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READY: Confessions of an odd duck eccentric

Mary Ready | Ready or Not
Mary Ready

I have become quite strange of late. I’ve always been a bit daft, but since Frank’s death, I’ve really gone off the weird meter.

In the grocery store, I weep at the sight of butterscotch pudding and chide myself because I rarely made it for my husband even though he loved it. I don’t like it, so that was my excuse. Now, it’s just one more of the little regrets I have about our almost 50 year marriage.

I stay up too late watching old war movies on TCM even though I don’t enjoy them. He loved them, but I always changed the channel on him before one was about to air because I was weary of watching Pearl Harbor get bombed for the umpteenth time. Now I watch them in some kind of atonement for my selfishness.

But I digress. That’s really not where I wanted to go.

Living now on just my teacher retirement, I’ve been cutting expenses in several quirky little ways. With Destin water being liquid gold, I manage my bill by recycling water. I have a rain barrel which takes care of my ancient, leaking pool. I scoop up sink and tub water to keep it from going down the drain and becoming a sewer charge. The lawn, flower beds, and potted plants don’t seem to mind a little soap, and it seems to discourage aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. Mopping the floor with saved handwashing water doesn’t seem to present any problems.

I wash clothes once a week, one load or two at most. Then I walk past my dryer and hang laundry on the clothesline in the afternoon sunshine. I run the dishwasher once or twice a week at most.

My water bill is now one fourth of what it once was, and it’s become a game to see if I can get it lower each month.

My thermostat is set at 82 in the summer, and I’ve discovered that’s still comfortable for me. Many will say that’s insanely high, but once you’ve lived through years of hot flashes, you can tolerate extra warmth.

Remembering Frank’s favorite mantra “TURN OFF THE *$#@%& LIGHTS WHEN YOU LEAVE THE ROOM,” I often don’t turn on a light at all. For a quick errand, I tread my way carefully into a room and exit in darkness. I burn candles in the evening instead of turning on the overhead light in the living room. Making my way up and down the stairs by holding the rail, I avoid flipping the light switch. And yes, I know when I fall down a darkened staircase and break my hip, the emergency room and hospital bills are going to wipe out all Gulf Power savings for a very long time.

My recent bizarre behavior isn’t all related to utilities.

I’ve become the opposite of a hoarder. While some people accumulate things to the point of dysfunction in order to deal with grief or some traumatic experience, I box up things and take them to Goodwill or Harvest House, usually in the middle of the night in my pajamas. I perform this ritual on frequent occasions. Then, I go looking for an item and can’t remember if I gave it away or misplaced it.

The things I keep are also an indication of my increasing eccentricities. When the city improved Kelly Street, the construction ripped up our new driveway, the one Frank had to fight for after we got a work stoppage notice. Since it replaced a pre-code driveway, the “grandfather” clause was invoked, and we got to complete it. I hope he doesn’t know his lovely driveway was destroyed and in its place, a washboard replacement embossed with the shoe prints of the concrete workers. I saved a chunk out of the rubble and painted on it “Frank’s Driveway.” That little souvenir sits in a flower bed by my front porch.

Joining that item is a portion of the telephone pole which had to go to accommodate the pouring of the wider sidewalk. One of the workers sawed off a piece of it for me. Now it’s a yard decoration with a pelican sitting on it.

Another fatality of the Kelly Street project was a pear tree my late father planted. Season after season, it bore so many pears, there was always plenty to share with neighbors. But the sidewalk construction cut into its roots, and it died. I saved a log and painted on it “RIP Grandpa Cherry’s Pear Tree 2015.” It sits by my front steps.

For now, these odd little mementoes and eccentric economics help me get past the butterscotch pudding and the war movies.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.