Just Like the Good Old Days

For the past couple of days, the alarm clock has gone off extremely early, and my husband has dragged himself out of bed, into the shower, and off to the office before the sun even had a chance to peek through the clouds.  Last night at 6:00 p.m., I got a text message saying he’d probably be working for another 30-40 minutes.  At 7:30 he texted  to say he’d just left the office.

Hmm…”Just like the good old days,” I texted back.

For the first 30 years of our marriage, my husband worked long, long hours.  As a newlywed I found this quite difficult. The first summer after we were married, he worked seven days a week, 10-12 hours per day.  I was lonely.  I sat on the floor in our bedroom and cried a lot.

His heavy work schedule continued, and started to include traveling for days, weeks, even months at a time.  First it was to places like Newark, New Jersey, or Scranton, Pennsylvania.  Then he was sent to England, and China.  I was a young mother by then, and being alone with a baby and toddler was scary and lonely.  I walked the floor carrying the baby and cried a lot.

But then Brian got older and became more independent.  I made some new friends and started working part time myself.  I became accustomed to having the house to myself, to eating meals when I felt like it, to watching whatever I wanted on television.  I was still lonely sometimes, but I wasn’t crying about it anymore.

By the time our nest was empty, I was working more and had lots of friends and activities. Jim got a different job, and worked normal hours.  With internet capabilities, he was able to telecommute, and had a much more flexible schedule, giving us the ability to travel more and spend more time together.  I wasn’t lonely at all, and never needed to cry.

July 2009.  The manufacturing sector of the economy imploded.  What had been a flexible schedule turned into no schedule at all when he lost his job.  He was home every day, all day long.  Naturally he was depressed and angry, he felt lost and unsure where to turn.  We  both cried – a lot.

It was a big change having him home all the time, and it wasn’t always for the better.  I’m sure any of you with retired spouses can attest to this.  There is definitely a learning curve involved.  It seemed like we were always tripping over one another – literally, and figuratively.  I like a quiet house, but everything he does seemed to require some kind of accompanying noise-either television, or music.  I like to do all the house cleaning at once, but he hated the smell of all the cleaning fluid, so I tried to divide it into small sessions, one room at a time.  Our dining room became the “home office,” and so any work he was doing was smack dab in the middle of the house, which severely curtailed my ability to play the piano, or mess around in the kitchen, or even have a game of fetch with the dogs.

I admit it – I yearned to have my house/life back.  On the rare occasions when he would go out without me, I found myself running to the piano to play for an hour,  scrub the countertops with bleach.  Being with your spouse 24/7 after years of being mostly apart is something akin to the feelings we occasionally have about our children.  We love them.  But we hate them.  But we love them.

Things in his corner of the business world have steadily improved in the last few months, and now he’s suddenly finding himself with more than enough contract work to keep busy.  There are a plethora of opportunities on several fronts. His phone is ringing.  He has meetings to attend and projects to manage.  He’s a happy camper.

But I’m suddenly feeling a little lonely.  I think I’d grown accustomed to the idiosyncrasies and inconveniences, and found they were outweighed by the companionship and camaraderie.  I liked taking walks together in the morning, and then going out for coffee.  I enjoyed meeting for lunch at the last minute.  I felt comforted knowing he was available if I needed a hand.   And I loved being able to count on having dinner together at regular time.

Life is perverse, isn’t it?  As the song goes, “we don’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone.”  Now that things are feeling more and more like the old days, I’m thinking there were some pretty good days during the past year after all.


5 thoughts on “Just Like the Good Old Days

  1. Becca, this is extremely thought-provoking. When I met Rick eons ago, both of us were on our own. He, recently divorced, was getting to understand living his own life in his own space. I had always been living on my own, though I had not always felt my life was independent, being responsible for my dad. For both of us, that independence was something we desperately wanted and needed. I think we still do. And I think that’s why we’re together after all these years — unmarried, but spending so much of our lives together — but still living two blocks away where we can get into our own spot. I’m always glad when he does his bezillions-of-hours bike rides or hits the road to ski out of town, knowing I have that time to blog, do art, clean house, whatever. And it’s sweeter, because I know he’ll be back in a few hours or end of day so we can enjoy dinner and the evening. But I’ll tell you — those times when one or the other of us is traveling and gone for a bit — it’s amazing how much we miss each other and that time. Much food for thought here — I love having that on a Saturday morning as I catch up on my reading!

    • I have some friends who are in a similar relationship, and they say having separate spaces where they can retreat is vital.

      I have never lived alone. I went directly from the (very) watchful eyes of my parents, to my home with my husband. We have always been respectful of one another’s independence, probably because we were only children who had been the entire focus of their parent’s lives.
      It sounds like you and Rick have a similar understanding of the other’s needs, and that’s what makes your relationship work. Good for you!

  2. Came here from your book blog and we went through the same thing. I got used to having himself around, going hiking, running errands and yet I yearned for my solitude. Now he is working and I love the solitude but miss the man.

  3. when my husband worked partime abroad, I hated it but when he found a job in Belgium I freaked out as well….would we be able to fit both in the house all the time, what about the me-time on my lonely evenings, …

    it turned out great and I enjoy being together very much

    and now we are on a cross-road potentially again, and I’m freaking out again

    funny though how we always do seem to get used to the situation, right? so thinks will work out ok.

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