95: 57 Steps to Paradise

95: 57 Steps to Paradise

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

57 Steps to Paradise

To be a queen of a household is a powerful thing.

~Jill Scott

My husband and I live in two separate condos, fifty-seven steps apart on the second floor of a two-story condo building. We’re happy, practically still newlyweds, having said our “I do’s” in June of 2012. I was sixty-six and Jack was seventy-five at the time of what we lovingly refer to as our “geezer wedding.”

We had no attendants, no ushers, no rehearsal, no rehearsal dinner. Just the two of us walking down the aisle of our church hand in hand, married by my cousin Jerry — a monsignor in the Catholic church — with more than one hundred of our relatives and friends there for moral support.

After the church ceremony they all joined us at our condo clubhouse for the most fun wedding reception I’ve ever attended in my life. We had live music, an open bar and a spread of mid-afternoon finger food that could’ve fed an army. My kids, their spouses, grandkids, brother, sister, their spouses, and one niece surprised us with an elaborate flash mob dance to the song “Get Down Tonight.” It was a magical day.

And so our marriage began and continues… in two separate condos. We sleep at his condo, where most of my clothes and jewelry live. Then we go to water aerobics across the street six days a week from 9 to 10 a.m., and go back to his condo where we have coffee (he), tea (me) and breakfast. He still eats Frosted Flakes. I make my own granola.

Right after breakfast, it’s like I have a job. “Bye, honey, see you later,” and I’m off to the outside walkway, past five other units to my condo just fifty-seven steps away. The place I call home. It’s where I work as a writer and where I prepare my speeches for my other career as a professional speaker. It’s where I fix a little snack in the mid-afternoon for myself. Jack, after all, has his own refrigerator and cupboards full of snack food, the kinds of things I don’t eat like hot dogs, white bread and potato chips.

My condo is where I prepare our evening meal. And that’s because I like my kitchen and my pots, pans, utensils and dishes better than his. I also like being in control of having at least one meal a day that’s nutritious for both of us. My kitchen is a place filled with lovely spices, bottles of sweet red chili sauce and a great collection of various flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars — condiments that my meat-and-potatoes man wouldn’t think of putting on a salad or on fresh veggies.

My condo is where I play on my computer after my workday is done. It’s where I read books, pay my bills, paint my toenails, organize my stuff, make photo albums, read my mail, paint jars and watch the TV shows that I enjoy. If there isn’t a ballgame on TV after dinner, my husband will come into my lanai, where my only TV lives, and watch a show or two with me. But the minute a baseball, football, hockey or basketball game comes on, and he gets that look in his eye, I smile sincerely at my beloved husband and say, “Bye, honey… see you around 11. Or maybe I’ll be over earlier and we can play cards while you watch the game.”

I can almost see the relief in his eyes as he gets up from one of the two recliners in my lanai and practically trots out the front door, down those fifty-seven steps to one of his three TV sets where he can settle in and do what God put him on this earth to do… watch sports from a recliner. In fact, at Jack’s retirement party years ago, before his beloved wife of forty-three years passed away, she regaled the audience by telling them that Jack was “a recliner that farts.”

Jack and his first wife had a wonderful, happy marriage, and to be perfectly honest that is one reason I married the man. He’s a good person who knows how to make a marriage happy and calm. When he agreed that we would live in both condos I knew he was a keeper.

At our ages, another thing I didn’t feel like combining was our names. I just couldn’t face the work of changing my name, again. Like many couples our age who had been married before, I wasn’t about to change all my medical, financial, social security, business, social, church and passport records. Besides, as the author of thirteen books, my byline is pretty important to me and I’m keeping it forever, thank you.

When I moved to Florida in 2004, I left a six-bedroom home in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the home where I lived for twenty-four years and where I raised my four children. After the kids were all out of the house, through college and on their own, I decided to sell the place and buy a two-bedroom condo in Florida. So I sold or gave away two-thirds of everything I owned. Thank goodness my children wanted some of my things, because now I can visit those treasures in California, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Because of all that purging, when I moved into my condo in Florida, I only brought the things I loved and wanted around me for the rest of my life, including some antiques and heirloom furniture that my parents had given me during my early married years. I wanted to display the hundreds of brightly colored painted jars I’d made over the years. I wanted my crock collection. Over a dozen crocks in sizes from one gallon up to twenty-five gallons. Three of those crocks, the twenty-five-, twenty- and twelve-gallon crocks, are used as end tables in my living room. My dad made round solid oak tops for them, and they are not only utilitarian because they store my out-of-season decorations, but they are also great conversation starters.

Jack, on the other hand, is a more modern-furniture kind of guy. He actually has good taste when it comes to decorating… it’s just not my taste exactly. So why shouldn’t he be in charge of decorating his condo and I be in charge of mine? It sure works for us.

Another reason we live in two condos is that after raising four children, mostly as a single parent, and spending most of my life running, running, running to various activities those four kids were involved in, I have come to discover that I love being alone. Alone in a quiet condo. No music, no TV, just me and whatever I want to do.

As a woman who can organize a dozen people to meet for lunch or dinner at various restaurants, yuck it up every day at water aerobics class and speak from the podium to 300 women and then chitchat with them later, I find it an enigma that I am basically a loner. But I honestly find my own company more comforting than mixing with others, even one man, 24/7. I love being alone in my own condo much of the day.

And I’m sure Jack would say the same thing about his alone time during the day. As president of our condo association, president of the small pool and clubhouse association and head usher at our church, he has plenty to keep him busy during the day in his own condo.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband with all my heart and enjoy the time we spend together… always from 11 p.m. until 11 a.m., and often more than that. We’re back and forth between the two condos three or four times a day. Jack often brings my mail over and stops for a chat in my writing room office. Or I stop by his place to put on my swimsuit so we can go for an afternoon swim together. Or we go the movies mid-afternoon.

But the fact remains that I love being head of my household. I like knowing that I can buy new bookshelves for my office or new expensive windows in the dining room and kitchen without even discussing the price with Jack. I pay for everything that involves my condo and he pays for everything in his.

It’s just that when one or both of us has the need to be alone, we can do it without hurting the other’s feelings. If I had to watch him watch sports on TV so many hours a day I’d scream and think he needed to get a life. But this way, we each have our own space that we’re in charge of. And we can do exactly what we want in our own homes. And by late afternoon I always look forward to seeing my man come in the door to have dinner with me.

I think he’s happy, too, to hear me come in his door at night, ready to relax, stretch out on our comfy king-size bed and do what we do every night of our married life. kiss goodnight and reach for each other’s hand before falling asleep.

~Patricia Lorenz

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