JOHNNY ROBINSON: Dish-washing In The Good Life

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The water is getting hot. I cease rinsing the bowls and deftly plop the strainer plug into place. I squirt a certain amount of liquid soap in the sink, and in quick succession I return the bottle to its place on the counter and then swish the water with the sponge to mix it.

I adjust the water flow just so with regard to temperature and volume. Got it. There’s not much soapy water in the basin at this point, but the washing starts right away. Most of the dishes for our two person meal now go into the sink, scooped in both hands like I’m lifting a hen from her roost.

The pots and pans remain on the counter for now.

I recently spent almost a month in the hospital – I can’t believe I’m saying that; it still seems oh so surreal – but it’s true. I survived it; my docs and the nurses and everybody else took good care of me. The lymphoma seems to be under control. Now I’ll have six months of periodic chemotherapy. It’s another adventure.

We don’t even have a dishwasher in our small loft apartment. That is no Kenmore or Maytag or Hotpoint. Only Robinson. But as you’re finding out, I don’t mind.

As I alluded to, I already prewashed some of the dishes using a quickie rub in the cold flow, probably with my bare hand. This is prior to turning the water hot. When I get to the stage of the definitive wash of, say, the plates, the soapy sponge wipe-down of them is speedy. I watch out for melted cheese; it really sticks. But nothing a thumbnail can’t handle.

Plunging the sponge expertly into the soup mugs takes care of that business, but I’ve got to swirl the sponge around inside them firmly, and it does take some care to do it right. A quick check with my fingers confirms that all is well with the mugs.

Getting out of the hospital on that gorgeous June day, picked up by Marybeth after not seeing her for weeks, was one of the most wonderfully memorable events of my life. I was on the mend and feeling OK. Optimism flowed through my veins like the IV meds so recently discontinued. My face almost cracked from the grin spread across it.

Throughout the time I’m performing the dish-washing the water is running. But remember, the temp and flow is just right for this duty; the flow is ample, but not too much. Gee, if it were then the sink would fill to overflowing prior to the dishes being washed and much water would be wasted.

That is not going to happen. As I complete the wash of each item I rinse it in the warm flow from the faucet and then either toss it or place it gently, depending of course on what each piece requires, into the adjacent wire mesh basket.

The glasses want only a few efficient swipes in and out and around to have them clean. A quick rinse and they join their brethren of clean dripping kitchenware in the basket.

Since being home from the hospital I’m really enjoying and appreciating the simple things: the busy-ness of birds chirping on my morning walks, the rustle of the foliage in the afternoon breeze, the clouds developing and changing throughout the day, the feel of life in my limbs as I walk and breathe the rich summer air. And did I mention my Marybeth? And reading in the metal chair in the back yard, and sleeping in my own bed?

And the simple, satisfying, old fashioned task of washing dishes by hand.

Now I’m into the silverware and the various odd utensils such as a vegetable peeler, a spatula, chef’s knife, big slotted spoon. Each such piece of course requires special consideration in the washing process, but this is not my first rodeo so they’re dealt with handily.

Normal knives, forks and spoons pass quickly through my soapy hands. I must pay attention to the fork tines. An adroit sweep of my hand through the suds and along the bottom of the sink confirms that I haven’t missed something.

Undergoing the lymphoma adventure so far has had its moments, shall we say, but all in all it hasn’t been bad and has actually been beneficial in many ways. It has startled my eyes wide open again, eyes which had become lazy in seeing the world and life as it truly is: a huge gift. Not without its hitches, but a huge wonderful gift nonetheless. I’m a lucky man.

The pots and pans are finally called in. They have also likely had a preliminary going over by me prior to their full immersion, so getting them to the higher level of squeaky clean is not difficult. I focus my effort, my “elbow grease,” here and there as required. Is the outside rim of that copper-top pot good? Did we get the remains of those noodles undone from the other big pot?

The chemotherapy will stretch for some months, but I survived the first week-long session of it just fine. Nothing we can’t handle, I keep telling myself. Friends and family continue to send their love and encouragement. They pray for me and I feel the warmth of it engulf me. That may sound silly but it’s true. I really feel it, and I the love I feel for these people is boundless.

The dishes are all done, the sudsy water drains out of the sink. A smile comes across my face as I rinse and shake and dry my hands as I gaze out the window. I realize how much I love the simple things in life and how lucky I am to notice at least some of them.

Johnny Robinson