How do you adjust when your partner retires and you continue to work? How do you adapt when your life has followed pretty much the same routine for over 45 years and the pattern changes abruptly? When you’ve had to tiptoe around and silence the phone, not to mention keeping the kids quiet while they were home, for fear of waking him, when he had only five hours or less to sleep before going back to work? Leaving parties early or missing them altogether because on Friday and Saturday nights he struggled, usually in vain, to stay awake? (Now he’s up till 1:00, no problem.) He was always home for our early dinners, and always absent for breakfast — his workday still less than halfway through at that hour.
The children and I had to adapt our lives to his schedule. We all knew the drill.
Flash forward. Suddenly, with little warning, he’s home all day. The children are gone and I work at home. I try to work, but it’s not easy when I am constantly interrupted. He can make pizza rustica with his eyes closed and in his sleep, a marinara sauce that makes me swoon, but what I think of as routine tasks on the computer, not so much. I hear my name called a lot. I want to be patient, because I know this transition is much more difficult for him than it is for me.
There are also definite upsides: he’s a marvelous cook who knows how to please everyone. That part is very nice. It means that I can work longer while he is busy in the kitchen. And we eat so well! I am always misplacing things, and he either knows where they are or is much better at locating them than I am. I have company. I don’t wake up alone. He found the picture for this post. Now we can explore the city, doing all the things we could never do before because of his work routine. We can travel more.
It also means he expects to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at regular times, every day, and I’m not used to that. When I’m on deadline, I work furiously until either the hunger pangs begin to distract me in the afternoon, or it’s time to work out.
He was very low, even depressed. But now, three weeks in, things are looking up. I have accepted and understood why he continues to go into the office once a week. You can’t hurtle forward for 66 years and then stop on a dime. A lot of stuff accumulated during that time, and now he is going through old photographs and documents and mementos that have special meanings.
All in all, a work in progress. Some back and forth, but mostly forward.