I was part of the generation that grew up
thinking that the man of the house went to work and the wife stayed home and did
the cooking, housekeeping and rearing of children. It was the same relationship
my Dad had with my Mom and they stayed happily married that way for over fifty
years. My wife’s parents had the same kind of relationship so it was the norm
for us to behave the same way. So I ask you, why am I doing the laundry,
cooking, shopping and housekeeping? It started when I retired thirteen years
ago; my wife needed surgery for her back and required assistance with the house
work. “This will only be for a short period of time.” She encouraged me to do a
little more each day and that’s how the torch was passed to me.
The Alta Kakas men’s club meets every Wednesday at 10:30 for breakfast at a
local restaurant. I was surprised when, at one of those breakfasts, my friend
Reggie announced that his wife asked if he’d cook a meal for her and his Mom.
The women were having physical health challenges and asked him to help out by
preparing a meal. When the meal was served they both applauded and congratulated
him; they hadn’t known he could be such a good cook. “Mel, you should have seen
their faces as they ate, and you should have heard the kind comments they made
as they devoured the meal. I really enjoyed cooking and I think I’ll do it as a
regular thing. Do you cook, and do you have any recipes you’d like to share?” I
could hardly contain myself and I began laughing hysterically. “Reggie, your
wife knows the trick; she’ll have you doing laundry and housework soon. Arlene
did the same thing to me. I went from being the president of a small corporation
to being a chef and housekeeper.
“Seriously Reg,” I said. “I’ll gladly share some of my favorite recipes with
you.” “Me too”, exclaimed Howard and then the rest of the guys chimed in with a
similar response; within a few minutes we were sharing recipes. We were
interrupted when Budd quietly said “2 o’clock” and we turned our heads to view a
young beautiful woman walk past our table. I guess we’re interested in more than
cooking! The conversation quickly returned to our favorite recipes. I personally
enjoy cooking and preparing special meals or desserts for my sweetheart and yes
I enjoy seeing her smile and hearing her say, “you cook so well, so much better
Have you heard the story of two cannibals who had just cooked a clown and were
eating it when one turned to the other and asked…"Does this taste funny to you?”
Speaking of cooking, I had prepared a vegetable chicken soup in advance because
guests were coming to our house for brunch on Sunday. I arose early Sunday
morning and headed over to our local Publix supermarket to pick up fresh rolls
and salad and watermelon to serve with the soup and beautiful flowers for a
centerpiece. We set the table for their arrival at 1 p.m.; everything was
perfect, what a wonderful presentation. Our friends called at 1 o’clock and
informed us that they had to cancel due to circumstances beyond their control.
We handled it really well; we enjoyed what we ate and complemented each other on
the presentation. We then called our thirty-eight year old son Lew to tell him
there was Matzo ball soup, salad and watermelon ready to be picked up. He was
overjoyed and asked if it was Grandma’s recipe and if I would give it to him.
“Why?” I asked. He said, “my wife likes my cooking”. Wow, my wife didn’t say
that till I was in my late fifties; times they are a changing.
The way I look at work is best said by Dr. Martin Luther King from a speech
given in Buffalo N.Y. in 1956.
"We need more people who are competent in all areas and always remember that the
important thing is to do a good job. No matter what it is. Whatever you are
doing consider it as something having cosmic significance, as it is a part of
the uplifting of humanity” Be the best of whatever you are....
I’m amazed at how retired people add stress to everyday living even if there is
no need to. It may start with something simple like “has the mailman delivered
the mail? Did you say no? I’m waiting for something very important. Why is he
late today?” I think to myself, what could be important? The guy hasn’t worked
in five years; it must be a coupon for a fiber free cereal. I focus on
eliminating stress, so I am always a day behind picking up my mail. I’m rarely
disappointed cause the mail is never late. After all 60-70 percent is junk mail
or an offer for a free lunch from a financial advisor or a funeral home. I ask
myself if a little stress is necessary to bring my life into balance. When I was
working I used to use a slogan, amongst many, that says “worry works.” If I had
the fear of worrying about the future, I’d take action now. Today I have enough
challenges and don’t want more to cause me stress, so I try not to worry about
things that may not happen.
My loving wife has had health challenges since August and has had her whole neck
fused and a third fusion on her back in the last six months. I was determined to
be her caretaker and would not allow anyone but me to help her, or touch her.
This was putting a great deal of stress on me. Finally last December she
insisted that I at least bring someone in to help for twelve hours a week. I
hired Sarah; she was born in Romania, spoke some English, and needed to work. We
have two Bichon Frises (small white dogs) and when she’d enter the house they’d
get excited and run to greet her. She never had a dog and was frightened of
them, but they quickly won her heart. The breed likes to lick when they greet a
human and she’d yell in a high pitched voice “Look, they like me, they kissing
me.” I chuckled to myself; with her accent it sounded humorous. I know that
Arlene felt the same way. When I’d ask Sarah a question and she didn’t know the
answer she’d use the same high pitched voice and say “I don’t know.” We found
her foreign way of expressing herself in English very charming and cute. When
she went home I found myself emulating her voice and saying, in my best high
pitched female type voice, “they like me, they kissing me” and every so often,
when it was least expected I’d say “I don’t know” with the same inflection as
she did. Arlene and I would share a good laugh and this became a stress breaker
for both of us at a time when our lives were very difficult.
Arlene was in a lot of pain in those days and she only wanted to watch comedy on
tv and on rental dvd’s to give her respite from her troubles. We would watch
“Dinosaurs” a Jim Henson program from the early 90’s. There was a cute baby
dinosaur that would always say “I’m the baby….. gotta love me.” Soon I added
that to my silly repertoire, all in the high pitched voice. Arlene would laugh
when I would do the voices of Sarah or the dinosaur, so I decided that I would
create my own voice character to encourage Arlene to take her pills or eat her
dinner, and make her smile. I imitated a little girl and I’d say things like
“Gamma, you better be good and listen to Papa and eat everything on your plate.
Papa says if you eat that for a hundred years you’ll grow to be an old lady”.
So daily, as the mood would strike me, I found myself using these different
voices and my wife laughing no matter how many times I did ( I came up with all
sorts of cute responses with the little girl voice). Then one day she informed
me that if I do the voices when someone is in the house they’ll think I have
flipped out; our sons might even want to have me institutionalized. “They’ll
have you put away, they’ll think you’re insane.” I knew she was correct, as
always, yet I had a strong desire to keep on doing the voices as I was getting
good at it and very entertaining. I began a search for a hand puppet on the
internet. I found two that I liked, a French chef and a little girl with pig
tails. I call the French chef Marcel and the little girl Esmeralda. When our
family visits I use the puppets to speak with them, they think it’s hysterical.
My granddaughters want me to buy them hand puppets too. The puppets have taken
on personalities. And that’s how I handled my stress, continued to do my
“voices,” and went from being on the border of insane to legitimately
entertaining. I found I had a talent and a new hobby which was a great stress
reliever for my wife and me and that the whole family enjoyed. I guess there’s a
fine line between insanity and entertainment!
With the sun shining and Spring in the air, how can one do anything but smile.
G-d is good. Eat Kosher and have a wonderful happy month.
Mel (The fat guy)