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More than ghost troubles


Whether you believe in ghosts or not, our move in 2005 to our current home in Iowa City was supernatural in another way: Sabra was phenomenal in getting every last detail accomplished.
We timed the move so that we had a month’s overlap. We could continue to live in our current home while we or, more accurately, she worked to get things ready for M-day. Every wall in the home-to-be got new paint, every room its own color scheme. Even the insides of every closet got a fresh coat. On the trips back and forth, she began transferring the several hundred odd photos, paintings, plaques, maps and knickknacks we’d accumulated over the years.
I automatically don’t get to paint. Sabra did an entire house without nary a drip out of place. Me, ha-ha! I can paint, however, quite well in more industrial settings. Put me in a HAZMAT suit, give me a big spray gun, point me at big wall and I’m your man. At least I was before sciatica and arthritis. Now I’m best suited for supervising or staying out of the way.
Hanging began as soon as the paint dried with an eye for detail and balance. Next up, all the small stuff that sits around the house got shuttled over. Here, I could pitch in, as I was driving by daily on my way to classes at the University of Iowa. (I wanted to live in the dorm for a semester, but that was a non-starter.) Again, she had it mapped in her mind where everything went and everything went in its place.
When I moved into my new apartment in Solon in 1985 the first thing I did was pop off the doors of the half-dozen, large kitchen cabinets that banked around the eat-in kitchen. I wasn’t sure where anything should go, so my theory was to stack everything randomly in a place that it could be seen like the kitchen cabinets. After 10 years, I was almost finished getting it organized.
It was in this kitchen, that Old Joe made one of his most noticeable appearances. My youngest daughter Hannah was sitting at the table smearing frosting onto graham crackers to make a snack for her high school track team. She finished filling the Tupperware tub with the homemade Oreos, and set it on the counter behind her, under the door-less cabinets. Moments later the container started to shimmy and in short order skittered off the counter, flopped and bounced. The treats spilled on the floor, a floor you would not want to eat off of. Sabra was there, no explanation for the weird event was plausible and we all saw it, but that’s another story told before.
With a dozen years behind us in our new abode it strikes me that her ability to organize is almost supernatural. During that time, not a single drawer has been switched around, shelf restacked, cupboard shuffled, closet rearranged, chair moved, plant relocated… you get the picture. Luckily for me, she’s a good-hearted housekeeper in love with a good mess-making man. She was really mad at me for a couple of days– about as mad as I’ve ever seen her– after the moving van keys turned up in the garbage. Somehow, she drew the conclusion that I somehow was responsible for the missing key.
All of this is getting me around to something that perplexed me this past week: Sabra decided to move the raised garden beds in our back yard 40 feet to the right. I watched her work as I tried to write this column from my office window. Note that I said “tried.” It’s darn hard to concentrate on writing when you see your spouse outside on a cold, windy day digging wet dirt out of a big box and lugging it across the lawn using a tarp. She also did one other thing that seems strange: she measured my shoulder width.
Then I noticed she was digging a hole, a deep hole. We talked about this. To cultivate asparagus roots it’s generally recommended to start with a 9-inch deep trench. But my lovely over-achiever typically doubles standards, so I was not surprised to see her knee deep in the trench. But when I saw her waist deep, I decided I couldn’t just watch anymore but had to do something.
So I pulled down the blind.