My Alternate Lifestyle   7 comments

Inspired by a friend asking the question yesterday, “How do you cope when Dale is gone on business?,” I wrote the following little essay.  It really brings to light just how different my husband and I are — different but very complementary.  When he’s gone, the differences really come out!

Over the years, Dale has has traveled extensively on business, from Toronto, Canada to the Dominican Republic, from Atlanta, Georgia to Tokyo, Japan.  Sometimes these trips have gone on for several weeks at a stretch.  He spent almost six weeks in Puerto Rico without a break to come home in 1986, the longest he’s ever been gone.  He spent four weeks in Nirobi, Kenya and several weeks in the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia.   (Or was it Thailand?  Who can keep track?) For some time, his frequent trips to China over the last couple of years were running two weeks at a time every month.

Recently, his trips to China have only been one-weekers which is a piece of cake for me.  A week goes by fast, especially the work days.  I get up and feed the Bubba-cat his breakfast and pills.  I have my coffee, read my email and check Facebook updates and go to work.   I buy my lunch over at the Revenue Building across the street since there probably aren’t any leftovers to take.  I work until 5:00 or later since I don’t have him waiting for me to carpool home. More often than not, supper is eaten out someplace, often at Key’s Cafe close to our house. I always have a book with me and read while I’m eating.   (In my moments of temptation, I hit up Old Country Buffet for their fried chicken and soft-serve ice cream for dessert!)

I come home after supper out somewhere, apologize to the cats for their supper being late (again), flip through the mail, and once the cats are taken care of, I sit down with the computer to check for an email from my traveling spouse.  I usually send off a reply and then play on Facebook ad nauseum.  Occasionally, I indulge in a movie he wouldn’t care for — like something scary or suspenseful, which he typically avoids if there is violence in them.  Then bedtime.  I usually read in bed for awhile, something I don’t do when he’s home.  Luckily, I’m a woman who doesn’t have any anxieties about being home alone at night.  I sleep well, in fact probably better than when he’s home because the bedroom is much quieter.

The bad thing is that he’s been leaving early Saturday afternoons on these China junkets, leaving me with the rest of the weekend on my hands.  I tend to rattle around on the weekends.  Sometimes I spend too much time on the computer, just wasting time.  Sometimes I sleep too much.  I don’t have anyone to suggest that we go for a motorcycle ride or pop in at the art fair in Afton, no one to voice an interest in trying out a new restaurant or taking in an indie film at the Lagoon. I don’t do these things by myself, and I seldom ask anyone else to do them with me.  I think that it’s my longstanding history of depression that makes initiating social contact, especially on the spur of the moment, difficult for me.

My mealtimes are off and my sleep schedule gets weird.  I’m a  night-owl by nature and can get my days and nights turned around very quickly when I don’t have someone else here to help me stick to a normal routine.  In my younger days, I had been known to go to a 24/7 grocery store at midnight or go out and mail a letter at the post office at 2:00 in the morning.  I don’t do that kind of thing anymore, but you get the idea of some of the things I do at odd hours when left to my own devices.

Since I eat most of my meals out when he’s away, I wash dishes once a week.  I mean, what’s to wash?  I use the same coffee cup everyday, rinsing it out between uses.  I end up with a sink full of cereal bowls, cat dishes, and spoons, a glass or two.  The night before he comes home, I eyeball my mess and clean it up so he doesn’t know I’m a slob.  (Yeah, right, like he hasn’t figured that out after 38 years of living with me!)

I pray it doesn’t snow much when he’s gone because clearing our driveway is a tough job for me.  I dread getting six or eight (or more) inches of snow when he’s gone.  I do what I have to do, but it’s hard.

My coworkers have been instructed to never, ever blow it off if I don’t show up for work someday when Dale is gone on business.  They are to call and check on me. If I don’t answer the phone, they are to find out why.  I realize just how alone I am when Dale is gone.  No other humans are in and out of this house on a predictable basis when he’s gone, and no one would know if I’m sick or injured.  My coworkers are the only ones who know my patterns on a daily basis, and they would be the first to know if something is not right.  I depend on them to keep half-an-eye on me when I’m home alone — just in case.  My coworker who lives only a few miles away is always asking me if Dale is here or gone.  Sometimes I think she’s nosy.  Other times, I’m glad that someone asks and knows what my status is.

It took me a lot of years to appreciate this, but my husband has a very stabilizing influence on my life.  When he’s home, I eat three square meals a day, usually fairly balanced, because he is an excellent cook and does all of the grocery shopping and meal preparation.  My bedtime is fairly predictable because he is one of those “early to bed, early to rise” sorts of people and if I stick pretty close to his routine, it ensures that I don’t stay up half the night (or all of it) and then sleep most of the day.  (This applies, of course, to weekends and holidays.)  Things get done on schedule when he’s home, whether it be errands or snow shoveling or auto maintenance.

But what I miss most when he’s gone is someone to share some wine with, someone to talk to about the random things that pop into my head, someone to snuggle with on the couch.  None of that happens when he’s gone.  I don’t drink when he’s gone, I talk to the cats, and although Bubba is sometimes up for a snuggle on the couch, it just isn’t the same.  Even though I enjoy a few days of my “alternate lifestyle,” I miss my soulmate when he’s gone, and all feels right with the world when he’s home again.

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Posted November 19, 2010 by StPaulieGrrl in Daily Life, marriage, travel

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7 responses to “My Alternate Lifestyle

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  1. I think I might have to start checking in on you when Dale is away. 😉

    Seriously, though, I understand what you mean about the stabilizing influence. I feel the same way when Mike is around. There are certainly other people in my life who are special to me, but nothing can compare to the company of a true soulmate.

    This is a beautifully written post, Bonnie. I’m happy to see you blogging again!

  2. Checking on me when Dale is away is never a bad idea, Lottie, and I’m not joking. When he’s gone, I realize just how alone and potentially vulnerable I am. I could slip on the icy front steps some evening, hit my head on the concrete, and lay unconscious in 5 degree weather. No one may know for quite some time. Let’s hope this kind of thing never happens, but I’m aware that my goose would be cooked if he were gone. With the exception of my coworkers, no one else sees me routinely sometimes for days.

    I hope that Mike is here for you soon, Lottie. I hope for that everyday. ((hugs))

  3. Let me know when Dale going away, and I’ll make a point of checking in with you.

    I’m going to call the National Visa Center tomorrow after work (they’re there until 11:00 PM) to confirm whether or not there’s something we should be doing right now. The letter I received wasn’t clear on that and I don’t want to be sitting around waiting when I should be taking action.

    I’ll let you know what I find out.

  4. Let us know if there is anything we can do: errands to run, forms to fill out, etc. We would like to see your family together under the same roof, too!

  5. I will definitely keep you posted. Thank you both for all your help!

  6. Funny, between the ‘how we met’ story & this one how much we have in common. I traveled a lot for years & Mrs had to deal with a lot of stuff while I was away. But I married well. You sound like a strong & independent woman, like mine. Congratulations!

  7. Strong relationships are built on the strengths of each person in a relationship. My husband and I both feel that we “married well.” It’s great to hear of people who feel the same way, Al!

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