To be honest, I had forgotten about the door under the bed.
That is, until we ordered a new mattress, and when the guys came to deliver it and take away the old mattress and box springs, there it was – the door under the bed.
The guy looked at me kind of strangely, because he probably noticed we lived in a ranch house on a slab.
“Why do you have a door under your bed?” he asked.
“How else would you get down to the cellar?” I told him.
He stared at me. “You have a cellar?” he asked.
“No,” I said. My eyes never left his. I never blinked. If you blink in a conversation like this, you lose.
“Then … why do you have a door under your bed?” he asked. But he blinked first.
“We’ve already been over this,” I said, unblinking, and I left the room.
I suppose I could have just told him why I have a door under the bed, but that would have involved explaining, and sometimes you just get tired of explaining all the time. Because if – in YOUR life – it doesn’t make sense for you to have a door under your bed, you probably won’t understand why it makes sense for me to have one under mine.
Or – even if it doesn’t make sense for ME to have a door under my bed either – you probably won’t understand why I have a door under my bed nonetheless.
The door has been under the bed for seven years, and I had forgotten it because we have a bed skirt that hangs down from the mattress all the way to the floor, hiding whatever is (or isn’t) under there. And unless I hear something scurrying around down there through the night, my policy is: “What happens under the bed stays under the bed.”
Oh, it’s clean under there, because a few times a year I hire a cleaning service to come in to do the “deep cleaning,” which means they sweep and vacuum all the residue that might linger beneath the bigger chunks, which I pick up myself. The ladies who come to clean do a great job, getting not just to every nook and cranny, but to every cranny’s nook, and every nook’s cranny.
That’s why, when the mattress guys lifted the box springs and discovered the door under the bed, it was as tidy and dust-free as if I had put it there yesterday. (And I’m sure the nonexistent cellar under the door is tidy and dust-free, too. The ladies are that good at what they do.)
Of course, now that I’ve come this far, you probably also wonder why I have a door under my bed. I didn’t take the time to explain it to the mattress guys because … well, they’re not family. I would probably never see them again, explanation or no explanation.
But you and I meet here every week, don’t we? So I guess I owe you at least that much.
See, seven years ago, that door stood in our master bath and served as the divider between the water closet and the rest of the bathroom. It was nice to be able to use the toilet and shut a door between you and the rest of the world.
But after my wife’s stroke on June 9, 2010, I walked through the empty house and looked at everything with new eyes, in preparation for her return after a month in intensive care. She would not be able to walk, I knew, and there was no way a wheelchair would be able to get past the door hanging on the frame, let alone be able to swing closed and provide some privacy.
The door would have to go, along with the glass shower doors and a few other things.
And so, after popping the hinges and removing the WC door, I had a decision to make: What should I do with a perfectly good door that doesn’t make sense anymore?
It didn’t seem prudent to throw it away. Besides, there was always hope my wife’s gradual improvement one day might let her use the bathroom as she always had before the stroke, although the doctors and therapists were careful to balance the power of hope with the persistence of reality.
And they were right, it turns out. After seven years, some things have improved, and some things haven’t. Today things are what they are, and they pretty much are what they are going to be.
And today, a useless door remains a useless door.
Of course, I couldn’t have known that seven years ago, could I?
I could have stored the door somewhere in the garage, I guess. But seeing it every time we got into the car would have served as a cruel reminder of how much things have changed in our lives. It’s hard to accept a “new normal” when the “old normal” hangs around saying: “Ahem, remember me?”
And so, under the bed the door went right away. Out of sight, out of mind. If things ever changed for the better, someday I might ponder: “Now what did I do with that door?” And eventually I would have said: “Oh, yeah!” And there it would be, waiting patiently to get back to work.
Seven years have gone by. Things are what they are, and they pretty much are what they are going to be. And this week a mattress-delivery guy asked me: “Why do you have a door under your bed?”
And it seemed easier to say: “How else would you get down to the cellar?” than it would be to explain to him why it’s still so very, very important for me to keep a useless door under my bed.
• Tom “T. R.” Kerth is a Sun City resident and retired English teacher from Park Ridge. He is the author of the book “Revenge of the Sardines.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.