T.S.D.T.M.T.D.U. #117: The Dishes

Spent most of Easter Sunday afternoon in the kitchen. The majority of it at the sink.

In the 46 years I’ve logged so far on the planet, I’ve never lived in a house with a dishwasher.

So, on the other side of every meal prepared at home, has been some version of this:


One would think that, with all those years of practice under my belt,1 I’d be good at it.

My wife, in particular, is one such one.

However, the dishes are just another item among the T.S.D.T.M.T.D.U.

(Things She Doesn’t Trust Me To Do Unsupervised.)

The list is, um, robust.

The reason why The Dishes has its mail sent to the T.S.D.T.M.T.D.U. is that my wife and I have different strategies for how to do them.

My strategy can be summed up as follows:

Wash the dishes.

When I went to deploy the above strategy Sunday afternoon, Karry actually said, “I can’t let you do that. It’ll make me sick to my stomach.”

1under my belt? Does that even make any sense? Seriously, what’s under my belt? My too big pants. “With all those years of practice beneath my too big pants.” What the hell? Stop saying that. All of you.

Her strategy, by contrast, is more nuanced. I’ll do my best to explain it here, but, in full disclosure, if I truly understood it, then I could probably lobby the listing agent for the chore’s removal from the T.S.D.T.M.T.D.U.

Near as I can tell, her approach relies heavily on pre-production. An awful lot of pre-production. I think there’s a lot of pre-rinsing and stacking involved. I can hear what sounds like water running and plates bumping before I’m summoned (read: allowed) back to the kitchen to behold the evening’s dirties perfectly aligned in an order apparently harmonized with the cosmos.

I would contend2  that her meticulous organization is unnecessarily time consuming. And, let’s face it, I’m a busy dude. The more time I spend doing dishes, the less time left for arguing with the teen ager, yelling over top the teenager as he argues with his 12-year-old sister, or fulfilling my true calling, getting on my wife’s last nerve.

That said … even though I know that the rational side of my brain will find the eventual owning of a dishwasher as delicious as any Amish family would … I can honestly say that, even after all these years, the perfunctory chore is not without its juice. Once she has properly prepped them, and I’m left to do them by myself if it’s a divide-and-conquer evening, I curate an accompanying soundtrack. And it speaks well to the timeless transcendence of what poured from the horns of Paul Desmond, Johnny Hodges and Coleman Hawkins that their sounds can elevate even my ritual cleansing to the sublime. I would be the most content ditch digger the world has known as long as long as I could listen to good music. I inherited this trait from my Dad, who logged even more years than me at the sink (a single sink, no less), drying and putting away after Mom washed and rinsed.

2 If I chose to use the limited capital in my possession for arguing this point … which I am smart enough not to, recognizing that there are dozens of offenses I will be committing very shortly that I will only become aware of after the fact, and even then, will most likely not fully comprehend their precise nature.

But the point above notwithstanding, jazz is not the best company I’ve found. Karry is. Even though she usually has to burn off a couple exhales at the mere prospect of my accompanying presence.

Don’t get me wrong … we complain just about after every home cooked meal, and sometimes (read: more often than we care to admit) find ourselves deterred from home-cooking a meal by pre-calculating the dish tax.

But here’s the thing. I’ve realized over time that the mundane act is a bit of a Trojan horse.  Held hostage by the sink, we ask each other about our days, remind each other of schedules, share family updates. And since she is not a morning person (or, um, technically speaking, an evening person), it’s our best, and sometimes only, window to just catch up. Further, no matter how jacked she is at me or how frustrated she might be with what the day has thrown at us … the splash and clank of a sinkfull reminds us of our basic contract: that there remains work to be done (always work to be done) … that we’ve chosen each other to share the work (for better or worse) … and that things (for the most part) go better when we’re tackling them together.

At the end of the day, no matter what the world has thrown at us, or what remains of our daily climb up Have-To Mountain, she knows that if she organizes and washes, I’ll rinse, dry and put away.

And there’s something in that. Not a big something. But an important something.

And I’ve learned (and am still learning) that over the course of a long friendship, it’s the little somethings that provide the steadier fuel after life gracelessly burns off the tinder of youth.

I’m confident that when/if our home finally does make room for a dish washer, she won’t miss it one single bit.

For the record, I totally will.

Even though a dishwasher would give me my best chance yet in 20 years of marriage to successfully lobby for the removal of an item from the T.S.D.T.M.T.D.U.

Yep … peeking at the list, everything else is pretty much carved in stone.


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