A Lesson From Hank

My dad could fix anything, and I am so grateful he had me right alongside to hold the flashlight on every occasion. In the crawlspace under the house repairing the plumbing, or under the hood of the pickup adjusting the timing, or in the garage changing out the flywheel pin on the lawn mower engine. On the latter, he taught me what a governor was and what it did and why it’s a useful feature to a small 2-cycle engine. He explained, “Yes you could take that off and it would run faster, but It keeps you from burning out your motor.”

As a widower living in an empty nest, I lack a governor. My partner and children provided boundaries and structure that was very essential. I don’t have that now, so I have to come up with a new plan. Hank was the one that taught me this.

There are lots of things I do now that I would have never done prior to her passing. One of which is how I feed Hank.  I toss him the bones from the ribs or the pork butt after braising.  While I cook, I might flick a scrap of meat in his direction. Never thinking twice about it. Until my son came over for dinner.

As we sat enjoying our steaks, Hank stood at attention between us, and in literal Pavolvian response, began drooling profusely, his slobber puddling on the patio concrete. If there was a stare-down contest, Hank would do very well. My son gave me a good observation.

“You trained him to do that.”

He was right.  Hank’s been conditioned to look for food and knows the tell-tale signs that the Boss has something tasty. Even though it was inadvertent and unintentional, I trained him to do that.

I am in the process of untraining Hank, and it’s a slow process. My actions were ungoverned, and now I have to slow things down and change my behavior.

Despite living alone, there are some habits I’ve maintained because I don’t want to have to retrain myself at a later time.  I don’t want to be annoying like Hank drooling on the floor.  I still eat my meals at a table, not in front of the TV. That’s how it was done for years when the family was home. That’s the way I’ll keep doing it.  I shower and shave everyday, like I would do if I went off to work, even though I’ve been unemployed for longer than I would like. I go to bed at the same time each night.  There will come a day when life gets back to normal and I’m not stuck at home all day every day. So I seek to create stability wherever possible.

These are the choices that have helped me accept my new status in life. I now see that my Facebook page reads Widowed in my profile. I have to get used to that. And the choice is mine to make.

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