The Delicate Balance

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I never think about how the dynamic of our household is laid out. How it affects the alkalinity and salinity and compatibility of all its elements like a saltwater fish tank.

The kids come and go from their dad’s house, which changes the dynamic, but it’s not unmanageable for me. At least not anymore. It is more so for Todd, who experiences his home in bursts of alternating quiet and chaos. I think I’d have a better appreciation of this sort of whiplash if he’d pick the kids up one Sunday and I waited in silence at home.

Houseguests change the dynamic, yet it’s temporary and joyful and also joyful when they leave. Don’t get me wrong, I – we – enjoy having people over. It’s one of the reasons we have an established guest bedroom.

Overnight guests don’t upset this balance. Weekend guests don’t really upset this balance. Permanent houseguests? Well, now there’s a whole blogpost.

I’ve recognized and shamelessly admit that I enjoy – no, I REQUIRE – the dynamic of our house just the way it is. I don’t do well with change as it is, and when it occurs in my house in the form of another human living here indefinitely, it’s a recipe for a volcanic disturbance.

We had a friend in need who stayed with us for a few months. It wasn’t terrible, but at some point I started trembling at the very thought that there was no end in sight. I don’t recall how it ended, exactly, or how my tremors evolved. And I’m okay with forgetting.

And then couple of years ago we had Neph. Neph moved in and we welcomed him, because he’s family and not a friend and he was young and we had rules and he was going to follow them and it would be wonderful to have another “kid” in my house. And I do love him, truly, but he has a tendency – like all males his age – to Neanderthal his way through life, refrigerators, and bathrooms. He also has his own habits that had to fit into our dynamic. However, his habits occasionally bulldozed over ours (mine) and I learned valuable lessons about speaking up without bitching, reminding without snarling, and buying food in bulk.

Furbaby houseguests can also ramp things up a bit. When my mom goes away, she leaves her beloved furbaby – which is at this very moment funny to me because he’s no baby – he’s 140 pounds of white fluff – with us. Moses is sweet and wonderful, well-behaved and easygoing. Well, except for that one time he went after Oliver in an unprecedented move that both startled and impressed me.

He and Sabra used to be boyfriend and girlfriend, when our dogs were living with my mom and her dogs. They adored each other, followed each other around, and – early one morning on the deck outside – decided it would be fun to have sex and freak my mother out. (This was followed by a few days’ speculation about whether it was true that Moses was truly neutered, and whether Sabra was knocked up.)

Nowadays, like an old married couple, they greet each other with a sniff and a tail wag and then go lie down in their respective places. So, anyway, Moses came to stay with us a couple of weeks ago, and this time my mom brought his bed so he’d feel more at home and, hopefully, not sleep on my couch.

Sabra commandeered his bed the minute he arrived, and I spent an entire week chasing her off of it. She’d lay her 38-pound body down in this giant fluffy bed, leaving her half-the-size bed for Mo, who – do the math – is 100 pounds bigger than her. So, then of course, Mo would jump up on the couch, because – comfort – and I’d walk in and holler at both of them. Rules, people!

I thought I was bad at adapting to changes in the “force,” but Sabra becomes a spoiled brat who thinks her shit doesn’t stink. Literally. It’s really quite impressive, how far she’s come from Pi’s shadow and the follower mentality.

Moses is a good boy always eager to go outside. Sabra refuses to go outside with him. He’ll run out the door and she will circle just inside it, and then run back to her bed. And then I’ll make her go out because why should I monitor the dogs and the door twice? But you know what she does? She stands by the door and looks in. And then has the audacity to come back in with Moses and expect a cookie.

So the only way she’ll go out and do her business – is when Moses is not with her. Weird. But now, Moses took to urinating on our deck within view of the sliders, and then Sabra started doing it too. Meanwhile, I’m losing hair on the top of my head.

And Moses has long been home again, and she’s still doing it. I heard Todd scolding her yesterday morning and he was pissed. She did it again this morning, and when I scolded her she looked away, feigning shame, because if she really was sorry she wouldn’t be standing there staring at me after the fact like, well? where’s my cookie?

Meanwhile, Oliver lives life on the edge when Mo is here – which I feel terribly badly about, but I do accommodate him more then and so I’d say he wins in the end anyway. He gets more treats, more love, more attention, even more than normal. What could be better? He would tell you that better would be, how about that fucking white beast go home? Except he probably doesn’t use the f-bomb because he’s so angelic. But I can see it in his eyes when he looks at me. We share silent conversations, he and I, with our eyes.

He stares into my eyes for long moments, like he is telepathically telling me the secrets of the universe and eternity and I have no idea – and then after a moment he’ll break the connection and run over and rub up against me and act like a cat again.

Maybe that’s why he loves Todd so much. Equally frustrated with me for being so unaware. He lies next to us on the couch, and I can tell he loves Todd more in those moments, as if he’s like – it’s you and me, dad. This chick doesn’t know jack about existentialism.

But that’s also part of the delicate balance.

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