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.