Chapter 33: Chores & Labor


Oh, to chop wood once more! Heavy sigh.

From the List Of ALS Ironies

So, me and chores got off to a bad start.

My Dad and I did not have a good relationship under normal circumstances, and so it was painful insult to injury when I became, by his standards, old enough to take on some duties around the house. There was no ceremony, but he figuratively bestowed upon me the title of Solid Waste Management Director, responsible for the emptying and disposal of household garbage bins and the cat litter box.

“Thanks, Dad! Can you and I play catch when I’m done?”

“No. I have paperwork to do.”

Then there was the time when I and two of my high school buddies, Mike and Rick, all applied for jobs at various places at the local mall, including a restaurant called Bun ‘N Burger. All three of us had very little or no prior experience, but we all got hired by Bun ‘N Burger at the same time. Except, for reasons no one could explain, Mike and Rick got cushy jobs as servers in the walk-up and take-away window, and I was hired as a dishwasher.

One fateful day, Mike was working the window, I was slaving away washing the dishes, and he was preparing to close up. Only, he forgot the step of draining the soft serve ice cream machine, and when he opened up the thing, gallons of soft ice cream spilled out all over the floor. Mike, not knowing what to do, ran to fetch the manager, whom, upon seeing the mess, infamously yelled out:

“Quick! Get Howard!”

For years, I continued to pay my dues in one physically demanding job after another: dish washer in another restaurant, loading and unloading trucks in a warehouse, a mover, assembly line worker, etc. All of that hard, physical work served as a powerful motivator, and serendipitously, upon graduating from college, I not only effectively avoided labor jobs, but I went on to build a very gratifying career for myself doing meaningful work that I’m very proud of: 10 years as a social services case worker, and nearly 20 years in student services at a university.

However, when my wife and I first became homeowners, we kicked it off with a bang, tearing the roof off of our Craftsman bungalow and adding a second story, all while Julian was still a toddler, stretching us to our limits.

And, I guess you could say that we ended things with a bang as well, for the remodel of our current home was just as intense, if not, in some ways, more. I was 20 years older, we had trouble with contractors causing us to do more of the work ourselves, and I was starting to experience the very earliest ALS symptoms upwards of a year before diagnosis.

Finally, back to chores, like many husbands, the demands of the Honey-Do List were sometimes a stretch for me, and now I can barely help out at all due to physical limitations.

That said, given my history, would I be ecstatic if I could once again do chores and other labor jobs?



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