said, “We appreciate this. Now, I know we’re all a little strung out of shape, but we just can’t afford to let one of those things in our bedroom. I have enough problems sleeping as it is.”
“Yeah, Daddy,” our boy said. “Thanks for being so brave. Sorry I was being a little obnoxious back there.”
As I turned my attention toward our dwelling, my wife told me to wait. She wanted to go with me.
“No, you’re staying here,” I said.
She gave me a kiss, said she loved me. I said I loved her, too.
Then I took her to the garage for some ant-killing gear: weed remover and wasp repellant, duct tape for dead ant pick-up, paint masks to protect us from airborne poison. Before entering our house, I told my wife, “Remember: short, controlled bursts.”
Our son kicked the door open for us. We went in with spray cans blazing. When I got to the wasp repellant, my wife’s mask couldn’t protect her. I gave her my mask then got back to killing crawlers.
I pulled apart the cabinets, got to the crawlers in the walls. When I looked back at my wife, she was struggling to get my mask on over hers. I helped. Her girlish grin was unmistakable.
In the end, we won. At night, my wife was still smiling. I asked, “You gonna be OK to dream?”
“Oh yeah,” she said. I seemed to have proven my thoughtfulness for her. Yes!
Unfortunately, that didn’t mean I was free from doing something really thoughtful for her on Valentine’s Day. So I tucked her into bed. And I got back to that list of thoughtful things to do for her.
This story originally appeared in The Acorn Newspapers of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, CA, in February of 2013. You can find it and other stories like it from Michael Picarella in his book, “Everything Ever After (Confessions of a Family Man),” and at MichaelPicarellaColumn.com.