My wife was confident that her retirement would be an easy transition to make. One day she would be hard at work at the office; then suddenly, she wouldn’t be. Simple as that. But for the first half of June, she kept asking me what day of the week it was. And, when I went back in the bedroom one morning while she was still sleeping, she opened her eyes and asked me if I had an appointment. I told her it was no longer necessary to pack her lunch before she went to bed, nor did she have to eat her sandwich out of a Tupperware container.
Our first vacation to celebrate her retirement was to South Carolina for a look at historic Charleston. We always have great guides, but my problem is that I can never remember anything they tell me, especially if they start ranting about whose sister married whose cousin who moved to Virginia who then settled in Charleston before rebuilding this house and adding an extension that still has the original wallpaper. But when I hear something interesting like: “The slaves were instructed to whistle while transporting the master’s dinner from the kitchen to the dining room, to ensure they didn’t sample the food,” well, I’ll never forget that little tidbit. But I probably should, because apparently it is not true — at least according to a website called American History Myths. I’m gonna cut the guide some slack here. I’d rather remember something that was incorrect than remember nothing at all. I started to feel more strongly about this when I turned 65.
At one self-guided tour site, we placed headphones on and hung a recording device around our necks. We were then directed to the first room of this celebrated home of someone whose name I don’t remember who did something I never heard of. But the real problem was that my wife and I did not push our start buttons at exactly the same time. The result was that when her headset was telling her to look up at a 200-year-old chandelier, mine was instructing me to behold the magnificent original carpeting. Seeing me look down, Mary Ellen thought I was uninterested and kept poking me to pay attention. Of course, I thought she was just in a daze looking up at the ceiling, so we were both wondering why we paid 40 bucks apiece to be totally bored.
The other problem with the tape was that they tried to time the narration with what was a normal person’s speed of walking, so it was only after I fell down three steps and crashed into a mahogany credenza that I was cautioned to “Watch my step.” At one point I turned the wrong way in a corridor and bumped into Mary Ellen. The audio was telling me that what I was looking at was a true original but was in need of some restoration. I never told my wife why I was laughing.
We are back home now and Mary Ellen is enjoying her leisure time. She’s even started cooking again. The other night she prepared a delicious meal and asked me if I would mind carrying the dish out to our back porch. I was happy to oblige, but I wish she hadn’t made me whistle.