The farewell party was a night to remember. About 75 people Kim worked with during the last 25 years showed up to give him a proper sendoff. I drank water all night anticipating I would need to drive us home. I anticipated correctly. The next day he sent work friends an email that included this line: “The first day of the rest of my life begins–with a hangover.”
And so it began. . . .
I intended to make this a weekly blog. A public journal to keep track of our progress in learning to live together in the same space 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I heard from others who already were well into this process that “picnic” does not describe what we had to look forward to. I was apprehensive. Two months in and all is well.
Our marriage has not always gone smoothly. (Those who know us well will probably laugh out loud at this understatement.) We had only just begun to figure it out after 25 years of marriage when Kim’s company offered him a retirement package he could not refuse. It was unexpected. It was exciting. It was worrisome.
The bulk of our married life together is best described as going from over-the-moon happy, passionate, loving to teetering on the edge of disaster. Like the little girl with the little curl in the middle of her forehead, when it was good it was very, very good. When it was bad. . .
Our vastly different personalities, shared levels of intelligence, compatibility in things like books, music, and lack thereof in just about everything else were a large part of what attracted one to the other. But when it comes right down to it, you can blame it on the pheromones, people. There is no way to explain it.
At times, our frustrations with the other’s shortcomings (Turns out we both have them. Who knew?) came to a rolling boil and blew the lid off our pot of happiness. The funny thing is, as much as we thought getting together might not have been our most brilliant moment, we also found it nearly impossible to imagine being apart. Yes. We’ve been to counseling—together and separately. We know how this plays out in analysis. Save it. We’ve heard it all before.
Finally, we found something that does work and has endured for long enough that, while not taking it for granted, we possess a definite feeling of lasting marital confidence. Then he is offered the retirement package. One he, right—couldn’t refuse. I can’t disclose details but it was a generous offer and had he turned it down, there was no guarantee that he would not be offered mandatory retirement—without the pretty package.
The day he came home with this large amount of paperwork to be studied, we were both somewhat breathless. Wow! This is wonderful gave way to—now? He was not really ready to give up the job that turned his hair gray. (He says it was me that made that happen but I know it was work stress-related.) The possibilities were endless. I am self employed and can quit any time. Then again, I did not have to. There certainly were pros and cons. And, although this affected us both, the decision really had to be his. It was his life. It was his career—a career he was exceptionally good at. I could envision us finally having some time to play hard together after working hard for so many years. I had looked forward to a day when I would get so much more of his time and attention for what seemed like forever. I could also understand how he must feel leaving his “other” family. Some of whom drove him crazy like only your family members can and some of whom he genuinely loved. And would greatly miss. I remembered how I felt when I gave up a career I loved to move here with him when he was offered his current job. That helped me understand some of what he was going through. But only he could “get” it all.
Of course he chose the pretty package. He’s smart that way.
And then we both began to giggle and look forward, sweat and fear, wonder and worry. And boom! It was here.
It has been an adjustment for him. The feeling of “what do I do now?” is real and painful. And he has done a remarkable job of acclimating himself to life after work.
I have an office on the second floor of our home. His is on the first. He likes background noise in the form of a television that stays on in his space from morning till night. But it is usually not loud enough to hear and he does all sorts of things while the Sci-Fi channel provides the desired white noise.
He’s helpful. He runs errands I used to have to run. He does things I used to have to do. He takes over and just gets things done. He reads and does crossword puzzles, builds model cars with painstaking detail, and practices his dry sense of humor—a lot. I love that.
We each have become card-carrying members of the club of positivity. The more we practice, the better we get. We build each other up and petty complaining is just not part of the program. If there is a tense moment, we get over it. We let it go. We do not criticize. We ask if there is something we want from each other. There is no guessing. There are no mind games.
Two months in and I feel happy. And giddy. To quote an old song: It really is “nice to have a man around the house.”