You hear a scratching noise in the wall. Your dog’s ears perk up; he hears it too. You know it must be a mouse.
In a flash you’re back in the first weeks after becoming a widow, when everything in the house seemed to break down. You remember the heating repair man asking, “Is this the original unit?” And you’d answered, “Probably,” with no hint of your usual confidence, seconds before hearing, “Oh we put it in 4 years ago. Our label’s right there.” You explain, “My husband took care of the house. I’m new to all this.”
You realize that your mom wouldn’t have known about her heating unit either. She’d relied on Dad for all things mechanical, just as you’d relied on your spouse. Not to do the work, although they’d sometimes take a stab at it, but to deal with the men who got paid to do it.
You’ve learned a lot since being thrust into the homeowner-in-chief role. You even go to Home Depot alone now, instead of dragging a friend with you who speaks the language. You replace filters like a champ, and thought you’d gotten the hang of being mistress of the house, until you heard the scratching noise.
The next morning you’d called a pest control service. It never occurred to you to tackle the problem yourself. You conjured up the cartoon image of a lady on a chair, shrieking and shaking a broom at a mouse scurrying around below. No way would you engage in mortal combat with the intruder. The pest control man sets traps in various places. You ask, “Do you come back to dispose of what you catch?” You hear what you feared he’d say, “No, we’d charge for a service call each time. Could you check the traps?” ”Oh I couldn’t,” you tell him, quite sure that is beyond you.
You call your daughter, a thousand miles away. “Mom,” she says gently, “You have to do this yourself.” You shudder but see her point. There are nine traps. No telling if or when one of them might spring. “Turn a plastic bag inside out,” she advises. Put your hand in it. Grab the trap and its contents, then reverse the process. You won’t have to touch it.” You cringe at the prospect of even checking the traps. But you will.
The next morning you peek at one trap, then another. Empty. Whew! But the next is occupado. You steel yourself and get the job done. On to the next. Another victim! It’s getting easier. Several days later, despite a daily trap-checking ordeal, the score stands at two. At $100 a mouse, it was an expensive lesson, but you learned that you can rely on yourself. Your first impulse is no longer “ask not what you can do for yourself, ask who you can pay to do it for you.”
You don’t shriek. You roar!