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Please Don't Eat the Ivy

A friend said to me once that the ultimate proof of a family's ability to survive occurs when the dishwashing machine breaks down but someone still remembers how to wash and dry by hand.

He was talking about enduring household calamities despite the failure of various parts, and adapting to a more primitive manner of getting by until help arrives.

I mention this today not only because our dishwasher actually did break down and not only because our clothes washer is also down and not only because one of our cars isn't working, but because, well, we are breaking down. And the cat is sick.

Our multiple household failures began with hip-replacement surgery performed on my wife, the resilient Cinelli, that went totally awry. You already know about that. Well, she's back in the hospital for the third time fighting a staph infection.

Cinelli is the presence that maintains order in the routines of our family and it was predictable that when she was unable to function properly, everything else began to unravel. Rats ate a hole in a plastic portion of the dishwasher, the pump in our clothes washer stopped working, the electrical system went out in our Camry and our neurotic cat-who is obsessed with eating indoor plants, especially our English Ivy-vomited on our rug. What next? Stay tuned.

I am easily thrown by disruptions in the Earth's vibrations when my own small section of the world is affected. I am paralyzed without Cinelli to guide me through whatever travail is occurring. But this time she needed the help, and how do I respond to that? By having a heart attack.

Feeling terribly sorry for myself one evening while hand-drying the dishes, I began experiencing angina pains. I ended up in the hospital with what was diagnosed as a mild heart attack and then semantically downgraded to a heart "incident" no doubt caused by the emotional turmoil of a household without its functioning leader.

"Just take it one step at a time," Cinelli advised me from the hospital room where she is being observed and treated for a few days, so I did. I called a dishwasher repairman, a clothes washer repairman, an automobile repairman and a cat repairman, sort of. I also called for help from our daughter, our son, our daughter-in-law, our granddaughter and our grandson-in-law, who are seeing to it that I eat, shave, brush my teeth and don't leave the house with my fly unzipped.

The lesson here is that if one remains calm and sane and screams for help loudly enough, household order can be restored even in the bleakest of circumstances. There will come a morning when Cinelli will be well, all of our appliances will be working and I will recover completely from the heart incident. Now if I could just get the cat to stop eating the ivy, he'd be in better shape too.

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