I shivered and pulled my sweater shut, buttoning it absentmindedly without checking to see if the buttons and holes lined up. A jigsaw puzzle on the card table in front of me held all of my attention. Should I set aside all of the flesh and blue dress pieces first or the red barn ones? My decision to put the little girl together first came just as I reached the top button on my sweater and discovered there wasn’t a matching button hole across from it. Looking down, I realized that I’d mismatched them.
A sweet memory of my Dad popped into mind. One day when he was growing older, he put on a sweater and like I had just done, mismatched its buttons and holes. Looking down, he’d commented, “I look like a lopdeeddle.” Smiling, I shrugged and went to work sorting the puzzle pieces by color.
The silly word Daddy used was so typical of his self-depreciating sense of humor. In my family’s dictionary of funny words, a lopdeeddle was a silly, clumsy, inept person. He felt silly because he’d done the buttons wrong.
Shivering again, I pulled an afghan off the sofa and pulled it over my lap. From memory, I could hear my late husband asking me, “Why are you so stubborn?” I had laughed at him when he said that. To my way of thinking, I was a willow constantly swaying to his wishes and suggestions. I didn’t consider myself stubborn.
It was only after Arnie was gone that I finally recognized the trait he’d seen in me. Once I make up my mind about something, I stick to the plan. One thing I decided as a widow is that a person doesn’t need to heat a house until the inside thermometer never goes above 58 degrees.
Since autumn is known for warm days and cold nights, I delay turning on the furnace longer than most people. Evenings at my house requires wearing many layers of clothing during September.
I don’t want to deal with the central pellet-fueled furnace any sooner than I have to. As a new widow, taking over the care and feeding of the beast, scared me. As a weathered widow, managing the furnace rates the same as a root canal.
Arnie left me with a wood-pellet furnace that requires a specialized technician from the Fox River Valley to service it. During the past ten years, I have made many mistakes and blunders. I’ve run a nail though the augers, blew fuses, failed to tighten the face plates, caused a fire in the vent pipes by cleaning it while too hot and had the augers go crazy and over feed.
The week before Christmas, I had a problem so serious that I had to shut the system down and run my back-up furnace for a whole week before the technician was able to come. My basement is always warm when the pellet furnace runs. Its fan is louder than the backup furnace’s, so I always know it is running. Suddenly my friendly, old-fashioned farmhouse basement felt cold and silent like a mortuary.
Coming back into the kitchen from gathering supplies from the basement freezer on Christmas Day, I said to my visiting daughter, “Without the pellet furnace running in the basement this time of the year, I feel like someone has died. The furnace’s cold, dead body is just sitting there, silent! I feel sad.”
My daughter said, “You have someone coming to fix it.”
I countered with, “What if it can’t be fixed?”
A week later, after the furnace technician had gone, I called my daughter. I said, “Do you remember in the movie, Princes Bride, where the character played by Billy Crystal said Wesley was only “mostly dead”? That described my furnace. We’ve got it up and running again.”
I recognize that I have a love-hate relationship with the pellet furnace. At times, I feel a fondness toward the furnace, but at other times that I have wondered, “What was Arnie thinking to leave me with this beast?” Fortunately, like a link connecting Arnie and me, the furnace lives on.