Today’s poem in The Writer’s Almanac, “Husband” by Philip Schultz, set a few thoughts in motion for me today.
William James said
marriage was overlooking, overlooking,
yes, but also overlapping: opinions,
histories, the truth of someone not you
sitting across the table seeing the you
you can’t bear to,. . . .
My husband was off at an evening meeting last night, one that ran quite late, and as I sat in the house alone, I began to notice all of those usually innocuous house noises. The ice maker clunked and wheezed, complaining to itself that someone had turned it off and it was unable to spill out a supply of cubes and refill itself. The furnace triggered the occasional bang in the baseboard heating, likely disturbing the mice that have sneaked in for the winter. I would turn down the television and listen for a minute for the legion of pirates, cutlasses in their teeth, who were at that moment surely swarming the house. And silence would answer me.
And yet in the many years that my husband traveled for work, he would leave early Monday morning and not return until late Friday night. This became so commonplace that one of the kids might call and inquire where Dad was that week and I’d say, “I think he’s in
Salt Lake City.
. .no, wait, maybe it’s Dallas this
I was fine with being home alone, in fact it was a delightful change after all those years of kids and cooking and other people wanting the television.
Now here we are at the age of constant togetherness. So many conversations with fellow retirees are about the other person in the household. Men worry that now their wives have retired, they’ll be rearranging the furniture on an hourly basis or want to take up ballroom dancing. Too many women friends have described husbands who left the working world just to graft themselves to their recliners and only emerge for dinner.
Yet even if those people we live with always seems to be there, aren’t we glad they are?
Here at our house we sometimes spend the whole day inside and still for most it we're apart. I’m writing in my office, reading in the living room, or feeding the white machines in the basement. He’s painting upstairs, crunching numbers for the town finance committee, or napping over a book. Our house, while not large, is big enough that we can putter around individually for hours. Still, when the random thought breaks through, the other person is there to bounce it off of.
Sometimes you just feel that other presence and when it’s not there, you feel that also.