Brain Injury

Of Mice and Young Men

Words don’t need to be seen to be felt.

Sometimes our kids surprise us with their insight. In my last post, I explored how our son experienced his relationship with his dad who has a brain injury. I’ve wondered many days and sometimes sleepless nights how our son views his home life. Does he feel the differences in our home compared to the homes of his friends? Does he wish he could feel more secure in his dad’s abilities? Does he resent having to compensate or give up things that other families seem to enjoy because they just aren’t practical for us?

Most importantly, I’ve wondered if I’ve done enough in raising him as my energies for many years were slim as I was the go to person for everything in our home. It’s kind of like being a single parent at times, but without the credit because the outside world sees a spouse and second parent in the picture.

Usually, we get these important questions answered in the most unexpected ways. Thanks to our cat’s lacklustre mousing skills, I got my answer this week. Our cat originally came to our family all those years ago as a reward( or bribe, depending on who you ask)for our son to sleep in his own bed. It turns out our cat just wants to play with the mice he finds. He brings them in for us to see, but they’re just playing dead. So for the past couple weeks we had an elusive mouse in our home that evaded capture by us or our cat. We knew this little creature was in the area of our oven because we saw our lovely cat staking out near the stove, just waiting for his playmate to appear. Obviously he could hear him rustling around under there!

We set traps with tasty peanut butter and raisins. Nothing. Day after day this went on, with our cat sitting guard beside the oven. Nothing was luring out this mouse. Our cat eventually gave up too, and we all thought it must’ve finally escaped back outdoors. Until it happened. The unthinkable odour when we turned on the oven to bake muffins. Was that cremated mouse in progress?

I began cleaning the oven from the top down. No sign of anything. I pulled it out and looked in every dark corner with a flashlight. Still nothing. Desperate, I enlisted my teenage son who got all the superior mechanical aptitude genes from his grandfather. This kid of ours has been wrangling drills, hammers, and power tools since the age of 3.

Together, screw by screw, we dismantled our oven in search of the odour, praying we wouldn’t find a cremated rodent. Places that hadn’t seen the light of day in 15 years were being exposed. Remember when I said I was the go to person for everything in our home? Sometimes, things like a perfectly clean oven just weren’t important.

“It’s pretty sticky in places!” my son politely said to me as he took off another panel, revealing a previously hidden ickiness.

“Well, I was kind of busy raising a family pretty much on my own all those years”. I tried not to sound offended at his observation of my lack of cleaning efforts.

And then he spoke his heart, with his head still ducked down behind the back of the oven as he loosened another screw.

“I think that family turned out pretty good, and now they are here to help you with these things”.

These words from the sensitive, wise heart of my 15 year old pierced the darkness of doubts I carried that despite all the odds against our family, I’d succeeded in the most important way all those years when I felt so alone.

That’s good enough for me.

And no, we thankfully didn’t find a cremated rodent. But after peeling back the insulation, we discovered where the little creature had been and what he’d been up to: he’d had a stash of our cat’s kibble in the cozy burrow he’d made in the insulation. How he got that far in and how he stole that much kibble from our cat’s dish is a mystery. Thankfully the source of the terrible smell was burning cat kibble and not dead mouse. I think our cat must’ve been snoozing during the mandatory mousing class! But now my son and I have an oven to put back together, and thanks to our cat, my heart is full of happiness knowing that I did right by my son all these years.