Five years ago when I retired my husband gave me a very special present. We had a screened-in sleeping porch off of our upstairs bedroom. He replaced the screens with ceiling to floor windows, extended the vents for air-conditioning and heat, put in electrical outlets and bought me a wrap-around desk. “Write,” he said. “Write to your heart’s content.”
I did. I do. I still want to.
Last month my husband retired. Lord knows the man deserves to retire. He’s worked almost every day of his life since his first paper route at age eight. At the same time he’s been an attentive son, a devoted father and a loving husband. But he’s now about to drive me crazy.
I’m an early morning writer. I wake up, I’m ready to write and go full steam until around 3 p.m. If I’m on fire, I’ll go into the night. If I’m stalled, I put my head back and stare out into the forest through those magnificent windows, mired rewrites rambling through my head. Someone, somewhere, called that the creative process, so I claim the caption when lost in thought.
Normally, my husband would be up and gone by 7 a.m. Now he wraps his arm around me and whispers, “Stay with me, just a little longer.”
“I’ve got to write,” I say.
“Don’t get up yet,” he pleads.
I untangle myself around 7:30 to get to my computer. He talks to me from the next room. “What are your plans for the day? Going into town? Need anything? Shall I fix you breakfast?”
I’m already starting to get agitated. Once he goes downstairs I’m sure things will be better. I hear him bang through the pots in the kitchen. Then he turns on NPR. Since we both have some hearing loss, he turns it up loud enough for me to start to catch tidbits of disturbing media excerpts. I close all the doors between him and me with unnecessary force.
If it’s good weather, I’m blessed by the fact that he’ll then go outside and straddle his John Deere tractor for a couple of hours, regardless of whether or not the front forty needs mowing. All I hear is the rumble of the tractor going back and forth. I can deal with that. In reality, John Deeres are every man’s sedative. When in doubt, in lieu of marriage counseling, get a John Deere. It’s a better long term investment.
By noon he’s back upstairs. “Planning to break for lunch?”
“Should I fix you something?”
“Okay, well, then…” back downstairs, more banging of pots and pans, NPR back on for unsettling noon news which requires me to go on-line to find out what the heck is going on in the world now. Then I go and close the doors he left open on the way down.
Forty-five minutes later he’s back upstairs. “Whatchadoing?”
“Can I help with anything?”
“Not yet, maybe later.”
“I’ll just read some,” he says as he settles into the chair across from my desk. “I’ll be quiet, I promise.”
I don’t know about you, but having someone seated across from me while I’m “thinking”…even a quiet someone…is somewhat distracting. But it is a beautiful spot in the house and on hot or cold days when the back porch won’t do, I try to be mindful of his needs, too.
“Listen to this,” he says. “It’s really good.”
“I’ve already read the book,” I say a bit too spitsy. “Remember, I recommended it to you.”
“Oh, right,” he concedes, “but I really like this particular part.”
I give in. “Read it to me.” He does. I agree it’s good.
“Thought I’d go into town. You wanna come?”
“Did you finish the lawn?”
“Will do the rest tomorrow.”
“No,” I say, but I’m thinking fast in hopes of coming up with something that requires his departure.
By 4 p.m. the car pulls back in the drive from town and my creative juices have ceased altogether. My husband unloads the car with pretty much the same groceries he bought the day before and today chicken legs were on sell for .49 a pound. The fact that we already have about twenty pounds of chicken legs doesn’t deter him. I try to find a place to cram them into our already stuffed freezer. I’m feeling pretty guilty by now. Who could ever begrudge such a goodhearted soul and I know that one day in my life I may yearn to hear him whisper, “Stay with me just a little bit longer,” and wish that I had made a different choice. Time gives life such better perspectives on what’s really important. I succumb to figuring out what to cook for dinner and being a bit more commutative. After all, we’ve made it forty years, and this, too, will eventually find some natural flow. But, it is a new and different challenge in our lives.