You might think that after the gerbil moves out the game is over. Not so. They are still plenty of opportunities for high-jinx, if you are diligent and know how to find them.
Some time may have elapsed since our last bit of gerbil coverage, but make no mistake. The little fellar is still out there.
- The ignominy of Sherlock Holmes’ greatest defeat, The Adventure of the Raspberry Bar. This remains open in the cold case files.
- The Gerbil Research Institute for Parental Edification published the Gerbil Nutritional Pyramid.
- The gerbil still has absolutely no idea how or why the blinds in his old room spontaneously were destroyed. (Broken in half.) And absolutely no explanation why coins were found on the ground outside under the room’s window. After the discovery of new elements on the periodic table this is probably one of the great mysteries of modern science. Personally I think they’ll find the blinds were broken by an element with 255 neutrons which I have dubbed Gerbilenium.
There was a period of time where the gerbil disappeared and we thought that our bout of False Empty Nest Syndrome (FENS) woes were finally over, but it was a false alarm. The case has merely shifted to an intermittent condition.
In non-technical jargon, it settled down into an uneasy truce with the occasional flare up.
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Our house had a visitor recently…
Yes, the gerbil stopped by. After months of no contact my wife was able to arrange some time together with our son. We were atwitter with nervous anticipation. Would he actually show?
The day of the meeting we spotted gerbil spore. A tweet from the gerbil! The meeting was on. It looked like it would actually happen.
In typical gerbil style he didn’t come to our house and she couldn’t pick him up at wherever he might currently be living, either, since that place is totally unknown to us. No, he wanted to be picked up at the local Walgreens. Gerbils are quite fond of comings and goings in public settings.
The plan was that my wife would take him into a nearby town for dinner and shopping. She had to get a present for our grandson’s 2nd birthday.
The evening went well and my wife had a good time with our son. She did say, however, that when she first picked him up, she almost got a “contact high” from the stench of marijuana that emanated from his person. Ugh. He’s still classy as ever, I see. We did note, however, some baby steps towards civilization. The nose ring and gauged ear lobe thingies were gone.
After the evening was done, she brought him back to the house to use our computer and, little surprise, I was told he’d be spending the night. On our sofa. Just like the good old days. The gerbil was back in the nest.
In the morning, after my wife went to work, it was just me and the gerbil. He slept in to the last possible moment. He finally woke up when it was getting time for me to go to work. It was a bit awkward between us. He grabbed a quick shower then it was time for us to go.
Since the gerbil is no longer trusted with a key to our house, he had to leave when I left, or he’d have no way to lock up the house.
I asked him if I could drop him off anywhere. He said no and elaborated on some complex gerbil plans.
So it was that I drove off to work and saw the gerbil walking away up the street.
Now, get this. I don’t believe in premonitions or instinct or feelings or what not. But as I approached the stop sign at the outer edge of our subdivision, a little voice was yelping in my mind.
“Go back,” it yelped. “Go back and made sure he didn’t leave that side door to the garage unlocked.” I checked my watch. I just had enough time.
So I did a u-turn and swung back around to the house. I couldn’t help but note that as I did so the gerbil had reversed his course and was walking back towards our house. In fact, he seemed mighty surprised to see me.
He stopped, shuffled around comically for ten seconds, as if deciding what to do, then headed off in a whole new direction as if that’s what he had been planning the whole time. Yeah, right. I just sat there and watched.
The gerbil safely out of sight I ran into the house and headed directly to the side door of the garage.
It was unlocked!
And that’s the way that cookie crumbles. This may be the end of this particular chapter but hang on, folks. I’m sure I’ll have more for ya real soon.
Little hellion, kid’s feelin’ rebellious
Checking to see if he can pass our smell test
Pushing us until we feel helpless
’til someone comes along on a mission and yells BITCH!!!
I’m a visionary, had a vision of scary
Could start a renunciation, pollutin’ his brainwaves
Forcing responsibility upon him as an unpleasant task
If it doesn’t work he be kissin my ass *smak*
And it’s a disaster, such a catastrophe
For you to see seem damn gerbil you ask of me?
Well he’s back, na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na
*bzzt* Lock your doors and get your keys
He’s entering in, endin’ up in house like a splinter
The center of attention, back for the winter
It’s interesting, teaching him – my failed questing
Infesting our home he’s back in and nesting
*bzzt* Testing, attention please
Feel the tension, soon as someone mentions he
Here’s my ten cents, my two cents is free
A nuisance, you sent? You sent to me?
All the world’s a stage …
And one man in his time plays many parts …
I’m just guessing here, but something tells me that William Shakespeare may have met a gerbil or two in his day.
We’ve all heard of or seen parents who have no clue about their children. “Not my Johnny,” a mother might wail. “He’d never do something like that!”
