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When the cats away...
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Having a 10-year-old who isn’t used to having the umbilical cord stretched too far, I decided it was time to have a sit-down and talk to Canyon about the trip I’ll be taking in the very near future.

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have mentioned that it’s coming up. We will sit and talk about it for a few minutes, but then he’s off to do other things.

I suddenly snap-to and think, “What just happened here?” I expected wailing, body convulsions, hissyfits beyond all normal human comprehension, drama unfolding like a Shakespeare tragedy.

It’s not what I get.

Instead, he manages a look that feigns sadness. I get an arm around my shoulders as he says, “But I’ll miss you...”

He leans into me for a mere split second and then bounds out of the room.

The bigger baby, I realize, is the almost 60-year-old who lives under the same roof.

As I mention the trip to him, pointing out the various times that Canyon has to be waked for school, dropped off at school, picked up at school, housecleaning chores and the like, he starts twisting his fingers and tugging on his hair.

“How long are you gonna be gone?” he asks for the 113th time.

“Two weeks. It’s on the calendar,” I say, tapping the pencil on the calendar, “See? I leave here...” indicating the day of the week, “and I return here. It’s all laid out. Drop me off, pick me up.”

“What time am I supposed to wake him up in the morning?” he asks, twisting his shirt til his fingers turn blue.

“Seven forty-five. Turn on the shower, that sound helps to get him up. Don’t let him stay in there any longer than 10 minutes.”

Who is this person I’m talking to? Hasn’t he lived in the same house with us for the last 10 years? Does he not know one dang stinkin’ thing about getting this boy off to school?

Oh wait. That’s right. Five years ago I took a similar trip and later learned that my son had gone to kindergarten one morning in nothing but a T-shirt and a pair of Power Ranger boxer briefs — the kind that look like bike shorts.

All morning long the kids called him “Underwear Boy.” He didn’t care. He was the center of attention that whole day.

How did the child manage to get out of the house, into the truck, dropped off at school with daddy waving goodbye and daddy not notice he was only wearing chones?

Fortunately, Canyon has learned the fine art of dressing himself, so I have no problems there.

I have taught him how to use the washing machine and dryer so that he can wash and dry his own clothes.

I do not trust that the bigger baby will remember to do laundry while I’m away.

“Does he need to take lunches to school?” he asks, hands twitching as he anxiously makes notes.

I could see the terror written all over his face. And I could see the complete embarrassment on Canyon’s face if he opened his lunchbox to find a can of peas and an avocado stuffed in there.

No sandwich. No chips. No peanut butter and celery. Just the can and the ‘cado.

“No, no, he buys lunch at school.” Luckily buying a school lunch is cheaper than making one at home.

I can’t even let the thought of dinnertime come into the picture. They will have to sort that out for themselves. I may have to stop off and buy McDonald’s coupons before I leave.

I decide that it’s time to go on the defensive.

I call Canyon into my office and sit him down to have another heart-to-heart.

In my low nurturing-voice sorta way I tell him, “You will have to take care of things around here while I’m gone. I want you to be sure to remind Dad to clean up after he cooks, to wash and put the dishes in the proper place (as he usually puts things away in drawers and not cupboards and I end up on a scavenger hunt), and to make sure the floors are clean. I need you to take out the trash and vacuum. Check the laundry basket every couple of days to make sure the clothes get done. If you need food, call me. I’ll figure something out.

“Make sure you eat breakfast every morning and make sure you get to choir on time. Do not let Daddy be late. Think you can handle it?”
He mulls it over for a minute and asks, “What’ll I do if Dad starts crying once you’re gone?”

I reach down into the Walmart bag at my feet for the secret weapon.

“Pop this video in ... he’ll be fine.”

“Ooo! Is it ‘Girls Gone Wild’?” he asks excitedly, flipping it over.

“Don’t be silly. It’s ‘What About Bob.’ Daddy’s favorite. As long as it’s on the DVD player, you shouldn’t have any trouble. Get him a Coke and a snack and he’ll be fine. You’ll know you can leave him alone when he starts laughing like Ricky Ricardo. I will reward you handsomely when I get home.”

Thankfully he doesn’t have to worry about diaper changing.