Our oldest son Joe recently graduated from college with a degree in dairy production and returned to milk cows with his us on our dairy farm in Southern Minnesota.
He finally considers himself a full-blown adult.
He arrives at 5 a.m. and works almost 10 hours every day. He milks the cows, feeds the cows and does a ton of other work. Then he leaves and goes to his house.
As a college student he promised me that after he graduated, he was “not going to live with you.” As a kindergartner he said, “I am going to live with you forever!”
I scolded him for that comment. I only had 16 more years before he left! Just kidding. I didn’t yell at him, but I assured him he wasn’t going to want to live with me forever.
So after college, we kicked him out of the house.
Now, he spends his free time in a house that we own in the small village of Searles, which I think is the greatest village on the planet.
Joe’s house is a true bachelor pad.
No dining room table at which to sup.
No couch to sprawl out on after a long, hard day.
No decorations on the wall.
The curtains are closed so much you would think he’s doing something illegal.
Because his roommate isn’t moving in until January, Joe was a bit lonely, so he adopted a cat from the Humane Society.
And he was happy.
He named him Aphid.
Joe actually asked me to go with to find the perfect kitten to fill his empty home with activity.
Who was I to say, “No.”
As long as he was gracious enough to ask, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to spend time with him. Apparently, his younger brother Russell, 19, didn’t want to miss out on brotherly-bonding as well.
We all drove to town for a chance to spend time with Joe.
Anyway, I digress.
Upon returning to Joe’s home, with a cat and supplies, I couldn’t help but think of how much he’s changed. (Joe, not the cat.)
Years ago, when he still filled my house with laughter, tears and a smell that only mothers of teenage boys can understand, who knew things would come full circle.
As I waited for my husband to come and give me a ride home, Joe was making supper.
Really! I am not telling a lie. I suck at telling lies; my eyes give me away.
Joe fed me the most exquisite Hamburger Helper – fancied up with a can of kidney beans that expired in 2011 – I have ever had. (He’s cheap and it was $1 per box.) No, I did not get sick either.
The best part of having supper with Joe?
As he made it; I watched television. (Not many options there either, as he thinks cable costs too much.)
After consuming my Chili-Cheese meal-in-a-box, I started decorating, and, I cannot make this stuff up, Joe started cleaning his kitchen.
I thought I had entered the Twilight Zone. I poked myself with a nail to make sure I was not in some weird, scientific space-time continuum.
I finished hanging several paintings and was pretty much just farting around – not literally. I have been banned from this sort of activity.
I have been barred from releasing gas anywhere. Joe has the right to do it where ever the hell he wants. It’s a double-standard. He, and men in general, even get to add facial expressions and bodily poses. God forbid I let one slip out with a snarky smile on my face.
Anyway, as I was hanging paintings, from the depths of his small, galley-style kitchen, I heard a voice that sounds like it’s parting the heavens.
“Mother, go get your dishes!” (I love it when he calls me Mother.)
Yes, I had left my empty silicone cup with “Chive On” emblazoned on the side, a plastic bowl and a cheap-ass fork on the living room floor, next to the recliner. He has no tables for his legitimate bachelor pad.
Where else was I supposed to set my stuff?
It was then that I had what Oprah calls a light-bulb moment (which explains the recent puffy hairstyle I have seen her wearing), “Why is he so different in his house?”
I had to know.
So I asked.
“How come at my house you didn’t do all the things you’re asking me to do now that you have your own house?”
“Mother, I am just trying to keep things as clean as possible because I don’t have any cleaning supplies.”
He didn’t really want the pictures hung either; he’s going to have to dust.
No shoes in the living room.
No dishes in the living room.
Put your dishes in the dishwasher.
No putting clothing on the invisible dining-room table.
Put the broom back where it belongs.
Put your Mountain Dew can in the trash.
Apparently Joe’s father and I are not allowed to hide jars of peanut butter, empty beer cans we find in the trash, and the infamous Hamburger Helper around the house either.
It annoys the hell out of Joe, but Steve and I sure giggled while we were placing the “goods” around the house.
I guess, my point is this: While Joe filled my house with smells, odd facial expressions and body poses, and trash and dirty laundry, I thought I had failed as a mother. Why didn’t I spend more time teaching him to be neater and more appropriate?
Little did I know that as he turned into a young man, he would dig up all those neatness lessons from the recesses of his male mind.
The appropriate part I am still working on by whining about the unfair rules of gas release.
I done good.
He’s a good man.