Oh, if only you knew and accepted the truth, lady. If only you knew. Perhaps you don’t possess the fortitude to face certain truths.
Assuming level-headed parents who are able to see the writing on the wall, they will reluctantly acknowledge whatever their children are rather than the pleasing fiction of what they wish they were.
Sigmund Freud famously believed that parents were the center of a child’s universe. Some contemporary researchers, however, believe that peers have much more influence on development than parents. (Source.) That’s potentially some good news for some parents out there. If your child is an asshole it may be less of a reflection on you as a person and your parenting skills than you might have guessed.
One thing, at least to me, seems certain. As children grow older their secret lives grow as well. They keep some parts of themselves private from their parents. In reality, this is something we all do as a matter of living our daily lives. At different parts of the day I’m husband, father, employee, citizen, volunteer, driver, customer, etc. Each role has different parameters and the range of behavior may vary. In some cases, it may vary by an extreme amount. The people that interact with me will see the range of behavior for the given circumstances. They may never see any of the other sides me in the various roles that I play on the stage of my life.
It is the same with gerbils.
As parents my wife and I are not stupid. We knew full well that we weren’t privy to the many secret lives of our gerbil. But knowing something is out there and is possible is a lot different than getting confirmation of what it is. A gerbil’s life is one of plausible deniability.
For example, you may suspect that what you are being told is a lie. That suspicion is slightly different than confirming beyond the shadow of a doubt that what you have been told is false. Suspicion and knowledge are two different things. Gerbils live mostly in the gray area that lies in between.
The process of learning more and more of the various faces that have been carefully hidden from you can be extremely arduous. Among other things it involves revising your definitions of what is possible. You may have previously thought your gerbil would never do certain things, but when faced with evidence that is indeed the case, you only have two choices: Delusion or acceptance. True acceptance can be quite difficult. I hope this is not something that most parents have to experience. You can trust me when I say this process is quite unpleasant.
The reality is that you may know and understand your gerbil far less than you ever thought. If a gerbil was a circle, the part visible to you might only be a tiny fraction of the total, perhaps only one thin degree. Can you imagine finding out that you know that little when you believed it was actually much more?
In our case that circle of knowledge continues to grow and we are reaching the point that while the love is still there a tipping point is rapidly approaching. For lack of a better term, an intervention is fast approaching. I fear the future in that the three years of a total lack of responsibility may have already irreparably harmed our gerbil. Our kindness and giving in may, in the end, turn out to be counterproductive to his well-being. For myself, I can admit to being surprised.
For us the end game is near. Unfortunately there may not be a lot of humor in it.
On the surface things may seem to be unusually quiet here at G.R.I.P.E. HQ. After all, it has been some time since our last update. Outwardly all may appear to be proceeding swimmingly, but for those of us here living inside the eye of the storm I can now report that all is not well. There has been a spate of activity and sadly none of it has brought us any closer to finding a cure for FENS (False Empty Nest Syndrome).
A lot has happened since the last update and most of it, for now, must remain unreported. Perhaps the day will come when all can be told, but perhaps not.
The ending of which I speak is the major event that we refer to as the gerbil’s moving out day. All creatures big and small must make their own way in the universe and it is no different for the modern suburban gerbil. Eventually that day must come.
You might think that “moving out” would seriously alleviate the major symptoms of FENS and perhaps even go a long ways towards a permanent cure. Normally that would be a valid conclusion. But where gerbils are involved one must remain ever vigilant and remember to never underestimate the incredible range of gerbil behaviors.
Perhaps an anecdotal accounting will help illustrate:
After an escalating series of frustrating events involving the gerbil, most of which must remain unreported at this time, the gauntlet was finally thrown down.
The gerbil was kicked out of the nest and given a deadline one week in the future.
The week elapsed with no noticeable change in behavior. We could feel the week was building toward something but if the gerbil felt it too he gave no sign. As far as we could tell absolutely no preparations were made. No packing, no organizing, nothing at all even remotely visible to the naked eye.
Finally the big day arrived. I was overflowing with scientific curiosity. What was about to happen? How would events unfold? Myriads of possible scenarios went through my mind.
I have to admit what happened was unexpected and took me by surprise.
In a stark reversal of the normal pattern, the gerbil woke up early and cooked himself a meal. In another unusual move, the gerbil didn’t immediately leave the home. He simply lounged around the house all day. At lunch the meal cooking was repeated, then again at dinner. It was almost as if the gerbil was trying to pack away as much of our food as he could, perhaps as a going away present to himself, before hitting the road.
After dinner we kept waiting for some movement from the gerbil. We waited an hour. Then another. Then another still. Nothing ever happened. Finally we went to bed.
