David Fitzsimmons, Tucson’s most beloved ink-stained wretch.

Steven Meckler

This summer we thought we’d relax at home and enjoy all the splendid attractions Tucson has to offer in July. What other exotic destination offers fabulous crimson sunsets, brain-broiling 112-degree days, and Biblical flooding? In this solar system? Very few.

Rather than stay at a local resort for a bargain rate we stayed at our hacienda. The room service was awful and the maid was nonexistent. I will say the parking was phenomenal.

Most of our friends went on actual vacations and demanded a summer review.

Friends: We just got back from Bali. It was fabulous!

Me: How wonderful for you and Mrs. Howell. Did you make the yacht, Thurston?

Friends: What did you two dears do this summer for fun?

Me: We tried something different this year.

Friends: A Roman holiday? A tour? A cruise?

Me: A staycation!

Friends: Oh, we’re so-o-o sorry. You poor dears. Did you get our postcards from Tahiti?

Me: Get off my porch, Anthony Bourdain. And take Amelia Earhart with you.

We spent the entire week hiking, going to museums and galleries. When we weren’t relaxing by the pool, we were shopping and dining al fresco under misters soaking us like rain forest macaws.

I’m lying.

We spent the entire week cleaning, fixing, painting, sweeping, shoveling and going to the dump. Like industrious ground squirrels kicking sand out of our burrow we tossed out junk and clutter like snowblowers on speed. I got rid of her horrible junk when she wasn’t looking and she got rid of my beloved treasures when I wasn’t looking.

Our staycation was prompted by a growing chore list that Ellen insisted we could no longer ignore. She arched her eyebrow at me like Jack Nicholson. I heeded her admonitions.

At the top of the staycation chore list was reclaiming my son’s room; vacated a year ago when David Jr. flew the nest. He is doing fine, waiting tables at and going to Pima Community College. And he has great roommates. By great I mean that none of them has spent the weekend in the Pima County Jail.

While some of my friends went on a cruise I cruised to the local hardware store. And while Ellen’s friends rounded up a posse to go to Vegas she rounded up cleaning supplies and went to work like Cinderella on steroids. In her words, “First person who calls our ‘staycation’ a ‘holistay’ gets Comet cleanser in their coffee.”

We even took down the Christmas lights. Don’t judge.

We saved the most daunting chore for last. Dave’s old room looked like a Baghdad zoo habitat that had been bombed and abandoned. A testosterone-sotted Tasmanian devil crossed with a male EF5 tornado grew up in there.

I recognized the holes that held the screws that held the shelves that held his little league trophies. Tiny staples plucked out of the walls with a butter knife were the only evidence “cool” posters once hung here.

Over here, in the corner, by his bed was the “angry!” wall. As I sanded and smoothed over the three holes that had been punched and poorly patched by a small boy I got emotional. One was over the divorce. One was over being grounded. Another was for losing his computer privileges. Some finds, like his path to the presidency, hand scrawled during middle school on the back of his door I could not erase. Occupied by all three kids at one time or another, I’ve painted clouds, stars, unicorns, castles, super heroes and dragons on the walls of this room. This room welcomed babies to the world. The heights marked on the door post will stay.

This past July a happy Dave celebrated his 21st birthday. He made it! We survived.

I told him when I left home my mom turned my old room into a shrine for her cockapoo, Mr. Lucky.

Ellen and I painted the room like we were giddy newlyweds painting our first apartment. Who needs Bali for romance?

First I painted the corners and borders by hand. No tape for me. I’ve got a steady hand. I could have been a pin-striper. Ellen worked the paint roller like a samurai. As the past disappeared under the drying paint I thought this will make a great reading room or workshop space.

Yesterday, I pinned a map up in that room on a beautiful newly painted wall. There’s so much of the world for an old couple to see.

Contact editorial cartoonist and columnist David Fitzsimmons at tooner@tucson.com.