By NICK CHILES
It’s Spring Break and the wife has taken the kids to visit grandpa. So it’s just me and the dog, together in this big house. For five days. And though the dog and I generally don’t have much to do with each other, I’m starting to see our plight this week as being remarkably similar. For the first time, we are like one soul.
First of all, let me tell you that the dog is obsessed with my wife Denene. If we were connected to machines that judged which one of us loves her more, the hairy beast would give me a run for my money. (And if the wife were then asked to pick which one of us she loves more…well, let’s just say the best I could hope for would be a tie.) Denene was the one who picked him up from the airport five years ago when he was sent here by the goldendoodle breeder in St. Louis. That must have been one helluva harrowing plane flight because the little guy imprinted on her like she was the governor’s phone call saving him from the executioner’s chair. She can’t make a move in the house without hearing the tap-tap-tap of his canine footsteps trailing her on the wooden floors. I call him “Secret Service” because he usually steps into a room right before she gets there, as if he’s scouting the place for suspicious characters. (Usually the character he eyes suspiciously is me.)
When the wife leaves, the dog disappears into a thick fog of depression. He won’t eat for at least three days; he won’t go outside to handle his business for more than 24 hours. As for me, that joy of having the whole house to myself usually lasts for about 10 minutes. And then I realize what I’m facing for the next five days is no laughing, fighting, playing, giggling, running and jumping little ones to keep things interesting at all times in the household. And no sexy, lovely, sweet-smelling wife to wrap in a big hug when I need a jolt of loving contact. So, what I’m saying is, while my depression isn’t quite as immediate or as severe as the dog’s (I eat regularly and I don’t hesitate to handle my business), I do descend into a bit of a fog of my own.
Like the dog, I have grown fond of the women in my life. I need them. When they are gone, it is a shock to my nervous system, long days of sensory deprivation, like a stint in solitary confinement.
It’s been so long since I was a bachelor, I can’t quite understand how men choose this lifestyle, this day-after-day co-habitation with desolation and take-out food. (Oh, yeah, about the food: It’s not that I can’t cook or that I don’t believe in the importance of preparing home-cooked meals—but when you’re cooking for one, what’s the point? Am I really going to pull out the pots and pans to roast two pieces of chicken, or to make one piece of lamb? Uh, no, I’m not. Not when the Popeye’s is around the corner.)
So I can see where the dog is coming from with the whole refusal-to-eat thing. What’s the fun in another bag of takeout without the giggling girls and laughing wife at the table with me? If I weren’t worried about starvation, I too might just wait until they got back to eat, like the dog.
If only the dog understood our shared plight. Then he might start to like me a little, maybe even let me pet him once in a while. We could help each other get through this, be a comforting shoulder for each other while we counted down the days to the return of the ladyfolk. But no, not going to happen. I’m still his enemy, the guy who gets to sleep with the queen.
But last night, something magical happened, just as I was about to pronounce myself the world’s saddest temporary bachelor. I got a sudden realization: It was the night of the NCAA basketball championship game. I could lay up in the bedroom, surrounded by beer and chips and the remote control, and I could watch the entire game. Without complaint. Without having to turn back to “Project Runway” every five minutes. Without the DVR kicking the game off my TV because it’s trying to simultaneously tape “Dance Moms” and “America’s Next Top Model.”
Ha! For three hours, the absence of the ladyfolk was a gift from the heavens.
But then the game ended. Kentucky beat Kansas. The dog looked in my direction and ran under the bed. I turned off the television. I didn’t even try to move to the middle of the king-sized bed. What was the point? There was nothing on the other side but emptiness.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.