April 7, 2023
I remember the year distinctly – 1998. I remember the day distinctly – it was the morning of November 5th. What I remember most was the “not thrilled” look on my wife’s face.
The look started at the same time that I started packing up the van in anticipation of four days of bowhunting whitetail deer during the beginning of the rut – arguably the best time of the long archery season to connect with a mature buck. I had invested two of my precious vacation days so that I could enjoy a long weekend of “prime time” in the woods. “You’re not really planning on being up north all four days?” And so came the question that accompanied the aforementioned “not thrilled” look on her face.
Then she launched into a list of shall we say contrary realities, such as: I was leaving her alone AGAIN with the four kids, the reality that I had spent every weekend bowhunting since the opener in mid-September, the growing, without any intervention of my part, list of chores that needed to be tackled before winter. There was more, but that is enough to set the stage.
I was mad, but deep down I knew it was not righteous anger. It was more like the little boy who got scolded and was pouting, especially because he had been caught red-handed. I stormed out the door with a huff and another armful of hunting gear. I hesitated to return to the fray. Then my eyes fell on the bags form the garden store in the corner of the garage. I knew they were full of tulip and daffodil bulbs that I was supposed to plant along the south side of the house before the first snow. I admitted interiorly that it was already the first week of November and the regular daily temperature was already in the mid to low 30’s. Snow could come anytime now. I grabbed my shovel and set to work.
My wife came up beside me as I was patting down the last of the bulbs. All she said was “thank you”. Ouch, a direct hit right to my guilt. I hung up the shovel and jumped on my lawn tractor. I had wanted to mow the lawn one more time. I finished that and came in for lunch. It was quiet until Michelle offered one last element of her peace plan. “If you really loved me, you’d clean the bathrooms.” Hmmm. It occurred to me that I had never cleaned a bathroom in the 18 years we had been married, or any time in my life for that matter. I was the ‘outside chore’ specialist.
I didn’t answer her. But I did get up from the table and head down to the laundry room, fetch the cleaning supplies and set to work. I was on my knees, scrubbing the final toilet of our three-bath house when I felt her gaze on the back of my neck. “I don’t think I ever loved you more”, she said. Finish this up and you better get going if you’re going to get to your deer stand before dark. I increased the urgency of my brushstrokes.
I had one last temptation to anger. As I was backing out of the driveway I was thinking that it was a densely overcast day, so dark would come early. A half mile from home and I had to hit the breaks as a nice eight-point buck crossed the road. Part of me wanted to grumble that I was missing good hunting light, but another part, a deeper down part just brought a smile as I watched the buck disappear into the woodlot and instead of frustration I chalked it up to being “a good sign” for the coming hunt.
And it was a good sign. I didn’t connect with a buck that evening, but I did the next night. And to this day it is still the biggest buck that I have taken with a bow. Although it was well past dark when I finally had the deer field dressed and dragged and in the back of the van, I felt a sense of urgency to head home. So, I packed up the rest of my gear and headed south. There was still most of the weekend left to enjoy with my family.
Although it took me 18 years to get there, daylight does eventually come even to the thickest of swamps. My wife, and even the kids as they got older took some turns here and there, cleaning the bathrooms, but it continues to be a regular part of my chore list. I have to say that I don’t mind it at all. It keeps me in good graces with my wife, and myself.