Spring cleaning

I went missing for a couple of days into the deep, dark jungle of southern Ohio, to a place they call “Greasy Ridge.” Greasy Ridge is the longest unbroken ridge in Ohio. It’s where my in-laws live in a house they built when they retired, on the site where my father-in-law’s family home stood on fourteen acres, plus another eight acres they bought from a neighbor’s children when their parents both passed. There’s no internet or cell phone service there. They do have a satellite dish that we provide for them. They’re getting old. My mother-in-law will be 88 in May, and my father-in-law is 84. Carl is very active. He does a lot of outside work—mowing in the summer, cutting wood with his younger (by forty years) friend and neighbor, feeding the birds and deer, doing little odd jobs for friends and family. He was an electrician by trade.

My mother-in-law Phyllis isn’t as physically able as she was a few years ago. She is mentally sharp and follows politics with a passion, loves reading of all kinds. She read Anna Karenina this winter! Their small-town newspapers don’t provide much Ohio coverage, so I always save our Columbus Dispatch papers for her when I know we’ll be visiting. She pores over every single article of political news and legislative happenings, and works all of the crossword and other word puzzles. It’s getting harder for her to read because of cataracts. They aren’t bad enough yet to warrant surgery, so I guess she will have to put up with it until they are.

Phyllis isn’t able to clean as well as she used to, so I decided I needed to go down there and do some more thorough cleaning, spring cleaning, if you will. Does anyone do that anymore? Probably just us older women. I don’t do it the way I used to when I was younger. I would take two weeks and clean each room from top to bottom, including washing the walls. I don’t have time or the energy for it anymore. This winter my house has mostly gotten a lick and a promise and hitting the high spots. Just keeping up with laundry and cooking is a full-time job around here.

On day one I managed to thoroughly clean the two upstairs bedrooms and bath, except for curtain washing, which will have to wait. Their washer and dryer went kaput, and they were waiting delivery on new ones. Every time I passed Phyllis, she urged me to just visit and rest, saying that I was doing too much. I just smiled and said I was fine. I only worked in the morning, and then visited my niece Debbie who works as a barber in her son’s shop. It was a pretty quiet afternoon, until school let out and people started bringing in their boys for haircuts, so I left and went to the library and got Phyllis a few large-print books to keep her going until our next visit. After supper, I visited one of my best friends, who happens to be married to David’s first cousin. I got to meet her newest grandson, a real cutie-pie.

Day two was the most daunting. They are both pack rats, and never throw away anything. The whole house, but especially the downstairs, is filled with tchotchkes and pictures and general clutter over every inch of space. They haven’t broken over into hoarder category, but it’s kind of worrying. I did manage to rid them of about 500 wire hangers that were just cluttering up the closets, a bag of discarded clothing that Phyllis wanted to have donated, an old lamp that wasn’t in use and was just a dust magnet, plus some old telephones that no longer work, and empty boxes of long-gone small appliances.

I was only able to thoroughly clean the bathroom and the master bedroom, and hit the rest with the vacuum cleaner in the middle, and mop the kitchen floor, which Carl managed to track mud onto five minutes after it dried. He never takes his shoes off when he comes in the house. I had to get back home, so I told them I would come back in a couple of weeks to finish the rest. I think it will take me that long to recuperate. After spending four hours cleaning and another four driving, I was too tired to cook when I got home, so we went out to our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. I love their lime chicken street tacos, and Joshie loves the salsa. He actually picks up the little bowl and drinks it. It’s so cute.

Thank goodness my inner voice isn’t telling me that I need to do spring cleaning here. I think I would tell it to shut up.