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The topic of today’s blog is a serious one but, as with everything else this family does, it turns into a French Farce — or at least the subject of bad jokes and a few laughs.

Everyone hates the ‘beep…beep…beep’ that smoke detectors make when their batteries are running low. I recall an episode of “Modern Family” during which Phil (the dad) is driven nuts by a the source of a battery beep he can’t find. Turns out it was in the attic in a toy his kids had discarded and long forgotten.

I recall that, when Gill was living with me, the alarms did this on a regular basis. Gill was always the one responsible for changing the batteries since I can’t reach them — even when standing on a chair. And needless to say, we don’t own such a handy thing as a ladder. And the alarm nearest the kitchen was also problematic since  my tendency to turn up the gas too high when cooking (being a Sagittarius, I have to have everything done yesterday or I lose patience) resulted in much smoke and noise. It was debatable which was worst — the actual ear-piercing alarm, my shrieking to make it stop, or the burnt cinders that passed for dinner. As I recall, Gill’s first approach was to rush to the garage to get the broom (yes, we DO have a broom) and whack the alarm until it stopped screeching…this often broke the alarm but it was, at the moment, worth it to make the noise stop.

I am (no surprise!) not the sort to ‘keep on top’ of such things domestic. In the same way I forget to check when I need salt in the water softener, or forget to change the furnace filters as often as I’m supposed to, I neglect to change batteries regularly –which explains why my house seems to always be filled with beeps. It’s like having an invasion of crickets I can’t seem to get rid of.

Recently, I heard a beep from the smoke detector at the top of the stairs. Since it’s near my computer, I spend a lot of time in the area…listening to every annoying little beep. I stood it for all of 15 minutes, then called my neighbor (the one who bails me out of all sorts of problems) and explained my predicament. “Could you come and change my batteries?” I pleaded.”I can’t reach the alarm.” He was over in a shot.

As he was taking down the alarm, he took a look at it and asked,”How old is this thing?” I could tell by his tone and the scowl on his face that the correct answer(or the one he was hoping, against hope, that I would give) was:’it’s only a year old’. But I knew that would be a lie. I hadn’t a friggin’ clue how old it was. I may have updated it once in the 27 years I’ve been here, but that might be an optimistic appraisal.

“I think you need a new one!” he opined. “And while I’m here, why don’t I check your other alarms?” He didn’t need to add: “Because they are probably all as old and decrepit and you’re lucky you haven’t gone up in flames before this!”

He kindly purchased new alarms, put in the batteries, and pronounced me safe…knowing that I’d probably forget again to check on them until they beeped at me.

During a recent visit, Crazy D and the neighbor discussed my lack of home maintenance — at least for small things that most people handle themselves. Oh, I’m fine about writing a check for someone to fix something big; it’s the little, everyday things that bog me down. And Gill was no better when she was here…nor, come to think of it, was Crazy D or L’il Sis.

The neighbor looked accusingly at Crazy D. “And you won’t believe it, but the alarm near the kitchen didn’t actually have ANY batteries at all!”

“”That’s right…always blame me!” Crazy D stated indignantly.I promise I didn’t do it!” Crazy D insisted. “It must have been Gill. She tends to take batteries out of alarms when they start ringing and become annoying!”

The neighbor looked horrified.

I tried to help: “Well, L’il Sis can’t reach them either so it was either you or Gill …cause I haven’t been able to reach them for years with my shrinking  frame! Besides, you also get mad at things like that and often end up frustrated and just poke the alarm with a broom until it stops screaming…”

“So does Gill!” Crazy D said, trying to get off the hook.

I tried to placate him: “Well, it was fine after all. My house didn’t burn down!”

Crazy D says: “You see? The Mom doesn’t know or care anyway!”

I took umbrage:”Well, Crazy D was supposed to be in charge of that sort of thing when he lived here! I mean we all know I’m useless at home repair stuff. If it can’t be fixed with duct tape or a glue gun, I’m out…”

Crazy D said: “See? This is the background I’m dealing with! She taught me everything I don’t know!”

To distract from this conversation going nowhere good, I served up some delicious homemade rhubarb pie. Just as the neighbor’s wife was digging in,  I mentioned that I put in a few strawberries to ‘cut’ the sour, pucker factor.

She dropped her fork. “Did you forget I’m allergic to strawberries?!””

“OMG! I did. Have you actually eaten a strawberry? Will we call 911? Do you have an EpiPen? I’ll check upstairs for Benadryl (while crossing my fingers, fearing that my supply of the antihistamine may be as out of date as my smoke detector batteries).”

I suspect my ‘License to Operate a House’ may soon be revoked…