'For better or worse ? not lunch each day' By Bob Karolevitz Phyllis says that if she ever retires, she's going to take a job in town.
Being on the farm with a work-at-home husband always underfoot has been a cross she's had to bear for most of the years since she said "I do."
While other wives have sent their husbands off to jobs so they could free themselves for an afternoon of bridge or coffee with the gals, Phyllis has been happy just to get me out of the kitchen.
"I took you for better or for worse, but not for lunch every day," she lets me know. "When we got married, I looked forward to seeing you leave with lunch bucket or briefcase so I could have a little quality time for myself."
"Instead, your office is just fifty feet away from the breakfast table, and I get no reprieve," she bemoans.
Of course I am very sympathetic to her situation and try not to add to her burden. By disappearing into what she calls my "boar's nest," I give her the elbow room she seems to crave.
As other wives of our vintage have had their husbands retire and come home, I've heard them appeal to Phyllis: "How in the world do you handle a guy who's around the house from morning to night?"
Some complain that their emancipated spouses don't have enough to do. One of them said: "Now he tells me how to cook after I've been doing it for 40 years. He hovers over me when I'm trying to fix a meal until I'm about to let him have it with a skillet."
"I told him to go play golf, fish, bowl or join a pinochle club. Just butt out of my kitchen," she confessed frustratedly.
Earlier in our marriage I made a similar mistake by being too ever-present. When I took a break from my typewriter, I tried to reorganize Phyllis's recipe file and to straighten up what I thought was a cluttered spice cabinet. Believe me, those were strategic errors which hastened an enforced exodus to my work room.
Since then we have worked out a harmonious arrangement. We call it domestic detente. Actually it's what husbands should recognize as a marital compromise: I do exactly what she wants me to!
I'm kidding, of course, but I must admit that men who work at home have got to be especially solicitous of their wives' living space. Too much familiarity can cause friction which can turn wedded bliss to blisters.
So my advice to male retirees is quite simple. Get out of the house! Go to coffee with the guys. Sack groceries. Volunteer. Ice fish or just go to the library. And, for heaven's sake, don't mess with your wife's recipe collection!
Phyllis and I both agree that togetherness is the basis for a good marriage, but a certain amount of apartness is mighty important, too.