My wife and I have lived in our house for twenty-five years, and we were in our previous house for seventeen years. In other words, we like to stay put. And I assure you that now that we are retired, we are not going anywhere.
Of course, with no jobs to go to, the most prominent feature of retirement is the fact that we now spend the bulk of our time at home. (It probably wasn’t necessary for me to point out something so obvious, but just in case, there you go.)
However, for some mysterious reason, the fact that we are constantly together under one roof leads to endless conversations with my wife about the physical condition of our house.
Multiple times each day she raises some new concern that I somehow manage to not be aware of. I can’t explain it, but for some reason, I seem to have a natural ability to remain clueless about our domicile.
A leisurely stroll around the back yard suddenly becomes less leisurely when my bride comes to a stop and suggests that because our sagging wood fence is propped up by enough lumber to build a log cabin with, it needs replacing. (She has quite the imagination.)
Stepping into our kitchen prompts her to observe that the cabinets are thirty years old and the countertops are starting to crack. (They certainly don’t keep her from being a wonderful cook.)
A trip to the bedroom leads her to casually remark that when we should repaint the walls in a warm shade of “Periwinkle”. (Yes, that’s a real color. Google it.)
Continuing her tour through the house, one room is too dark because it doesn’t have enough natural light while the next room has plenty of interior lighting, but the fixtures don’t fit the decor. (At least we’re not stumbling around in the dark.)
And when she steps into the master bathroom, there are multiple issues that need to be dealt with. “Both sinks are out of date.” (Hey, they hold water.)
“The tile in the shower is discolored.” (The shower works fine. I’ve never been cleaner.)
“This toilet is deplorable.” (It flushes and takes the you know what away. What else does it need to do?)
But of all the areas of the house that irritates my wife, there is nothing that compares to my office.
Let me stop here and explain that my bride is fearless. She has ten times more courage than I do. She can withstand tremendous pain. She has given birth. She has endured several surgeries. And she has passed a kidney stone. In general, she can tolerate things that make me tremble and whimper.
But when it comes to stepping into my office, her courage mysteriously fades.
She refuses to enter my favorite room because she’s afraid there could be something either dead or alive in there. And, in all honesty, over the years there have indeed been a few mice scurrying around, and there was that, unfortunate, time the cat brought in a dead baby snake and hid it under my desk.
For days my wife would walk past my office door and exclaim, “Oh my God! What is that smell?” And for once she wasn’t talking about me.
And yes, I will admit that there is a small amount of clutter that reaches from the floor to the ceiling, (you can’t see out the window) and I suppose quite a bit of dust has accumulated since……1995.
But I believe that my wife is overly dramatic concerning the condition of my solitary spot in the house. Typically, she cracks the door an inch, nervously peeks in and loudly declares, “It’s hopeless. This room should be condemned!”
Which actually means it’s perfect!
I like to think of my office as a sanctuary if you will. It is a place where I can go and relax without being interrupted. (If you don’t count the occasional banging on the door.) It’s a place where I can listen to music or watch what I want on TV. But, most importantly, it is a place where I can hide.
Anytime I’m in trouble with my spouse (which, surprisingly, happens more often than you would think) I can retreat to my office and buy some time as I cleverly attempt to figure out how to extricate myself from my current predicament.
But, of course, eventually, I’m forced, by either hunger or the fact that I have a bladder the size of a chipmunk’s, to step out of my office and be confronted by my darling.
Perhaps this would be a good time to clarify my position on the entire home improvement debacle. The only problem I have with any of it is the fact that my wife does not possess the gene that allows her to know when it is the appropriate time to discuss these back-burner issues.
Imagine this scene. I’m in my recliner with my little dog Zoey sound asleep on my lap. I’m engaged in one of my favorite pastimes. I’m watching the Yankees play the Red Sox on TV. It’s the bottom of the ninth, and the Yanks are down a run. The bases are loaded and there are two outs. Aaron Judge is at the plate. It’s a full count and everything is riding on the next pitch. The big lefthander on the mound goes into his windup and lets it go……and the TV screen goes dark!!
My heart goes into fluttery palpitations as I frantically look around the room in horror only to see my wife standing at the end of the couch with the remote in her hand.
Completely ignoring the expression of absolute torment on my shocked face, she smiles sweetly, and in a pleasant tone of voice casually says, “I think this is a good time to talk about repairing the bathroom grout.”
NO, no, no! I don’t think so. In fact, I can’t think of a worse possible time to talk about anything in the house.
(Let me pause and take a deep breath before we continue……Ok. That’s better.)
In fairness to my wife, she has been after me about our “grout situation” for quite some time, and I have managed, without any effort on my part, to completely ignore the so-called situation. That is because, in twenty-five years, I have never even noticed the bathroom grout.
And that is the crux of the problem. My wife has told me repeatedly through the years that what drives her crazy is that I never notice anything around the house.
Of course, I beg to differ. I perked right up and became keenly aware the moment she turned the TV off at the most critical point of the game. (By the way, I’m sure you’re dying to know. That last pitch was over the middle of the plate and Aaron Judge doubled off the right-field fence giving the Yankees the win……It would’ve been so much fun to see……Oh, well.)
Although my wife tries to be patient about the improvements and remodels that, in her opinion, our house genuinely needs, what really frustrates her, what really aggravates her, what is beyond her comprehension is that I don’t even notice when she takes matters into her own hands and make the changes herself.
Whether they are slight alterations or major re-works, I am always oblivious.
This particular behavior was even worse when I was working and gone all day. I would come home and manage to never notice a thing.
My wife would paint entire rooms, and I would not see a change of color.
She would put up wallpaper that was invisible to me.
She would hang new light fixtures, and I would switch them on and off without noticing.
She has even bought new furniture that I have sat on for hours without realizing it was not the same furniture as the day before.
Personally, I believe it’s a genetic condition similar to colorblindness. Obviously, it’s something I was born with that is beyond my control. (Which means none of this is my fault.) However, it is quite serious because it has, tragically, left me incapable of seeing when things have changed around our home. And believe me, when you’re married, it is a very unfortunate condition to have.
Let me give you one final example of how I fail to observe the flurry of constant changes that my wife makes to our house. The house we have lived in for a quarter of a century.
I’m sitting contentedly in the front room, minding my own business, the very picture of innocence, when my wife walks in and, with obvious irritation, says, “Well, Michael, as usual, you have not said one word about the new kitchen curtains. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for you to at least tell me what you think of them.”
Sadly, at that moment I am caught off guard, and out of reflex, without taking a few seconds to consider that in this particular circumstance a little white lie might be advisable, I instead answer with complete, unadulterated honesty.
“Our kitchen has a window?”