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Warning: Retired man in area

He who is retired has rearranged all of the kitchen cupboards, while I am at work. Everything is alphabetized. Allspice is next to applesauce on the shelf; basil shares cupboard space with bread; spaghetti is next to string beans and salsa. It is very disconcerting to plan meals based on what is displayed.

He has done the laundry this week. I now have an orange, green and blue tie dyed turtleneck by Liz Claiborne. I liked the original model, which was pure white and cost $88.

Jack retired on Jan. 10. By Jan. 11 he completed a list of all the books we own and categorized them. He draws my attention to the fact we have 57 self-help volumes. I wonder if I will need to get more.

Jack has discontinued the garbage service. We will no longer contribute to the landfill problems. Everything will be recycled. All garbage will be returned to the earth from whence it came via compost piles along the fence in our field. The new neighbors on the other side of the fence have called in a construction company with huge machinery to erect a mound to block their view. They have added a dog, who I call Fang, to greet us every time we work on our compost piles.

Jack has taken over the weeding of my flower garden. The weeds have been dispensed with and so have the flowers. In fact there is not a living thing in sight unless I count the blackberry vines which are encircling my lilacs and crushing the blooms. Some of the blackberries have made their way into the barn and are crawling up the top of our camper. While I am at work, he has erected numerous birdhouses near the compost piles and feeding stations throughout the field. Any resemblance to the landfill site in Staten Island, New York, is purely coincidental.

I am rushing out the door to go to work one bleak, gray morning. Jack is snuggled under the quilts, but he whips out a red book as I kiss him goodbye.

“This is your notebook to mark down every cent you spend on yourself and on the house,” he says. “I have set up a grid on the computer and at the end of the month will enter all the expenses so that we track just where the money goes.”

I think that this cannot be happening. Here is this man challenging my way of spending money. I know that he is looking for ways to use his management skills, but I do not wish to be managed. There is nothing like going to T.J. Maxx or Ross’s and buying oneself pottery from Poland at one-quarter of the retail price, even if there are no more shelves to hold it. And then there are the dresses from Liz Clarborne that cheer one after another hectic week. I must find something for this man to do to keep him busy and away from grids.

For his birthday I gift him with painting lessons. Before long he is painting roses, tulips, seascapes and lighthouses; then he frames his work. Our house is decorated with colorful artwork. He who is retired is talented, and I encourage him to continue the lessons.

I call him from work, and he does not answer the phone. I ask him where he goes and why he doesn’t answer my calls. He tells me that he is either painting, working out and the health club, watching a classic movie or taking a nap.

At the moment the phones are screeching together “Answer me first!” and my boss hands me a 15-page grant that needs to be completed by tomorrow morning. Suddenly Jack’s lifestyle looks good to me.

I am ready to retire. I am ready for the good life. It will be so nice to escape the stress of the work world.

I go home and walk in the front door. Right in front of me is the stove. It is no longer on the wall where it belongs. All the food is in boxes in the living room. Jack presents me with a bowl of cereal for dinner. He announces that he is remodeling the kitchen and then the rest of the house. I recommit to two to three more years at my job.

Joan Waldron is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

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