Friday, October 10, 2014

Golden Years, tarnished




Uh oh.

I don’t want to sound the alarm prematurely – but I don’t want to be caught flatfooted either.

It’s probably nothing serious.  It’s just a twitch.  One of those eyelid flutters that no one else can see.  It’s nothing really. 

An anticipatory tic, that’s all.  A tiny, fleshy convulsion in solidarity with my Japanese sisters.  A sympathy spasm.

See, I ran across this article in Forbes reporting that waves of Japanese women are showing up at their doctors’ offices with physiological symptoms including rashes, nervous tics, upset stomachs and headaches. 

What could be causing this phenomenon on such a wide scale the medical community wondered?

What form of aggravation, what vexation, what unending source of distraction could so affect the normally serene Japanese woman? 

Researchers took up the gauntlet.  They donned their lab coats and furrowed their brows.  They clicked their ballpoints and scribbled on their collective clipboards.  They put their heads together, compared notes and ultimately arrived at a clinical diagnosis for that particular constellation of symptoms. 




And they gave it a name:  RetiredHusband Syndrome.

Da da daaaaah!

It’s official.  It’s real.  When your husband retires, RHS can make you itch!

And yes, you guessed it:  Mr. Plath is retiring.

But I doubt if this tic is directly related to his upcoming superannuation.  I mean we’re happy.  We so very happy that he gets to retire and be home with me.  All the time.  Daily. 

‘Til death do us part.

A friend of mine’s husband retired recently.  A doctor.  Hospital administrator.  Smart guy. 

She tells me he now waits passively each morning for her to supply his to-do list.  She compiles tasks for him at night during the time she had formerly designated for reading romance novels. 

So far he has fixed that chronically lopsided screen door, painted the guest room and laid new tile in the hall bathroom.  He changed the oil in both their cars, had the tires rotated and replaced the wiper blades.

He’s content to tick off item after item.  He offers no resistance.  No complaints.  A wife’s dream, right?

All she has to do is make the list.

She keeps a catalog of conversation topics too, to get them through breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Seems her husband has not only retired from the workaday world but also from all responsibility for adult conversation.

The stress of having him home has taken its toll.  My friend now evinces a sort of furtive countenance.  She laughs inappropriately; smiles through clinched teeth, searches my eyes for something – comfort maybe – or asylum. 



I worry what forensic technicians might find in her computer’s search history.

But it’s OK.  We’re not like that, Mr. Plath and I.  I’m more likely to give him the headache.

For one thing, he’s always been the more industrious half of our union.  He’s a kinesthetic sort of guy.  He comes home from 10 hours in the corporate world and starts right in replacing that warped board on the deck.  Or the roof of the dog house.  Busy, busy, busy! 

He visualizes and plans.  Measures and sketches out.  He buys materials and builds things. 

He uses my Customer Loyalty card at Ace Hardware so often that when I finally went in to have a key made and gave them our phone number, the kid at the cash register said, “You’re Carolyn Plath!?”

Not that I don’t work anymore.  I do things.  But the things I do don’t require so much…exertion.  I read.  I write.  I fold clothes.  I, I…oh quit bothering me!

That’s the reverse of having a stomach ache because your retired spouse is too much under foot.  I’m concerned that he’ll keep a demerit book filled with my shortcomings.

What if he starts tracking my movements, more accurately, my slo-mo progression through the days.  Will he be there tapping the face of his watch as I wake up from my afternoon siesta?  What if he can’t wait until I finish writing that book?!

Here’s my nightmare for Day 1 of his retirement, the day after the party.  I roll over at 6 AM to find him bedside, smiling at me.  “Good morning Honey,” he says.  “What are you going to do today?”

Gives me a rash just thinking about it.