Friday, August 19, 2016

Division of Labor

Last week, the fire alarm went off in our building

The firefighters came and checked it out, but they can’t turn off the blaring alarm, which is skull splitting. It’s okay for someone “authorized” to turn the alarm off once the firefighters have given the “all clear.” That someone used to be my husband, but I never bothered to watch how he did it. It pretty much goes without saying that no one else who lives in this building has a clue, so I had to figure it out. Now I know.

On Sunday night, around 10:30, when I was taking the recycle out, I smelled gas coming from the laundry room. That’s the only place where there’s anything fueled by gas – the water heater and the communal dryer – and I thought that maybe the pilot had gone out in either one of these appliances. That wasn’t the case. Since paying the gas bill is the responsibility of the condo association’s management company, so I didn’t even know what our gas company is. I took a chance that it was Eversource, which provides my electricity, and called their gas leak number. They put me through to National Grid, and within a half hour, two National Gridders were here to figure out what was going on. What was going on was a gas pipe coupler, located in the recently-vacated apartment of an elderly man who died last month at the age of 99, wasn’t really coupling. I got the National Grid repair guys into Jack’s vacated apartment and hung with them for a couple of hours while they made the fix. What I wanted to do was go to bed, which is what I probably would have done if Jim were still alive. Dealing with emergencies like the gas leak were his thing, not mine.

Earlier this week, I got the plane tickets for Venice for me and my sister Trish. (We’re heading there this fall.) Given that Trish has a full time job, a kid, and a dog, I put my hand up to do the trip planning. It’s not a big deal to make plane reservations, yet I kept putting it off. Jim used to do all the trip planning. I’ve been on plenty of trips since Jim died a couple of years back – Ireland, NYC (three times), Chicago (twice), Scotland, Dallas, Tucson (twice). But for some reason, I’m not that wild about taking care of the details. Jim was really good at it, and I do believe he actually enjoyed it.

Like most couples, Jim and I had, over the years, worked out a division of labor.

Jim dealt with the repairmen. He planned the trips. He worried about retirement. He turned off the fire alarm. He was vice president in charge of television. He made the restaurant reservations. He took the trash out.

I was vice president of information technology. I dealt with painters. I remembered birthdays. I got the pictures framed. I bought the sheets and towels. I did the laundry. I took care of the recycling.

I suppose that, other than my being the vice president of information technology, our roles were more or less gender driven, but we never sat down and figured out who was going to do what. It just happened over time.

Most of what I miss about my husband is not that there’s no one other than me-myself-and-I to see to the little “stuff” Jim took care of.

I miss the hanging out. I miss the laughs. I miss having someone here when I come home. I miss taking the trips that Jim so meticulously planned.

But I do have to admit that, however wonderful it is to be completely self-sufficient and independent, it’s kind of a drag to have to take care of all of life’s little stuff. Plus, when I find myself having to deal with the National Grid guys, it’s just another reminder – as if I need one – that Jim’s gone.

Not that I sit around boo-hooing about it. It’s just that it really does make me sad when something comes up that was on Jim’s side of our division of labor.

1 comment:

valerie said...

What an elegant tribute Maureen. Thank you for sharing.