By S. W. Hubbard
November 20, 2019 — Last year, my husband Kevin was counting the days to his retirement. He had planned the financial aspects thoroughly. On January 1 he would leave behind his demanding job as an operations executive who traveled worldwide and would spend all his days at home.
As a novelist and part-time English professor at a community college, I worked at home three days a week and was on campus two days during the academic year. Although Kevin has plenty of interests and hobbies, I was concerned that the aspect of work he’d miss the most was managing events and people. Once he retired, he’d have no one to manage.
Since I enjoyed my work and didn’t find it stressful, I decided I would keep teaching after my husband retired. By continuing to spend two days a week at work, I could ease our adjustment from five days a week apart to seven days a week together. I worried that certain facets of retirement were bound to be problematic for our marriage.
Although I certainly missed Kevin when he would take long trips to foreign countries, his short domestic jaunts had been a nice break from married life: no meal-planning, no cooking, and no waking and sleeping according to his schedule. When Kevin was gone, I’d recapture part of my bachelorette life style: eat pasta or carry-out for dinner and curl up in bed with Netflix on my laptop most nights. By the time he returned a few days later, I was ready to give up my slovenly evenings and return to a more disciplined lifestyle.
Post retirement, I never got a chance to miss him. Kevin wasn’t going anywhere without me. He planned exotic vacations for us, but my academic year schedule sometimes limited his options.
“If you’re not going to retire from teaching, I’m going to have to take this ski trip without you.”
Was that a threat, or a promise?
I got out his suitcase and helped him pack.
One day before I departed for campus, I suggested Kevin might wipe down the kitchen cabinet doors if he was looking for a project to keep him busy. When I returned seven hours later, he’d spread every single item in the cabinets over the table and the counters. It was as if I’d left a border collie alone and he’d torn up the whole house looking for a flock of sheep to herd.
“I decided to clean the shelves, too. Look at this stuff! Why do you have two frying pans the same size? When’s the last time you made waffles? What do you do with this pan with a hole in the middle? Are you aware this jar of chutney expired in 2012?”
Little did I realize that Kevin had finally discovered his true retirement mission: to reduce our possessions so drastically that we could enter the Witness Protection in under four hours.
Luckily, the pastor of our church recently came through with a big project that requires all the skills Kevin does best: spreadsheets, action plans, written procedures. My border collie has found his sheep.
Thirty-three years ago when we married, I made a strategic error in saying that I would do all the cooking if my husband did the kitchen clean-up. When Kevin was working, that meant dinner on those nights he wasn’t traveling or out with clients, and a French toast breakfast on Saturdays. I could easily keep up with the demand for my services. Now that he was retired, “all the cooking” had come to mean three meals a day, 365 days a year.
“Whatcha doing?” Kevin would sidle up behind me and peer over my shoulder.
“Oh.” Long pause. “Were you thinking of breaking for lunch anytime soon?”
“I’m in the middle of something. Go ahead and make yourself a sandwich.”
Deep sigh. “Never mind. I can wait.”
We’re still negotiating this one. Kevin still claims inability to cook anything other than scrambled eggs, but he’s working on essential survival skills such as locating leftovers in the fridge and going out to Panera.
Now, one year into Kevin’s retirement, I have finally given notice at my teaching job.
I’ll have more time to write and we’ll have more freedom to travel.
That’s the plan, and we’re sticking to it!
Comments? How has retirement affected your marriage? Are you still working out your boundaries?
About the Author:
S.W. Hubbard writes the kinds of mysteries she loves to read: twisty, believable, full of complex characters, and highlighted with sly humor. Visit her at http://swhubbard.net
For further reading: