An Unwelcome Nuisance

(Essay)

Saturday, March 26, 2022, was a somber day for us. We were invited to attend a mass dedicated to the memory of Richard, our dear departed friend who had been our neighbor in the Hampton Chase neighborhood where we had lived until last year. We had known Richard and his wife Kay for over twenty-five years. He had passed away in January. His body was cremated as per his wish, but the mass was delayed due to concerns over Covid. His ashes are preserved for interment later in the year at the Arlington National Cemetery per military protocol.

We met Richard and Kay on many occasions, every year, during activities of the Garden Club (of which Bharati was a member) and other social events.

The mass was to be held at the St Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Clifton, Virginia. It was close to our erstwhile neighborhood. We left early for the 1.00 pm ceremony. Despite it being a Saturday the traffic was heavy. Google maps had estimated an hour and fifteen minutes, but it took us close to two hours to reach the church. When we arrived the Knights of Columbus had formed a line at the entrance. We took a seat in the back. There were no speeches only a solemn ceremony.

Kay invited us to visit her home for a brunch followed by a reception. That is where we learned many things about Richard that we didn’t know. Richard’s friends from his teen years joined the Zoom meeting from Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Texas. There were some intense and some light-hearted eulogies during the two and a half hours.

The friend from Boston recounted how Richard and he played a Halloween prank on a man who would come out in his underwear with a beer can in his hand to chase them away. Another one told of Richard’s smartness as an engineer in being assigned to a nuclear submarine. We learned about his helpful nature and his religious devoutness. He attended the church regularly and contributed generously. He had recently joined the Knights of Columbus. His eldest of the two sons read excerpts from a letter he wrote to his dad the night before he passed away. He remembered what a good Dad he had been and many memories from his years of growing up with him. We could see he was having a hard time keeping his composure. The reception ended with a video highlighting the major events in Richard’s life and the people he had met and impacted.

Richard was tall with longish hair that curled over his neck. He had a gruff and booming voice to suit an actor that even a stranger would notice. No wonder he had acted in shows like the Man of La Mancha and Guys and Dolls. The wall in front of us, where we were sitting during the presentation, was full of the framed covers from the playbooks of these productions.

When he was alive Richard had always shown interest in my writing endeavor. He and I would discuss the many challenges of writing life. When I told him that I had published my first book, The Choices they Made, he congratulated me. That year Kay bought a copy of the book for him as a Christmas gift.

Healthwise, Richard suffered a lot during the last three or so years. From what we heard he was confined to his basement due to limited ability for movement due to complications of hip replacement surgery and stomach ailments. Kay told me that the medic from Afghanistan who was attending to Richard during the day wanted something to read.

“Of all the books we have in our library, she selected yours,” Kay said.

When it was time for us to leave, I said to Kay how much we wanted to meet her in person on this occasion. She hugged me and held me tight for a moment with tears in her eyes.

Returning home was a little better than it had been in the morning. When we reached home, we were emotionally drained and physically tired. I took a shower to relieve the stress of driving. I needed, as they say, a stiff drink. A shot of scotch on the rocks would do it. I placed a glass under the ice dispenser of the refrigerator door and pushed the vertical bar. To prevent the ice from falling all over the floor I placed my palm in front of the glass. I got a glass full of ice, but for some unknown reason, the refrigerator started acting as if it was mad at something I did. It started to display error notifications; an inverted F followed by some numbers that kept changing. I called Bharati to notice what was happening. She pushed some buttons. It kept getting worse. The temperature rose every time she pushed the “Fridge” button. The water stopped dispensing. I did not want this to happen at a time when all I wanted was to unwind and spend a few peaceful moments of reflection. That’s what life is. Things happen when you least expect them to happen and there is not much one can do.

Bharati took the ice dispenser tray out and emptied it before replacing it. We decided to leave it like that and see what happens in the morning. We had three more days before the year’s warranty was going to expire. I sat down on the sofa and finished my drink, quietly. I admit I would have relaxed more if not for the refrigerator mishap.

Upon getting up the next morning, the first thing I wanted to see was if there was ice in the dispenser. To my dismay it was empty. Now what? It was a Sunday and no one would answer our call. I pushed the water dispenser lever. There was no water coming out. I surmised that there must be some problem with the water outlet. But I had not touched anything. I scanned the barcode inside the refrigerator with my iPhone and punched on the manufacturer’s website link. I read the diagnostic messages related to water issues. One of them instructed me to reset the water filter. This required pressing the filter reset button for three seconds. I had changed the filter in January. I never imagined there could be a problem with this.

I pushed the reset button as instructed. All messages disappeared. Water started flowing. The ice maker started with a roar as indicated by the clunking noise as the cubes were being formed.

Everything was back to normal within a few seconds. I sighed relief and wished that modern technology was not so “smart” as to make us normal folks appear as dunces.

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