Today’s world presents real worries, but we still need to laugh.
I admit, I’m a worrier. Even imagined worries make me happier, because I don’t like surprises. If something bad happens and I’ve been worrying about it, then it’s not a surprise. And if it doesn’t happen, then that’s a good thing and I’m free to worry about something else.
Opal, the grandma in the Pickles comic strip, agrees.
I sent the cartoon to my sister Anita after they had another water back-up in their basement. I knew the problem right away. She’d not been spending enough time worrying about her house or sewer line lately. She had been pre-occupied with worries about grandkids: too much “screen time”? is the school good? the neighborhood safe?
I don’t have grandkids, so I can only imagine how frustrating it is to fret about children when you don’t have say-so in the raising. But still, Anita had become lackadaisical in her worrying about house stuff, which I felt compelled to point out in a sisterly way. She laughed, and that’s a good thing right there.
The same week, I mentioned to my husband Irv, “We haven’t seen Beverly here for almost a month.” Bev, a flight attendant who rents a small apartment attached to our home, travels a lot, but this was unusual.
Then, walking near Bev’s apartment, I see a huge fly hanging on the screen at an open window. I remember the time last summer when I saw a two dozen big blow-flies on the screen, sprayed them with Raid, and then went in and vacuumed up their dead remains. I figured that a rat or mouse had died under the house and some maggots had hatched and somehow migrated inside. I was too embarrassed to ever mention it to Bev. Now, this one fly sets me to worrying. Did I just get a whiff of something dead, or was that my imagination? I mention it to Irv. “Uh-huh.” He’s not concerned.
3:00 AM. I wake up. Maybe Bev’s apartment has been infested with flies hatching, and she has moved in with her parents or a boyfriend because she hasn’t wanted to worry us. Maybe it is unlivable and that’s why she isn’t here.
Don’t be silly, I tell myself. One of her parents is probably ill and she has moved back to take care of them. Or maybe she herself is quite ill and not even healthy enough to move out. One of her parents is dying, or she is living with a boyfriend, or her place is infested. I’m pretty sure. Tomorrow I will figure it out. I go back to sleep.
The next day I grab the bull by the horns and e-mail Bev, “Are you OK? May I go in to check on your apartment?”
“Sure, go in.” She is house- and dog-sitting for her parents who are on a long vacation.
“Oh.” I go in. No flies. No fly carcasses. No problems.
I shine a flashlight all around on the floor and don’t even see the one fly that I sprayed. Which just proves to me that if I want everything to be OK, I am obligated to worry about a lot of stuff.
Two days later, Bev is home and puts a load of sheets in our communal washer. The laundry room fills with smoke that smells like an electrical fire. The washer is dead. Now I am the one who has been negligent – not once in the last six months have I worried about the appliances.
I re-read the cartoon. Laughing is good.