I was settled so deeply into my recliner I’d need to plan ahead in order to get out. I looked up from my crossword puzzle, groping for a three-letter word starting with O, ending with D and meaning “not young.”
That’s when I saw it. A solitary figure stood in the dim interior of the storage closet like a silent sentry from another planet.
It was my old adversary—the 300 dollar, can’t suck dirt, ping pong ball vacuum cleaner. (Click here for the post that explains this.) Now it fixed me with its steely glare. Other than entertaining some friends with the ping pong ball trick, I hadn’t touched the beast the salesman left.
Call me a recovering jerk. I was a lazy husband. Diane held down a full-time job to augment my income as a traveling speaker. She was my personal secretary, an attentive mother to our daughters, and she waited on me hand and foot without ever demanding that I lift a finger to help her. So I didn’t lift a finger.
Oaf that I was, I couldn’t figure out why she didn’t respond to me. After all, I was so sexy and attractive—why wasn’t she falling all over me? I was clueless. I had a lesson to learn about love, and God was about to use a vacuum cleaner to teach it.
As I stared at the alien , I was suddenly overcome with an overwhelming desire to vacuum. With great floundering, I extracted myself from the recliner and shuffled to the closet.
I learned some secrets about vacuuming that day.
First, I learned that our cat was terrified of vacuum cleaners. That kept me entertained for about an hour.
Second, I learned that vacuum cleaners are basically useless. They won’t pick up important things. No matter how many times I ran the vacuum over a toothpick or a burr, it would only embed it deeper into the carpet.
No luck with rubber bands either. The vacuum would only fling rubber bands across the room. I felt like a fool creeping around my own house, trying to sneak up on a rubber band. The vacuum would pick up a piece of lint, hold it for an indiscriminate amount of time, then spit it back out when I least expected it. I finally gave up, took the hose off the vacuum cleaner, left it running in the middle of the room, and brought stuff to it.
Third, I learned vacuum cleaners are capable of creating great art! When I could find no other visible trash, I replaced the hose and began to vacuum in earnest. That’s when I discovered the stripes. Vacuum in one direction, a stripe appears. Going the opposite direction creates a stripe of a different shade. I striped the whole room. Then I went cross-ways, creating a checkerboard pattern.
I got so carried away that I dusted the furniture and straightened the entire house. Finally, I was once again embedded in the easy chair, working on my crossword puzzle. Diane came home. She struggled through the door with a bag of groceries under each arm, kicked the door shut with one foot, then took in the house with a glance. Her mouth dropped open. Slowly the bags slipped from her grasp and dropped to the floor.
“Who did this?” she asked.
“I did,” I said.
Without warning, she attacked. Diving on me before I could get out of the chair, she smothered me with kisses and hugs. We broke the chair. It was wonderful!
The vacuum cleaner taught me some important lessons that day.
1. Love is expressed with more than just words.
A husband’s willingness to share the burdens of homemaking shouts, “I love you” to his wife. After 45 years of marriage, I still have a lot to learn; but I could never treat my wife as I did back then.
2. It takes action to bring the words “I love you” to life.
Love is expressed in the little things. Picking up after myself, cooking, or simply squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube says, “I love you.”
This behavior brought pleasure to my wife, and re-ignited the passion in our marriage. I’ve learned my lesson. I keep a Dust-Buster with me everywhere we go!
Husbands, I highly recommend you find simple ways to express love to your wives. Flowers? A card? A hand-written note? A date? Doing a chore you usually don’t do? Breakfast in bed? Personally, I recommend vacuuming!
What do you recommend?
This story is adapted from a story in “Lighten UP! available here.