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SALT LAKE CITY — In the game of Clue, the goal is to discover who done it, where they did it, and with what. If I play the game, my kids know the ending: Prodigal Dad, in the living room, with the leaf blower.
Case in point: The other day my youngest son decided to come home from school and bring his girlfriend with him. Big chance he was taking, because I am not known for my sensitivity, and I rarely think before I speak.
Knowing this about myself, I generally stay out of social situations. (One would think this would change as I age and mature. However, I am simply aging.)
I also have a thing about having the house clean when someone comes over to visit. I don’t mind not being a perfect dad, but I don’t necessary want everyone to know how imperfect.
Needless to say that the counters were crumby and the floor was crusty, and the place hadn’t been dusted since Mr. Obama didn’t get along with Mr. or Mrs. Clinton.
Ihoma, my son, let me know I had 10 minutes before his girl, Friday, arrived at the house on Tuesday afternoon.
Cleaning before thinking
So I did what any desperate, clever … did I say desperate? … father would do. I picked up each corner of the tablecloths and tossed the contents and table cloth into the closet.
Then, I got out the leaf blower. I plugged it into the longest extension cord I could find and grabbed my earplugs.
I made short work of the dust on top of the fridge, curtains and lamps. The spiderwebs along the tops of the wall and in the vents were no longer.
As wonderfully effective as (a leaf blower) is at clearing our bathroom drawers, the time I spend putting my wife's makeup back together negates any time I got ahead.
I found stuff long sitting under the furniture, including a lost diaper from last week’s family home evening, part of a waffle from under the couch, and several pairs of the black socks my son hides so he doesn’t have to wear them to church.
The freshly mopped floor dried promptly. Dust bunnies took flight. Hard-to-reach corners were cleaned; clutter was cleared out the open door and deposited onto the driveway to be swept away later.
Of course, there were a few things jostled in such a way that I will have to reconsider the leaf blower in the house for the next time I am rushed. I need to remember that my wife’s glass menagerie is, well, glass.
Blacked and burnt offerings from the stove are better sucked than blown. I am still picking them out of our dog, Meg, who should know better than to follow me around the house waiting for me to uncover a tasty morsel.
A word of advice: it’s probably better to not blow out the stuff at the bottom of the sink and in the garbage disposal, though it was cool looking for a few seconds there.
And, while leaf blowers do several things marginally well — they can dry fake blood and make those cool drips from freshly painted letters, to add to those I have mentioned — they don’t work so well in my writing office where I have lots of important piles.
As wonderfully effective as it is at clearing our bathroom drawers, the time I spend putting my wife’s makeup back together negates any time I got ahead.
The mighty leaf blower has its limits.
Parenting tools of an ineffective kind
I tend to take care of sensitive issues at home the same way I clean. If I am way over my head, I go for the biggest, loudest tool I can find.
On a nuts and bolts level, the obvious concern with leaf blowers in the house is that there is considerable time that needs to be allotted for putting the room back together when I am finished blowing.
I often grab hold of some tool I think will make me a better dad. "Frank talk" (what I call it) or "talking before I think" (what my wife calls it), is the one I am picturing as I write this.
Often, a bulldozer or a blower is perfect for clearing away what is getting in the way. And the same tool, in a different circumstance, can rip things completely apart.
Sometimes I have to spend time gluing things back together, and they don’t always go back together. Once in awhile, if I am trying to do things right, inexplicably, they are even better than they were before.
Looking at myself is like looking up at the hood over the stove top. It’s not a pretty vantage from which to take stock, but I get to see a few opportunities for betterment that I didn’t see before.
And, man, it needs a leaf blower.
Main image: The Prodigal Dad leaf-blows his way to better skin and fresher breath. (Photo: Davison Cheney)
*Davison Cheney writes "The Prodigal Dad" series every week on ksl.com. See his other musings at Davison at davisoncheneymegadad.blogspot.com. **