God knows, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.  With the way “the times” have changed, so too have “families”. When you make the choice to merge into one big unit, you may discover some choices and challenges you hadn’t counted on.

     I came home yesterday morning from an unusually hectic night in the Emergency Department with one simple goal… I wanted to wash the kitchen floor with this new steam cleaner we’d just got, before the Benadryl I took to knock myself out, kicks in.

     To start with, I’ve never used this steam mop before and, as a rule, I’m not real mechanically inclined. I am though, not imposed to reading directions (but I’m not giving up my ‘man-card’).  So, I sat my butt at the kitchen table and put my reading glasses and read the owners manual.

     Across from me sits Starshine’s slightly hard-of-hearing, 94 year-old Grandmother (MaMa) drinking her morning coffee and reading the paper.  She just arrived yesterday, after a long plane flight, to hang out for a few months. We met when she came last Summer for a high-school graduation but never had the chance to really chat.

     She pushed the paper aside and took a sip of her coffee… “Whatcha think your gonna do?”

     “I just wanna get some of these spots and animal fur off the floor.”  With two dogs, three cats and kids, it can get a bit…fluffy.

     Okay, page 2 of the 4 page owners manual says, water in here, plug into electric socket and wait 30 seconds. Now place the mop on the floor and pump about mid-shaft on the handle for steam to be released.  Hey, even I can do this!

     Glasses off, water in and plug into electric socket.  Wait 30 seconds and pump… Where…?  There’s a little flip handle here–nope, that takes the handle extension off.  Put the handle back together and look again. This other piece is just decorative.  Where the hell is the piston-looking thingy?

     Unplug the steamer and put it up on the counter.  Nothing looks like a handle.  Dammit, no glasses on!  Nothing looks like a handle anyway!

     I turn to the table to get my glasses (which unbelievably I haven’t misplaced) and discover that I’m more interesting than the newspaper. With the most smart-alec smile I’ve seen in a while,  MaMa just sat there with her arms crossed…looking…

     Cmon’. I’m 44 years old and 220 lbs. trying to stare down a 94 year-old 80 lb. lady. “What?”

     She said, “My daughter has one of those.  Her 15 year old niece cleans with it.  Does a pretty good job…”

     Alright, now I’m gonna do this!  Glasses off, plug in and wait 30 seconds.  I put the mop head on the floor–and just pushed down on the top end of the handle.  I can’t see anything but I can hear a hiss of steam!

     Behind me I heard, “Hmmmm”.

     Not a word! I turned back to the table and grabbed the stupid owners manual…and realized I didn’t have my glasses on.  MaMa sat looking at me, and pushed them across the table.

      I put them on and, yup, there’s definitely a piston-looking thingy mid-shaft on this handle that I should be moving.  Now I’m standing there in my scrubs looking like a bad audition for that “Shake Weight” commercial!

     30 seconds later I gave up.  I put the mop head on the floor and pushed the whole handle down…and there was steam!

     With as much pride as a medal winner at the Olympics, I finished the kitchen and was even able to get some dropped jelly that had adhered like “super-glue” to the tile. I gotta tell those kids to pay more attention!  Right…the kids…

     I sat down at the table with MaMa, who still had her arms across her chest.  She looked over the room from her chair and declared non-chalantly, “You did alright” as she nodded her head and smiled at me.

     Relationships, Love and merging into an extended Family at 40+ years old takes some hootspa–but it does have it’s rewards. I guess it also means though, I’m gonna have to start watching behind my back for an audience!

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