This is what She does. Where do I start? She does our taxes, and that’s not an easy job. Because I am a freelance writer, my taxes are complicated, and this requires her to keep notes on a stack of yellow legal paper each day all year long. She is the daughter of a lawyer and judge, and it’s kind of like inheriting hay fever.

What do I do? I open jars.

I could never do what she does.

In school I managed to get by in history, geography, English and floating crap games. I barely got a D in math, and I was once barred from the science lab. That’s a long story, and everyone involved in that incident is dead. Not due to the incident, of course. They just got old and died. It happens.

When She met my mother, Mama told her to keep me away from money, anything to do with money. She didn’t really pay attention. She thought my mother was kidding.

She quickly wished she had paid attention. In the first two winters in Maine, I lost two checkbooks in the snow on my way to the bank. If you’ve ever lost your checkbook, you know what that entails. It wasn’t really my fault. I hadn’t seen snow in 50 years, and I would run and jump in it. I’m like a 9-year-old who drinks.


So this is also what She does. She keeps our books, bank deposits, withdrawals, etc. in perfect order, writing the notations and numbers that are so tiny, no one but the FBI can read them.

I can’t be entirely accurate about that because she’s very secretive. She keeps all those important documents with their tiny numbers and letters in a drawer somewhere in her office. She’s like a bookkeeper for the mob.

She writes grocery lists the same way, all in tiny letters so small I can’t read them. Until I started to make the lists on my iPhone, I would sometimes have to ask strangers or clerks to decipher them.

“Excuse me, miss, what does this say?”


“Thank you.”


“That’s Mrs. Devine, isn’t it? I had her for Spanish. I recognize her writing.”

To be perfectly honest, She’s secretive because she knows that if I found out that there is an extra five or 10 dollars around, I would find it and spend it on a decaf mocha latte. Oh, She can have a Shamrock Shake, but I can’t have a mocha?

This is what else She does.

Now that she’s retired, She goes through catalogs and makes lists of potential gifts for our daughters and their husbands. She tears things out of magazines and catalogs and keeps them in folders.

Before retiring, it was much worse, because She was, like, so intense and focused that I almost never saw her. She would come home and go to this desk with the drawers and folders and not come out until I called her for dinner. Oh yes, that’s what I do. I cook.

This is also what She does, and it’s actually a good thing. When we go together to buy a large item like a dresser or mattress or a new car, She becomes the mob accountant.


I used to start working the deal with the sales person, but then She would interrupt whenever I took a breath, and before long, She was in control. It got so that now, on big issues, like the car, I just bring a book or magazine or take a nap until She wakes me and hands me the pen.

She’ll point to the document. “You sign right there,” She’ll say with a smile.

“Can we afford this?”

“Don’t ask questions. Sign there, and then open the water for me.”

I hate to admit it, but She’s good. She’s really good. She can wear a car salesman down until She gets a price they would only give their mothers.

I’m proud to say that at her age, She’s light years ahead of the curve. She’s very next-generation and active.


Wives and mothers used to be very complacent. What they did for centuries was bake cookies, make meat loaves, sweep the kitchen and do laundry.

Some still do all of that, but that breed is vanishing fast. In politics (except for this White House), the arts, social media and science, women are taking the reins.

So there She is this morning in that secret office, checking her email and bank statements.

What do I do? I open jars and bottles for her. Because of her troubled hands, She can’t do that well. This is her one weakness, and I exploit it.

Excuse me. She’s calling from her office. I probably have to go open a bottle.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: