A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker



It wasn't my fault.

Really. It wasn't.

I accept blame for most of the dumb stuff that happens in our household, from the flooded basement (it turns out that plumbing IS rocket science) to the Toyota's ravaged engine (you mean there's a reason why you're supposed to occasionally change the oil?). But I'm not responsible for Anita's lost stencil pattern. Uh-uh. No way. That's her fault, not mine.

At least, that's the way I see it.

Anita, however, is not only convinced that I'm the culprit, she is considering launching a petition drive to bring back the public pillory for such offenses.

"You don't know how frustrating this is," she said after spending the better part of an afternoon searching for the pattern she intended to use on a gift she was making for her mother.

"Yeah, I know what you mean," I said. "Losing stuff can be really frustrating."

"I wasn't talking about losing stuff," she said icily. "I was talking about living with you!"

I'm pretty sure she was kidding. At least, she smiled when she said it.

Sort of.

Now, I'm not denying that I probably had something to do with the pattern's sudden, mysterious disappearance. Such things have happened before around here. Frequently. And they will likely happen again. The problem is an almost insurmountable discrepancy in our CTQ (Comparable Tidiness Quotient). I'm sort of a neatness freak. She's . . . well, she isn't. I'm not saying Anita is a slob or anything. But when she's in the middle of a project, or if circumstances force her from one project to another, she'll leave things laying around until she can get back to it.

This, of course, makes me crazy. I just can't abide clutter. I blame my mother for this. She raised her eight children with the philosophy that cleanliness isn't just next to godliness-it occasionally supersedes it. I'm not as badly warped in this regard as my sisters, who have been known to greet guests with a plate of cookies in one hand and a bottle of household disinfectant in the other. But I do tend to pick up any stray items I see laying around and put them where I think they should go.

Unfortunately, where I think they should go and where Anita thinks they should go are often two very different things. Hence, the missing patterns.

"I wish you would check with me before you put my things away," she said, exasperated, as we searched all the logical places where we would hide if we were stencil patterns.

"Well, we wouldn't have this problem if you would just put things away when you're through with them," I replied.

"But I wasn't through with the pattern," Anita reminded me. "That's why I left it out."

She had a point there. Then again, so did I. We were both right-and both wrong.

At the same time.

My guess is this isn't the first time this has ever happened in a disagreement between husband and wife. The fact is, most of the difficulties in our significant relationships have less to do with Truth vs. Error, and more to do with issues resolution. But we expend so much time and energy trying to defend the rightness of our own position that we don't bother to see that our partner may be just as right as we are. And that whatever blame exists may be ours to share-equally.

Except for that plumbing thing. That's still ALL my fault.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and