Fresh cut basil accentuates the aroma of roasted chicken that wafts up the open staircase to the bedroom, luring me from my afternoon nap. While I am recovering from knee surgery, only a Vicodin haze slightly dulling my senses really makes this day any different from most; whether napping or wrapping up the day’s work in my home office – I’ll soon hear my Leigh’s beckoning voice, “Pat – we’re ready!”
To most observers, myself included, life in the empty nest seems pretty damn good.
Life hasn’t always been quite so harmonious, however. Through 29 ½ years of marriage, we’ve learned having a good ‘forgetter’ is as important as having a good memory. Occasionally, however, the relationship gods conspire together and grab us by the collar to drag us down a memory lane flanked by emotional minefields and ammunition dumps. It is never a pretty journey.
Not too long ago – I had such an experience. I remember like it was yesterday
The hair on the back of my neck shot up immediately as I walked into the kitchen from the garage. My sixth sense had kicked in and my receptors were on high alert. I couldn’t pinpoint it – but I knew, I just knew, something was not right. My pulse quickened, beads of sweat began to form on my forehead. I looked across the kitchen and into the family room, scanning the Corian counter-tops, the breakfast table, the TV hung on the far wall; nothing seemed out-of-place. There were certainly no visible clues alerting me to what I was about to find.
Slowly, deliberately I crept through the kitchen; listening, looking for anything suspiciously amiss. I reached the open archway to the dining room and slowly craned my neck around the corner – that is when I saw it.
My gasp shattered the silence.
Through the glass panes in the front door, stoically standing alone on the front stoop, staring, no GLARING at me, was our Hoover stand up model vacuum cleaner. I was stunned beyond belief.
“Did she leave me?” I immediately wondered, shaking as I stood there staring back at Leigh’s most prized appliance. While to some this may seem an odd reaction, but I know my wife well enough to know that she is more likely to put me on the curb with Thursday’s trash than for her to banish her prized home appliance to the elements.
Before I move on I should tell you that of all the years we have been married, we have spent a lot of time in one form of counseling or another ( my chief editor has advised not disclosing exactly how many). There were times when Leigh wanted to leave, and I begged her to stay. There were times when I wanted to split, but Leigh didn’t. There was one time we both wanted to break up, but then we realized that neither one of us was very marketable, so we decided we would just stick it out.
Guys, let me save you a ton of time, money, and aggravation. The Golden Rule of Continued Marital Bliss: “A Happy Queen makes for a Happy King.” Don’t complicate it.
Standing in the archway, I slid a chair from the kitchen table, and sat down. I maintained unwavering eye contact with the evicted appliance. For what seemed like hours, I racked my brain to rectify what I was seeing, while contemplating both our long history and our immediate past. How could I not see this coming? I really couldn’t understand it. I reflected on the strengths of our relationship, the effort we both put in to respect for each other’s independence. This unexpected, unexplained disturbing event had totally thrown me for a loop.
In addition to hard work and commitment, we have also had some luck come our way. In our case, for example, we have been blessed with a ‘Magic Hamper’. We’re not exactly sure how it works. All I know is that I put my dirty laundry in, or near, the hamper, and within a day or two all my clothes come back cleaned, folded or hung, and put in its proper place. It’s really is amazing!
This naturally has allowed us more time to work on our communication skills, as well as afforded us the time to pursue our interests. I, for instance, like to spend my time culling my spiritual sensitivities, getting closer to God. I often find the best results for this passion on the golf course. Leigh, on the other hand, prefers to spread her time out among a variety of her passions.
We once had a neighbor who occasionally commented to (his now former) wife, “If you only spent an extra 90-120 minutes each day cleaning, the house would be fine.” These are words that have never even remotely been assembled in my mind. Some wives would rather spend their afternoons watching Oprah and masturbating; Leigh likes to vacuum. She LOVES her vacuum cleaner. Just this past spring, walking through the aforementioned door from the garage, I found Leigh sitting on the floor of the mud-room with the vacuum cleaner pulled apart with internal pieces spread about the floor.
“Are you O.K? What are you doing?” I whispered.
“I’m changing out the belts” she said with a surprised, almost indignant tone.
I just stared in utter amazement. Finally I said, “You have never looked so sexy!”
That’s how we roll.
The great outdoors is another passion of Leigh’s. While she avidly enjoys golfing, hiking, and snowshoeing – she really loves the feel of her fingers working in the soil of her garden. And, fortunately, mowing the lawn. As I sat in the doorway watching the shunned Hoover silently watching me, I reflected on a precious Mother’s Day memory from over twenty years ago. One afternoon, in the middle of the workweek, like two lovers stealing away for a mid-day tryst, we met at Fetrow’s Hardware Store in Shiremanstown. Leigh had spied an ad for a sale on a very sleek, handsomely appointed Black and Decker self-propelled, two-cycle, mulching lawnmower. Just seeing the words in print was enough to set her heart aflutter. This was perfect to replace the riding mower apparently only I could drive. Outside the store, proprietor Harry Fetrow looked at me as he began to explain the features. I humbly raised my hands and said, “Harry, your talkin’ to the wrong fella. This is her Mother’s Day gift”.
Beaming ear to ear, Leigh sashayed a little closer to hear every detail. She marveled at the easy start feature and the ‘feel’ as she pushed the lawnmower, strutting up and down the sidewalk. She was so thrilled I swear you could hear her panties slap the pavement. The proprietor stared at me with an incredulous look. All I could do was smile and say, “Harry, that’s why she has such great legs?”
So here I sat alone in my house, one eye still on the Hoover, wondering if I would ever again hear those preciously sweet and poetic words flowing from her mouth, “I’ll go ahead and take care the lawn today so you can get 36 holes in.”
All I can do is pray, “God please don’t abandon me now!”
In the kitchen Leigh is a culinary artist. Constantly experimenting, she always makes the time to try new dishes while integrating fresh herbs and vegetables from her garden. I, on the other hand, am a one trick pony. I bake one kind of chocolate chip cookie. While I am pretty adept at clearing the table (usually when we have dinner guests), Leigh is always appreciative when I offer a lending hand.
The one exception to ‘help’, I recently learned, is in the realm of chocolate covered peanut butter eggs. This annual springtime ritual is solely and exclusively Leigh’s domain. Exclusively? Trust me, coming home with a smile on my face and the smell of another woman’s chocolate covered peanut butter eggs on my breath is a very, very dangerous proposition that will not be repeated!
I sat in silence, no longer concerned with the Hoover. I wondered if I would ever taste my bride’s cooking again. I struggled to understand how, with all the support I had given her to pursue her passions of cooking, cleaning and yard work, she could abandon me.
“Honestly,” I thought in resignation, “I probably wouldn’t even be married to me.”
Just then, the mud-room door opened and Leigh walked in, exhausted after a long walk with the dog.
“What’s up with the vacuum cleaner?” I asked.
“It started to smoke, so I put it outside.” She casually answered, flipping through the mail in her hands.
“Oh!” I said. There may have been a hint of relief in my voice.
After a respectable pause I asked, “So, what’s for dinner?”
That’s how we roll.