Widower at Trader Joe

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Bunny and Teddy signing the wedding registry in 1982, Our bridesmaid and best man married each other and are still together.

Last night I had endless horrible nightmares. This was because I accidentally noticed a job advertised that was perfect for me. It was a low wage but had excellent benefits. There were two problems – it was full-time and in downtown Houston which is about 40 miles away in frenetic driving conditions. Nevertheless, I was thinking seriously about it after I had investigated the cost of health care. I know exactly what my psychiatrist would have said – Noooooo!

So, before we went to bed we had a normal marital fracas. I thought he was already in the master bathroom but he had gone to pick up his notebook in the study. As I had turned all the lights off, he accidentally kicked our very sensitive baby cat in the dark. He blamed me, I started fecking about how stupid he was and we went to bed in bad humor with baby cat sleeping under the spare bed. I was so angry and wanted to go sleep with baby cat in the spare bedroom but knew that Teddy would have been so upset.

The nightmare was a variation on a recurring dream. As usual, I had not completed my equivalent of an Associate’s degree and was struggling to sit the final exam with one day’s notice. In reality I passed it all (in 1980) with no problem whatsoever and have endless other useless qualifications and experience (counselling skills, training for trainers, blah, blah). I woke up terrified at 6 am, worried that I was not going to have a business major and there would be a zombie apocalypse. I ran into the living room where Teddy was starting to feed the cats and ran into his arms. He asked me what was wrong but I was too traumatized to have words yet. He apologized for being grumpy the night before and life went back to some kind of normal.

Then I met with some other volunteers for our regular lunch and life was put back into perspective with someone else’s ill health. On the return journey an 18 wheeler truck tried to take me out on the interstate and yet again perspective was realized. I knew in that moment that someone who was made anxious by lunch, had neuropathy after a 45 minute drive for something pleasant, in slow traffic, could never manage a downtown job with a 2 hour drive both ways.

I asked Teddy if he would like to go to Chilli’s for a meal so we went this evening and had a lovely time discussing when we wanted to die. At the moment, 75 is my limit and I really mean that. He worried that his middle-aged forgetfulness was early onset Alzheimer’s and I reassured him that I would ‘take him out’. After that he wanted some chocolate so we went to Trader Joe’s. We stocked up on cheap wine, Peruvian giant corn and chocolate and went to the till. Our sales assistant, Ricardo, was new to me – I know everyone there.

Teddy attempted to pay the old way with a swipe of the credit card but Trader Joe is all set up for the chip, so you have to insert it. I tutted at his inexperience and explained to Ricardo that he wasn’t used to shopping, with a laugh. Ricardo asked how long we had been married and I told him 33 years. He remarked that we had an easy way with each other that only long married couples had. I asked him how long he had been married and he said, “She passed after 30 years”. My eyes filled with tears and we chatted about whether he was ready to meet someone else. Of course, I offered to find him someone and told him he was very handsome. When we left the store I nearly fell apart with the sadness of that and once again I realized how very lucky I was.  Count your blessings.

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A bad day

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Bunny and Teddy in Baja

My husband called me today, “How has your day been?” Immediately, I knew that he had bad news. He works in oil and we knew that there was a possibility of redundancy. He had been laid off and I felt a sinking of my stomach. I wasn’t quite sure what to say but told him to drive carefully on the way home. We have been preparing for this since the dramatic drop in oil price. I could tell that he was worried that I might fall apart but I didn’t.

He is a geologist with specific skills. When we first married in 1982, he had a job with a small consultancy. He had been working in Kuwait and things looked good but then…he was made redundant. It was devastating for him and he drove around all afternoon taking photographs before telling me. I was stiff with shock – I had a part-time job and we were already struggling to pay the mortgage and utility bills. Almost immediately he was offered a job with lesser status but the same salary for the sister company. His pride took a knock but at least we could pay the mortgage.

From that moment on we were careful with money, paid off our mortgage in our 40s and saved relentlessly. It was a valuable life lesson but harsh, nonetheless. We are fortunate, compared to most. We still have no mortgage, no debt, two cars paid for but what next? There are half made plans; opportunities with small oil companies; possible contracts in the Middle East but still nothing concrete.

I feel guilty that my mental illness makes it difficult if not impossible for me to be the sole wage earner. That said, I could probably get a job in the short term. His company has given him a generous pay off so we can relax over Christmas and then make definitive plans. Strangely, my thoughts today were with the people who jingle the bells for the Salvation Army. They have reached rock bottom and yet still have a sense of optimism. They seem grateful for every donation and cup of coffee offered.

We have drunk too much cheap Trader Joe wine today but know that life will improve. I was concerned for him because he was unhappy at work but couldn’t afford to move in case we lost essential benefits. Thank goodness we have lived in a third world country and are able to put life in perspective. He will get excellent references because he followed the rule: “Be good to everyone on the way up because you never know when you will be on the way down”. He is a good husband, provider and the love of my life.