Point of View: Words and Deeds

    “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” I said to Mary the other morning. “Nay, nay, thou art more lovely, e’en more pissed off at me. . . .”
    And with reason.
    “Every now and then,” I said later to my son-in-law, “I realize, with the chill of recognition, that Mary does 95 percent of the things around here. I’m trying to work myself back into her good graces, which is why I’m having you haul down to our basement the water-logged three-quarter-inch-thick plywood boards we had our handyman put up over our kitchen window before Hurricane Irene and why you brought over here that moldy four-poster bed frame that’s been in your basement the past three years.”
    “The thing about Jackie,” my late Aunt Ella once said, “is that he’s very adaptable.”
    That can be a blessing and a curse. I’ve lived in a one-room apartment behind a funeral home vent in which, when I went to the bathroom, my feet were almost in the stove. I’ve lived with roaches. I’ve lived with rats (though I was told they were mice). I’ve spent five winters hopping about in a seaweed-insulated house in a kind of hooded sleeping bag with eye holes and mittens. I’m amenable to just about everything — lazy, if you will, more than willing to let others carry my water. In short, a wretch.
    But Mary isn’t into wretches. She’d rather that I pull my own oar.
    Our new mailbox may inspire me to right my tippy boat. My daughter Emily bought it recently, long chagrined by the mailbox-in-a-sling that I had jerry-rigged, using bright green duct tape, after it last was bashed.
    Seeing it all sparkling white on a sturdy stanchion (a handyman had installed it, of course) as I pulled into the driveway the other evening, I wondered for a moment who lived there.
    An upstanding person, I thought. Responsible, self-reliant. . . . Someone who sometimes mistakenly thinks he can make everything all right with a jest rather than a gesture, with words rather than deeds.