by Vicki Rogers (my momma)
Recently during my lunch break at the air force base, I was talking to one of my staff and co-workers as I chomped on some prunes and she munched on cold pizza. She was depressed about the impending visit from her husband’s extended family. She liked them and enjoyed their company individually, but having them arrive en masse was only adding to her trouble. Her trouble was that she was afflicted with an absentee spouse.
He was basically mentally absent from their relationship unless he wanted sex or new computer components to support his non-job habit. She couldn’t really remember when he started going MAWOL (Mentally Absent With Out Leave), she just knew when it came to taking responsibility for her and their two children, both under the age of five, he just wasn’t there. He had already boasted to his relatives about all the places he would take them to here in the Old Pueblo --
her husband liked to boast about providing but not to do the providing. And that of course he’d exclaimed they didn’t have to worry about eating out with prices so high, they could eat at their house! Hotels?! Out of the question. After all, they were coming all the way from Texas. All ten of them.
His MAWOL factor had created a vacuum around the reality of having to bed and breakfast, and lunch and dinner a ten pack, even if it was only for a few days. He didn’t seem to realize that their three-bedroom house already had one bedroom devoted to his office which was piled high with computer bits ‘n pieces and that the garage was a nightmare. He was also absent-minded about buying groceries, washing clothes, cooking meals and watching children other than via the rear-view mirror.
My co-worker was already exhausted and the visit was still days away.
As we sat in our lunch area, which is very informal and mainly consists of a round cocktail table and bar stools embellished with the University of Arizona logo and team colors placed beside a pool table in the large office area that doubles as a game room for our youth program,
I asked her what would happen if she got sick while they were there visiting? She said it wouldn’t matter. She would still have to prepare the meals, make sleeping arrangements, be a chauffeur service, etc., and watch her kids. I looked at her across the small table, plain-faced and said, “From the bathroom?” I stared at her while she had the most puzzled look on her face, like, “Why would I bring them into the bathroom with me?” To clarify, I suggested, “Vomiting - diarrhea?” Her expression changed to disbelief. I explained “It’s hard to entertain people when you’re on the toilet. It’s even harder to cook.” Of course I WASN’T SUGGESTING SHE GET FOOD POISENING. However, prunes eaten in the proper quantities at the right time will certainly assure frequent trips to the bathroom. Those timed for initial deposit around 3-4 am are hard for even the most peaceful sleeper to ignore. Also there are those trusty pill laxatives that are always helpful in cleansing the bowel and they do genuinely make you feel sick. (My co-worker thought it particularly funny that I never leave home without them. The prunes, I mean.) If she were physically absent from catering to the ten pack, her husband would most certainly have to…relieve her…of her burdens.
It is unpleasant to gently make yourself sick; it’s also unpleasant when you have to remind a spouse that goes MAWOL about remaining in the present. It is also unfair to be ignored when asking that other half to take responsibility in a relationship and be just that. So sometimes you have to take yourself out of the picture to capture their attention when getting help the hard way is the only recourse you have left.
Sometimes that recourse can be … prunes.