Today was a good day. I accomplished a lot, filled my house–even the garage–with good music, and succeeded in doing something I’d never done before.
My wife was a superb manager of our home. She was a frugal, canny shopper who didn’t drive all over town looking for bargains, but still fed us very well for very little. She did it without me most of the time–she said that when I went along, it took longer and we spent more. I was delighted with this arrangement.
Household tasks of the domestic persuasion–shopping, washing dishes, laundry, and housecleaning–have been things I have eschewed at every opportunity. I have always despised them–as much as for their monotony and repetitiveness as for anything else–and am eternally grateful that God gave me a wife who viewed home management not as a duty, but as a calling. Like motherhood.
Donna was a trained bookkeeper, and early in our marriage I realized that managing our finances because I thought it was the husband’s job was a foolish pursuit. She knew the drill. “Reconciling” the chequebook was a great way to describe what had to be done when my numbers began to misbehave.
My view of these tasks is changing. I almost choke as I type this, because I never thought I would see myself say such a thing. But an evolution is taking place in my life, now that I am alone. An evolution of perspective.
The first phase was disdain. Actually, that isn’t a strong enough word. Profound and unmitigated loathing. There–that says it. I’d rather have had my teeth drilled than wash the dishes. Folding laundry in a way that satisfied everyone in the family confounded me. And those fitted sheets were invented by a singularly demented soul, perhaps the devil himself. I am not a shopper. I am a consumer. I decide what I need, find out where it is, make sure I can afford it, buy it, and leave. No muss, no fuss. I love the internet.
In those times when I did help Donna with her housework, there was a grim satisfaction just in finishing something I found unpleasant. Checking stuff off the Honey-Do list induced, on occasion, a little too much silent glee.
When my wife became ill, I saw these tasks in a new light. Now, they were things I could do for her that she could no longer do herself. They were a way to serve her, and in that they brought a measure of joy. Before, I could often serve her best by staying out of her way. She was a domestic machine. A Zamboni. But when she was ill, mindless duties like washing dishes and folding socks became welcome distractions from her pain and my sorrow.
Now that she is no longer here, and I realize I have no choice but to do these things for myself, I often think about how she would do them. I am grateful for all she taught me. (My mother tried to teach me these things, too, but I wasn’t listening.) I have discovered that I’m not helpless–there isn’t anything I have to do here that I don’t know how to do. Today I shopped, cooked, did the laundry, and re-packaged my meat and fish (purchases of which I was quite proud, thank you very much) into smaller portions and marked them appropriately before freezing them. Just as Donna would have done. I even made granola. When I go to bed, the dish drainer will be empty, and all the laundry will be folded and put away. I take pleasure in the fact that I think she would be pleased with my performance. And maybe a little astonished.
My perspective has reached a new level. It’s not pleasure–I can think of many other ways to spend my time that would afford a lot more pleasure–but it is the absence of displeasure.
And I think that’s about as much as I can hope for.