Relearning how to fly solo is tough on family guys --om Ross

Beware of the talking magpie

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— If your husband or wife travels frequently on business, this may not make any sense.

You are accustomed to them being away. But if you are one of those homebodies who spends 98 percent of their time away from work with their nuclear family, you might understand when I tell you that I am just about worthless for the first 24 hours that my family is away.

It doesn't matter if they're gone for two days or for a week, when I'm alone in the house with no one but the dog to act as my moral compass, my internal gyroscope starts to wobble.

When that happens, I do horrible things, like staying up until 1:30 a.m. and eating a half-gallon of coffee ice cream in one sitting. If it gets really bad, I might retire for the evening with my Levis on. Seriously, I've done that.

My family was away in Crested Butte this weekend, and because I know I'm at risk of beginning that long slide into the abyss when I'm on my own, I deliberately planned out my Saturday.

I rose at a decent hour and got on my bicycle to pedal to the newsroom -- I figured I couldn't get into much trouble at work. The ride offered good exercise, but I caught myself swerving several times in a twisted effort to try to squash mating pairs of grasshoppers on the Yampa River Core Trail.

Remember, I warned you this could get ugly.

After a good five hours of attempting to cleanse my soul by banging on the word processor, I set off to begin the freedom portion of my weekend.

Swinging by the market, I checked my shopping list to make certain I was planning a healthful meal involving numerous food groups. I selected a monstrous ribeye, a couple of ears of Olathe sweet corn, and a huge bag of corn chips made with stone ground organic blue corn and sea salt.

The plan was to head for the homefront to watch the Broncos game while inhaling the meal. I spread my repast on the coffee table and fired up the Toshiba just in time for the Shannon Sharpe Show, but all that appeared on the screen was snow.

Panicking, I ran to the sliding glass door spied the white pickup truck with the logo on the door that could only mean one thing. When the cable guy is in your neighbor's back yard on a Saturday night, it ain't good news.

I turned on the radio and listened as the Snake took his first official snaps as a Bronco. The first quarter went by and then it was half time, and still, the man from Comcast labored in the twilight.

When the cable was finally repaired and the game came to life on the tube, there were two minutes left to play, and some guy who was a star at Lehigh was playing quarterback for the Texans.

I turned to plan "B" and hauled a cot out onto the deck.

The second weekend in August is usually a great night to stay up really late and watch the Perseid meteorite shower.

The article in the paper said Saturday would not be ideal because of the bright light of the three-quarter moon.

But just before dawn, when the moon slipped over the horizon, there would be an hour of darkness in which to watch bits of cosmic dust streak across the sky. Unfortunately, I was dreaming deeply from 4 to 5 a.m.

In my dream, I was riding my bike on the Core Trail when an enormous golden eagle snatched me off my Gary Fisher, and flew westward, while I dangled from its talons. The eagle began to speak.

"Your destiny is to become the next governor of California," the bird pronounced.

Startled by this absurd prophecy, I began to swim up from the depths of REM sleep.

When my eyes fluttered open, I found myself looking directly at a fat magpie perched on the foot of my sleeping bag.

The brash timber parrot had a big green grasshopper in its beak, and I swear it winked at me before tossing the bug in the air and gulping it down.

Fixing its gaze on me once again, the magpie said, "How dare you dream of governing the Golden State? I knew Conan the Barbarian, and you sir, are no Conan."

I let out a shriek, and hopped through the slider into the kitchen, with the sleeping bag around my knees.

Sunday was devoted to chores and glancing over my shoulder to guard against talking birds.

It will be a long time before my family is allowed to go off without me again.

Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His

column is published every Monday in the Steamboat Today.

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