I tend to visit quite a few blogs on a regular basis. As one who blogs herself, I appreciate the perspective of other boomer and retirement blogs, as well as creative blogs, money saving blogs and travel sites. I enjoy almost all of them. Unfortunately I don't link to articles from other bloggers as often as I probably should, and I rarely comment on blogs. I say this even as I know that we all appreciate comments and input and emails (an I will try to be better on this). Occasionally though, I read a blog post that I need to comment on or share here. More rarely, although there are blogs that speak to me, are those times when I want to say "Yes, This", "I can so relate", or something along this vein. And so it is with Kathy Merlino's current blog post. I hope she'll forgive me for piggy-backing to her post on the topic!
When I was in Germany, my department chief was English. She was a joy to work with, and a lovely person. (as an intelligent woman who travels in Europe and works outside the UK regularly I know that she is totally distraught about current events, but that is a story for another time) I learned more than a few phrases that are now permanently in my personal dictionary, including stone the crows, and I'll come around and knock you up. Celia's husband is retired military and the Chief of Staff. They had no children. More importantly to this discussion, they did everything together. When he was getting his doctorate, she went to the library with him. They literally spent all of their free time together and much of their lunch and mid-day time as well.
I remember well one of the first times that my husband went on a four day ski trip via bus with the Frankfurt Ski Club. When she realized where he was, her first comment was "You have plenty of vacation and comp time, you and your son should have gone along". When I let her know that I had never, ever gone on any of his ski trips, she was shocked. "Don't you want to be with your husband?" I reminded her that I had a damaged knee, and that skiing was not in my proverbial wheel box of skills and never would be. Spending three and a half days sitting in the ski lodge reading or doing whatever while John was skiing with his buddies from dawn to dusk was not my idea of quality time. This was something my friend never quite grasped. She was of the belief that our time should be spent together, always. And the idea that he might be officiating a basketball game on Saturday while I was doing quilting with my friends was equally foreign to her.
My husband and I married later in life than many do. We had both been in committed relationships, and I even had a young child. More importantly, we had both lived alone for years after college and had our own habits and quirks. More importantly we each had developed our own hobbies and interests-many of which we did not share. My husband skied. He officiated a variety of sports, both youth and adult. He was active in small community theater. I had no interest in the former, could not really participate in the officiating and while I occasionally filled in helping at the dinner theater, was not really involved. My son played many sports (the reason my husband started officiating), and helped with set design and other non acting jobs at the theater. He was always an avid golfer, a hobby which my son identified with and joined him.
I on the other hand loved all forms of quilting and crafting, long distance walking (usually alone), bike riding and Volksmarching. I played pinochle. I took college classes. I could go on, but you get the drift.
Obviously, we had many, many interests together. We both loved to travel, both locally and far away. We had both lived in Germany for many years prior to marriage, and both had already been considering moving to Germany and even retiring there (that move took along time). We both loved film, although he, having attention span issues, preferred to watch at home so he could get up and put on pause. We both loved really good food and would eat almost anything you can name (my list of things I wont touch barely passes five fingers). We both loved the theater, classical music and classical rock and bluegrass and the blues. We would love to spend the day downtown in Washington DC going in all the museums. I could go on. The thing is though, that I never thought he should stop doing what he enjoyed just because it wasn't my thing, or because I had another commitment, any more than I would have cancelled my annual quilting expedition because he would have no interest.
This this extended to other areas of our relationship-including parenting. When there was a van tour with limited seating the first year we were in Germany to visit the Battle of the Bulge site and see Patton's grave, I passed. And they both had a wonderful time. On the other hand, since my husband had no leave when we first arrived in Germany, I took my son for a week's vacation in Normandy. Where I saw every single battle location, every one. My kids are ten years apart and for many years, I was the mom who drove the girls to the mall, where I then went and saw a movie by myself, while my husband stayed home with little bit and watched the sporting events of his choice.
Prior to my husband's illness, we had begun the discussions of where to retire, and what we both needed in terms of geography and and services. We also discussed what we didn't want. As many readers know, our choice was to remain overseas, and that is very likely the long term choice I may make eventually, but that is beside the point. We were excited to be able to do the things we enjoy together more often, and both looked forward to slower times together. We also took into consideration our individual interests, and how we would fit those into our retirement lifestyle.
I know that everyone has expectations of what marriage will be like in retirement, and sometimes both views mesh and sometimes they don't. Without picking on the men, it does sometimes seem to me that men who retire seem to have the post retirement "togetherness" need more than women-but maybe my perception is skewed. I do know that for us, our togetherness really needed to be balanced by both alone time and by individual time. It always worked for us and I somehow feel sure that would have been true in retirement.
And, while we don't plan as such for death or divorce, I do have to say that I believe our lifestyle was a big help in my post widowhood world. While I did have grief and loneliness, and still do on occasion, I did not have to wonder what to do with myself. Since I had hobbies I did alone, I was not someone who looked at everything I did and rejected it out of hand. It took me some time to appreciate the joys of single travel, and sleeping alone. I missed him cooking for me, and so very much more.
On the other hand, when I quilted, went to book group, went out to lunch with friends, and went to the morning matinee? These were things that I had always done with other friends or alone, rather than with him. So every little thing, every single day, was not a reminder of him. I can only imagine how someone who literally does everything with their spouse survives those experiences. I also had many friends, separate from my husband, and he did the same, which was a great help, but probably a topic for another day.
The bottom line is that I appreciate the kind of marriage and independence we each had, and cannot image another. But that's just me, and others need their own level of togetherness. How about you?