When my monthly delivery of Lite n’ Easy meals failed to arrive around 8.30 as usual one morning, I assumed it was running late. A couple of hours later and still no sign, I texted my neighbourhood friend to see if hers had arrived.
No luck – she hadn’t ordered this week. I decided to wait until after Ken and I’d had our coffee before phoning the company.
‘They used to deliver to Hamilton Thursdays and Sundays’, I told Ken over the roar of the coffee machine. ‘But now it’s only Thursdays. The route might have changed with Sunday deliveries added to Thursday’s.’
‘Thursday …’ mused Ken.
‘Thursday!’ I exclaimed. ‘It’s only Wednesday!’
I confided in my friend, who assured me, ‘I didn’t realise it was only Wednesday, either. What a pair we are!’
Tuesday had been a heavy day for me, and I was exhausted by evening. I’d had in mind one last thing for Ken to do, put the empty esky outside the front gate for the delivery man. Only I was a day early.
I’ve written often about incipient memory issues, and this seemed another example of mine faltering. I excused myself by thinking I’d simply been overloaded, but that is only part of the reason.
Despite my meticulous event calendar, reminder system and to-do lists, occasionally a void opens before me. It’s dark, down there.
I’ve just read Susan Johnson’s latest book, Aphrodite’s Breath, about taking her mother to live on the Greek island of Kythera for a year. As their relationship turns itself inside out, exposing painful revelations, Susan ponders the word ‘housewife’. Seeking to understand the predominant role ‘things of the house’ play in her mother’s preoccupations, Susan realises her mother is truly ‘a wife of the house’.
I ask myself whether I too, am becoming a wife of this house. Increasingly, my time is spent organising groceries, meals, dishes, laundry; doing my share of the cleaning; transporting things upstairs and down in the faithful elevator. It’s not that I do overmuch – I am efficient but snail-slow; I need to rest more than most people my age.
It’s a spacious and light-filled house, perfect for my mobility aids with ample room for the two of us. Despite having help with cleaning and the low maintenance garden, as well as Ken doing what he can, I remain ‘the wife of the house’, organiser supreme.
I am also ‘the wife of Ken’, helping him hold things together as his cancer progresses, and ‘the wife of MS’, ever adjusting to its chameleon ways. At times, like now, all this ‘wifedom’ feels rather burdensome.
Ken’s solution is first, for me to decide to do less and ask him to do more, and second, to have less. Throughout the near-twenty years of our marriage, he has longed for just ‘two cups, two plates, two knives, two forks, two spoons …’
Ah, if only it was so easy!
Is this why we older people downsize?
Will that change our lives?
Or will we strive to fit all we owned before into a smaller space, clinging to old habits like a toddler to her beloved soft toy?
All the while, accumulating new possessions.
Of course, our pre-existing responsibilities come with us, settling around our shoulders like a comforting wrap.
Or perhaps our lives accommodate to their changed circumstances?
Discovering, miraculously, how to live differently, less encumbered in this smaller place?