When you marry young and are still together when you are both retired, you have plenty of time to identify each other’s quirks and habits…and to get used to them. More or less. When you marry later in life, like I did, the curve for learning what makes each other tick is shorter but more intense. Either way, when you are both suddenly in the house all day, every day it becomes a real challenge not to kill each other.
Zaf came with a household of furniture and kitchen equipment. Nothing matched with my things. I painted the legs of a coffee table so it would fit in. I reframed some of his photographs to match mine. We use his glassware for cocktails and other adult beverages. The biggest concession: MY CLOSET! I had to overcome the unsettling feeling that I was giving up ½ of my space, quickly and effortlessly (ha!). I began using the 2nd bedroom closet and bureaus so I spend much time going back and forth trying to remember where certain items are and if I still have them. When we downsize to a smaller home, who knows, my clothes may be in the garage!
Speaking of downsizing, the space we will inhabit will be smaller. Now we can each be on either end of a long house and once in a while, I need to text him if I want to reach him. He can watch his sports while I take a nap; he can be in the office, at his desk, playing video games and I can be reading my book in the den. Peaceful, quiet, serene. A new home that won’t have the same square footage will mean that we will see each other every minute of the day in the one big central area called Open Space: kitchen, great room, dining area. Bedrooms are closer to the center of the home, and I’m hoping the doors will be soundproof!
The one area that we do a dance of some sort is the kitchen. We both enjoy being there prepping and cooking and most of the time we are synchronized athletes. Other times I have to yell out “coming through” as I take a pot off the stove or a pan out of the oven and he is standing right at the exact spot I need to land, absorbed on the sports channel. He likes to place the salad bowl on the mat on the middle of the table; I need that spot to put down the hot platter. I remind him of this every time I approach the table with my hands full, and he reminds me, every time, that he cannot reach the salad comfortably when it is off to the side. We manage. 😊
There are several projects I have lined up to do once I retire or semi retire. Working on this blog, writing my memoir, sorting photographs, and the like. There is also the tidying up and various other household chores that need to be done. Outside the home, I plan to volunteer, take classes, visit museums and local sites I have enjoyed in the past and explore the ones I haven’t. I believe that in general, it is easier for a woman to find things to do to keep her active and busy.
In speaking with other women, whose husbands have retired, I hear a wide variety of experiences. One woman tells her husband what she plans on doing that day; he has the option of going with her or he can stay home. Another woman suffers in silence as she watches her husband wandering around the house and saying he is bored. And a third woman, gives her husband of lists of things to do: fix the lamp, go to the grocery store, weed the plants, etc. Aging has its limits; one cannot work in the garden if they have a bad back. One cannot drive to the store if their vision is impaired. This dilemma affects both parties. There is no one answer that is right for all couples. Adjustments and compromises must be reached together.
What will Zaf be doing? Other than golf, I haven’t heard him say what his other plans are. The one thing I know I can do is to make the plans to go somewhere – church, the theater, lunch with friends, a drive up the coast, a weekend further up the coast. Once I mention what I would like to do and he says yes, I buy the tickets right away so he doesn’t change his mind!
Two may be a crowd, but the company we keep is special to both of us.
We are on it!
Photograph of Santa Barbara Day Trip from The Personal Collection of Helene and Zaf
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