“I gotta do everything around here: I gotta cook. I gotta clean. I gotta cry.”

— T.S. Garp, “The World According to Garp,” by John Irving

I miss my mother’s calendar. It was the biggest calendar I’ve ever seen. Bigger than Kenny Ebner’s girlie calendar in the men’s room of the Michigan Avenue bowling alley where I used to set pins. It was bigger than the St. Louis Cardinals calendar in Haag’s Market.

Today, at this end of my life, I have a nice calendar on the back of the pantry door; it’s a sheepdog calendar, and every month has a different picture of a sheepdog, all cute and cuddly the way Jack used to be. My daughter sends us a new one every Christmas, and I love them, but the squares to write in are too small.

My mother’s calendar was from the church up the street and it only had one picture, that of Jesus Christ, a very big face of Jesus. He was pointing to his chest, where his sacred heart glowed in the dark.

I was always scared of that picture. My brothers hated it, because they were older and when they came in from dates at 1 or 2 in the morning, lipstick on collar, gin on breath, there it was, the sacred heart glowing in the dark.

When you’ve been out in the rumble seat of Mickey Pape’s Ford with Mary Villar until 2 in the morning, the last thing you want to see when you come tiptoeing into the kitchen, trying not to wake anyone, is Jesus glowing in the dark. Each of my four brothers told me identical stories, the best not printable here.

But the good thing about it was that it was huge and had huge spaces to write in for every day. Maybe I’m just remembering with the memory of a child, but it holds a record in my heart.

When I was older and had my own apartment in New York, I avoided religious calendars, but I hung one from a Jewish temple in Williamsburg that a dancer had given me. It was in Hebrew, and had all the Jewish holy days on it, but no sacred heart. Consequently I missed Easter, but not Sukkoth.

Our sheepdog calendar is smaller, but we have to keep it on the back of the pantry door because it doesn’t go with the new look of the kitchen. So that’s why we keep forgetting appointments. Unless we need flour or crackers, we never see it.

She has her little teacher’s book and swears by it. I will admit it’s well-noted and accurate, but it’s not always around when I’m setting appointments.

Yes, I have my computer calendar, but I don’t always remember to type in all the information, because when I open it to do so, I see Facebook messages, emails, Huffington Post and Daily Beast items to peruse. I’m a political junkie and addicted to polls, and what my friends’ dogs, babies, cats and food look like. I’m sorry.

And since her “event,” I have a great many more little things to do around here. Actually, I always had them to attend to, but I avoided them.

Now, where guilt was always a dust mote in the corner of my subconscious, it has become a huge rain cloud, full of thunder and lightning that follows me around, hovering over my head.

I have always cooked and vacuumed, but never dusted. She dusted, but now I do. I always did my own laundry; now, to save her steps, I do hers as well. It’s kind of a merit badge thing. I never earned a merit badge in the Boy Scouts: bad at tying knots, cheated on starting a fire, etc. So now I’m going for household merit badge. Why not?

But I really have to start focusing on the appointment calendar thing. I’ve missed the dog’s grooming appointment twice, the car checkup twice, and barber and dentist twice.

I have this dream that if this keeps up, I will wind up on a park bench somewhere, with hair down my back, rotten teeth, an iPhone full of unanswered birthday wishes, a shaggy dog and no calendar. But strangely, I will always remember when Yom Kippur is. I gotta get the laundry out.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. His book, “Will Write for Food,” is a compilation of some of his best Morning Sentinel columns.


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