Monday, June 11, 2012

Every Writer Should Consider a John Deere

by Brenda Remmes

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?”

“Not yet.”

“Should I fix you something?” 

“Don’t bother.”

“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?”

“I’m thinking.”

“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.”

“Need anything?”

“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.


  1. Beautiful. My husband has been working from home over the past six months, and I, too, am ambivalent about having another person in the house. My kids, still young, are also sources of noise and mess and endless questions. But I am sure I will miss all of that some day.

    Will I? :)

    Thank you, Brenda!

  2. Oh, man, I hear you both! My husband just started working out of the house two days a week, and wow. So hard to think!!! I'm actually running away from home for a week to finish my novel, despite having a perfectly good office here. Yep, we miss them when they're gone, those kids and men, but why does it seem to them that we're not doing anything when we're writing?

  3. I'll be where you are in less than a year, Brenda. I hope I don't have the same issues, but I probably will. I remember my MIL, after her husband quit farming. He sat in his Lazy-Boy, watching TV. She told us, "Will you look at him? He just SITS there!" My husband, was, of course, baffled. He didn't get that he was in the house, when it used to be all hers, that time of day.

    If it makes you feel any better, they adjusted in a year!

  4. This is so sweet, and so true. LOL! Great post Brenda!

  5. I never reply to these posts, but yours really moved me. When my 3 daughters are in school and busy with activities, I miss them and feel badly that we rarely just hang out or walk in nature. When they are home, as they are now for the summer, I feel the unstructured time competes with my writing. Every moment I get to write is at their expense and I have trouble getting either the writing or the mothering done well. I "know" that the challenge is within me -- to appreciate the moments -- but it's not so easily done.

    1. I'm touched that you have taken the time to comment. Thank you for your kind words. You've made my day.

  6. Replies
    1. We don't own a farm, just 27 acres of land with lots of trees, vines and everything else that grows wild that needs to be cut back, dead tres pulled out and burned. It a job just keeping the forest from swallowing us up every month. My husband LOVES his John Deere. He feels like it gives him a fighting chance.