Here is a sampling of the comments I received from the wives of several retired friends. “Call and let me know which hospital you wind up in George so I can send you a card.” “Have you lost your mind?” “George, I suggest you step away from the cupboards, and stay away.”
A couple of my retired friends had the courage to share what happened when they tried to organize the cupboard for their wives. I won’t reveal their last names, but Tom now walks with a limp, and Ed wears a hat most of the time to cover the scar over his left eye.
But the best advice I received came from Joanne. To protect her husband’s privacy and public embarrassment I won’t disclose his real name, but my heart does go out to him. Here is what Joanne shared with me.
“Harvey (not his real name, but it seems suitable) and I have been married for 58 years; 14 of those years have been in retired bliss (Note: I did not hear directly from Harvey so I have to assume he agrees that the past 14 years have been “bliss”.)
Joanne continued, “So, I have some hints for you as you enter those ‘golden’ years. First, stay out of the kitchen! Organize your desk, your workshop, your garage, your garden, whatever, but STAY OUT OF THE KITCHEN. My husband did buy over-the-door racks for our pantry on which the spices are all alphabetized. He also built narrow shelves in the basement to store canned goods. This enables a neat pantry and doubles as cardio-vascular exercises retrieving cans.
“Go to the grocery store with two lists – prepared by your wife. Use two grocery carts and then meet at the checkout counter. You will go home happy.
“Do not counsel your wife on her shopping habits, her spending habits, or her dietary habits. I cured Harvey of all these irritants by simply asking, ‘Who in the hell do you think ran this house for the past forty years?’
“George, I wish you good health and much happiness in your retirement. Please tell your wife that all she needs to do when you get in her way is to say, ‘We need a bigger house.’”
Joanne, I wish your advice had arrived before Christmas. The day after Christmas I decided it was time to start organizing the pantry shelves. Yvonne heard me rattling around and came to see what was going on. She watched silently and contemplatively for a minute, and I actually thought she was pleased. But then, with arms crossed she pointed toward the backyard and said, “You see that travel trailer out there? You need to get out of my kitchen or plan on sleeping out there tonight.”
I started to protest, arguing that it is too cold to sleep in a travel trailer in the middle of winter, and that I really do have some good ideas if she would only give them a try.
Her arms were folded and she had a scowl on her face but I have to give her credit for politely listening to my little speech. But as soon as I stopped she said, “Look, you were the boss at work for the past 20 years, but you’re on my turf now so back off and do as your told unless you want to live in that camper for the rest of your life.”
Then, as she turned to leave the room she added, “And by the way, I know why Tom walks with a limp.”
I’m beginning to understand why Tom invited me to join him and Ed, and a few other guys at McDonald’s for coffee on Wednesday mornings. I think I’ll go next week, and maybe I’ll call Joe (oops I mean Harvey) to see if he wants to go along.
George Brown is a freelance writer and lives in Jackson Township.