There’s a cat in the freezer?

By S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

I opened the refrigerator a few days ago and found a box of magnesium sulfate sitting snugly between the ketchup and a container of tofu (extra firm). When I confronted my other housemates, my daughter quickly confessed. “Oops. Sorry, thought it was milk,” she said.

Now, this may seem innocent to you, just a momentary lapse of attention, a bit of hand-to-eye-to-brain coordination trouble, but you don’t have to live with us — you see, we do this sort of thing all the time and it drives us all crazy. I fear we are the most absent-minded family in the state.

Just a week ago, I got up at my normal 5:17 a.m., did the usual stuff that middle-aged men do for the first three or four minutes after getting out of bed (beginning with the blind grope for my glasses) then I went downstairs, found my pants from the day before neatly heaped in a corner of the dining room, put them on and went looking for a belt. I found a belt on the workbench in the back room between a box of laundry detergent and a hammer and threaded it tightly through my pant loops. I finished dressing, got in the car and went to work. So far, so good. Two hours and three cups of coffee later, I had to relieve myself so I got up from behind my desk, walked into the appropriate room and unbuckled my belt, but couldn’t go. No, I wasn’t having old-guy plumbing problems; I couldn’t go because of a wardrobe malfunction — I still had to undue the other belt, the one that had already been on the pants, the one I had obviously buckled without knowing it. I later showed this double-belt set-up to one of the guys at work, pulling my shirt up and pointing down toward my vitals. “Do you think this means I have dementia?” I asked. “Yes,” he said.

This sort of thing happens so often to us that it’s become sort of a family joke. Whenever anything is missing, the stock shout that reverberates throughout the house is, “Look in the freezer!” This stems from the time, a couple of years ago, when my normally sensible wife put a container of brown sugar up there next to a package of frozen chicken thighs. Now, if we can’t find the scissors, or the nail clippers, or a missing sock, or one of the cats, the first place we look is in the freezer.

I once found a crude sign painted on a piece of plywood hanging in the garage where anyone leaving would read it as soon as they sat in the car that said, “Open garage door, then pull out.” It was scrawled in my son’s handwriting and the lettering appeared a little shaky, as if motivated by the panic of a close call.

Once, on a quiet spring Tuesday morning, I sat peacefully at the bottom of the stairs wearing the kind of grin that comes from having a new pair of socks, laced my shoes tightly and then strolled into the kitchen to make coffee only to find that I hadn’t put my pants on yet.

Another time (and I’m not making this up), I opened the refrigerator door, grabbed a full gallon milk jug by the handle, held it off to one side, peered around the inside of the refrigerator bobbing my head like a boxer dodging blows, and then yelled with great consternation, “What! We’ve got no milk!”

We leave pans on the stove with the burner on, the tub running while we watch a movie, the iron plugged in and the coffee pot scorching French roast while we drive to Lewiston; and we misplace wallets, glasses, digital cameras, shoes, hats, car keys, thumb drives, Netflix DVDs, books of stamps, rolls of toilet paper, overdue library books and garden tools with the same regularity and reckless abandon that the federal government adds to the deficit.

I don’t know, maybe all families are as scatterbrained as we are, but somehow I doubt it. One of these days, I fear I will leave my wife at a rest area on the turnpike — fortunately, we really don’t travel that much. All I can say is that if we ever have you over for supper and when you get ready to leave you can’t find your car keys, look in the freezer.

I have to go now. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to write a newspaper column this week.

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