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Living with Foreigners: Part 8 – Work It

March 22, 2017

Spring is officially here in Ohio or it is according to the calendar at least. And while the weather doesn’t quite feel like Spring yet, I find myself already dreading the list of things that need to be done. Pretty soon it will be time to start mowing the lawn again, planting flowers and doing all the other tasks that always seem to crop up around this time of year.

My wife is already talking about Spring cleaning which I admit I’m not sure exactly what that entails but I am convinced she will tell me soon enough. Probably it means that the walls need painted, or that the grout needs redone in the bathroom or we should wash the dishwasher or some other ridiculous task.

Living with foreigners has taught me that no matter how tired or sick you feel, you should still always be working or at least feel guilty about not working. It is as if growing up in another country automatically makes you tougher and more dedicated to the idea that relaxation is for the weak- or lazy.

For example, my father-in-law who is pushing 80 years old actually went out and got himself a job a few months ago because he was bored . This is no cushy office job either. As near as I can tell, he stands on his feet for 8 hours a day making boxes for air fresheners in a warehouse working side by side with men and women less than a quarter of his age. It’s kind of hard to complain about my easy job in an office, sitting all day and working on a computer when my relatives still have that kind of work ethic.

I feel even worse when they volunteer themselves to do hard manual labor in our yard on their weekends. Basically we have a section of our backyard that has about 8 or 9 tree stumps that were left over when the previous owners had all the trees cut down. I just figure that nature will eventually take care of the stumps as they rot and that it really isn’t that big of a deal. My parents-in-law, however, took it upon themselves to dig up each and every stump in the yard using shovels, pick-axes and good old fashioned muscle.

Here’s how it plays out:

I wake up around my usual time on a Saturday around 10 o’clock (or more likely noon if I’m being honest.) I hear the distant noise of something hammering away in my backyard. I look out my window and see my parents-in-law donning gloves and bandanas desperately hacking away at a stump.

“Um, wife- what in the world are your parents doing? Don’t they know it’s Saturday? They should be sleeping in and reading books, not out there in the heat digging up stumps.”

“They wanted to do it. You should go out there and help them. It’s our backyard they are working on.”

“Yeah, I don’t think that is going to happen. I mean, I really appreciate the fact that they want to help us out, but honestly it’s too hot to be working outside.”

So I, being the thoughtful son-in-law that I am, volunteer to take them bottles of water instead and then surreptitiously survey their progress as I finish my morning cup of coffee…

“Abbabiye, what are you doing out here? The stumps will eventually rot away and you really don’t need to be doing this kind of work at your age.” Here I pause and take a sip of coffee. I admit that a part of me immediately feels like a horrible southern plantation owner inspecting the work of his slaves out in the field.

“Well, we got up early and we know that you eventually wanted to take the stumps out so we decided that we would help.” He replies.

Yeah, thanks for making me feel like a useless, lazy privileged white American dear old father-in-law.

Now my mother-in-law stops digging away at the dirt around a stump with a shovel to chime in. “Yes, it is pretty hot but we just wanted to help you guys out since you do so much for us.”

“Ugh. Okay, well why don’t you take a break for a while until it cools down some and then I’ll help you out later?”

“No that’s okay, we almost have this stump out already. Once this one is done, we’ll take a break.”

Yeah, I used to wonder where my wife got her work ethic to do all the things she does around the house week after week. I don’t wonder anymore. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a video game calling my name. Besides as I tell my wife all the time, laundry really is a one-person job.

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