We didn’t know what the morning might bring. Would the gerbil persist? Would he skulk away under cover of darkness? An odd silence permeated our home as we tucked ourselves in and drifted off to sleep.
To be continued …
Editor’s Note: This report filed by shoutabyss is another piece in our ongoing series of team coverage of False Empty Nest Syndrome (or FENS). If you’ve missed our previous coverage, “gerbil” is the term we’ve come up with to describe a youngling who fails to leave the nest, thus triggering the onset of “False Empty Nest Syndrome.”
Did you know we have two gerbils? Our previous coverage has primarily focused on gerbil #2 who still lives in our home. (More on that later.)
Today, however, I’d like to introduce gerbil #1, who paved the way for gerbil #2 by being an excellent research subject in the area of FENS.
A brief dossier on gerbil #1: Subject is male, about 24 years old, a high school dropout, and has never worked on obtaining his GED. (As you can see there are remarkable similarities to gerbil #2.) Characteristics unique to this subject, however, include: Became a father a little over a year ago, left the mother of his child, and now resides with a new girlfriend in a nearby city. (In FENS terms, any situation resulting in the gerbil taking up primary residence in a domicile other than the parent’s is considered a major breakthrough.)
The events leading up to fatherhood are noteworthy in this case. The gerbil and his girlfriend made a deliberate and conscious decision against the use of birth control while opting to engage in sexual activity. (Our scientists are still baffled by this one.) Not baffling, however, is the result: A bouncy baby boy we have identified as Gerbil Gen III. Shortly after the birth of this baby, gerbil #1 left his girlfriend (the mother). One of the reasons he stated for doing this was because he couldn’t handle having a baby around. Naturally, he immediately obtained a new girlfriend and moved in with her. She already had a baby and was pregnant with another. (This is a prime example of gerbil logic.)
These events were noteworthy but were not of direct consequence to us since we were enjoying a period of extended FENS avoidance. Gerbil #1 actually had a job and hadn’t attempted to return to the nest for almost two years. As far as gerbil #1 was concerned, FENS was in remission.
About a month ago I spoke to gerbil #1 on the phone. He informed me that after discussion with his new girlfriend and “crunching the numbers” he had decided to quit his job (at Burger King) without any new prospects in sight. I asked, “So you just gave your two weeks notice?” He said no. His preferred strategy was to get angry and walk off the job. Admittedly this is a classic gerbil maneuver. He assured me that their budget would withstand the loss of income. They had crunched the numbers and money would be tight, but they’d be okay.
Fast forward to this week. I received a phone call from the gerbil. (A highly unusual event prompting our scientists to begin recording data.) It seems the gerbil had no auto insurance and was seeking a loan of $100.
Although technically not living at home, he somehow manages to cling to gerbil status and still is prompting FENS symptoms in our home. Our scientists are beginning to question if FENS can ever truly be cured.
Stay tuned for what I’m sure will additional developments as they become available from those of us here at the Gerbil Research Institute of Parental Edification…
Grab your lab coats, beakers and clipboards, boys and girls. It’s time for another rousing installment of furry, fact-filled, finger-licking, and feckless gerbil research fun.
Again, for those of you new to the abyss, a “gerbil” is the term we’ve come up with to describe a youngling that triggers the onset of False Empty Nest Syndrome (FENS), a debilitating condition of which I’m personally afflicted. You can use the “gerbil” link above to learn more about FENS and review our past findings pertaining to gerbil research.
Today finds us pressed for time so let us not dilly dally. It is time to continue on our ongoing voyage of gerbil discovery. Whisker powers activate!
The Baggie of Salt
Some of you may be wondering about the outcome of the story regarding the baggie of salt we recently found on our kitchen counter. We asked the gerbil about this and we were told it had something to do with the cleaning of car parts. Gerbils apparently prize the coarseness of sea salt sodium crystals for their potent cleaning properties of objects like “compressors.” Those gerbils, always up to something new! You have to admit they are surprising and fascinating creatures.
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Body Modification & Adornments
There has been more breaking news since the baggie of salt. Gerbils really keep you on your toes. My research assistant (also known as my wife) recently discovered a nose ring carefully ensconced within our gerbil’s face. Her empirical observation skills are second to none and a serious boon to our research team. What a fantastic discovery! Rarely can you find so many gerbil body modification and camouflage characteristics concentrated on a single specimen. The furry face, the gauged ears, the long wavy mane, and, of course, the strangely shaped areas of furry facial hair. Several observers have mentioned to us that the gerbil would almost be employable if it wasn’t for all of these specially defining characteristics. In gerbil culture, however, these properties are closely entwined with self-worth within the herd and are therefore paramount and sacrosanct above all else. Adornments are more highly-prized than the ability to gather food, resources, and reach any level of productivity.
More later in the next installment. Yes, there is more. Much, more more. Stay tuned…