07/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Remote Control

My husband took the week off. I can't recall the last time he did that. He's taken a day off here and there, and has missed only two days of work since we married: once when he had shoulder surgery and another time when he had a stomach virus. Oh, yes, and he's taken some half days off for golf -- but that's because he conducts "business" on the golf course. For the most part, he works to the point of exhaustion: one particularly hot day last summer, he nearly passed out in the subway, and I rescued him from the 59th Street stop. That's what happens when there's a heat wave, and you forget that a fifty-something body needs more than five hours of sleep per night and can't spend nine days on constant "go." He's been doing one thing or another every day so far this week -- golf /business yesterday and Monday, and rehearsing a power point presentation on Tuesday. In between, he bought some dress shirts on sale and two pairs of shoes. Knowing my husband, in about a week, he'll tell me that the shoes hurt his feet and the shirts will go to the laundry and he'll complain about the way the collars are pressed.

After nearly thirty years, I know him.
Today, he's home. It's mighty weird.

Neither of us showered this morning. I walked the dog -- usually he walks the dog first thing in the morning. At the moment, he's hooking up the DVD player in our bedroom that I've been asking him to connect every day since we moved into this apartment in February. This morning, I asked him again and he said what he always says, "Oh yeah, right, I'm gonna do that." I asked him what about the notion that he always says that (with a disclaimer that I feel like a nag) and it's still not done. So, now he's burrowing in a box of tangled wires, and he reminds me of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton when they decide to move a dresser and pull out all the drawers so it's not that heavy -- except they stack all the drawers on the dresser top. I'm skeptical.

We just had pizza. Our son and his girlfriend ordered a pie at 1:30 in the morning based upon the receipt. The pizza box was on the black dining table this morning at 8 a.m. and I was relieved to see that there wasn't a huge white mark from the hot oily box. I have been craving pizza now since this morning. Yesterday, I craved pancakes. I don't know what's up with that. This morning, my husband and I looked through boxes of old photographs -- some of them from 30 years ago before we were married. It was startling. Until you look at pictures from 30 years ago, you don't feel the scourge of time. Yes, scourge -- and it is truly onomatopoetic -- say it slow and the word "scourge" just tears right through your soul as you see what time has onomatopoeically wrought. I think that's what made me just say to hell with everything, and heat up the pizza. I can't remember the last time I ate pizza let alone for lunch on a weekday. Typically, I have some berries and yogurt, almonds, maybe some granola if I really go nuts and drink a good 16 ounces of water or green tea. Seeing those pictures made me think who cares what I eat? Have all those nuts and berries and antioxidants really done me any good?

"Want some ice cream?" I asked my husband , half-joking, when we finished the slices.
"Funny," he said.
"No, really," I said. "Imagine if we were retired and we just sat around and ate pizza and ice cream. We could even buy an RV."
And then we just looked at each other in mock horror that wasn't so mock.
"Back to work," he said, pressing his hands down on the table to hoist himself up.
"To work?" I asked, the pizza having interrupted the DVD hook-up.
"I mean the DVD," he said.

Do I think my husband will successfully hook up the DVD player? Yes and No. I think that it will require three remote controls to get it to work, and I will need an instruction manual, and he will forget how he connected everything and I still won't be able to watch DVDs. But I could be wrong. Historically speaking, I could be correct. That's what happened in the last apartment.
He just called me into the bedroom. He hooked up the DVD. And my expectations were wrong -- it only takes two remotes, and it's not as complicated to use as I thought.

And so, when the day comes and my husband retires, what will life be like when one person who is bent on doing things yesterday and the other who procrastinates find themselves in the same place for hours at a time? What will happen since I work from home and he'll no longer be suiting up, grabbing his briefcase, and heading to his office? Is this the reason that retired people become snow birds? Guaranteeing warm climates year-round and thus preventing the chances of being snowed in or holed up in hurricane season? Avoiding a little too much togetherness?

"Pretty good job, huh?" he boasted, handing me the DVD remotes.
I was going to give him a round of applause, and decided that would be unkind and provocative.
"Thank you," I said. "Wonderful."

Now, it only took my husband about ten minutes to set it up with the pizza break in between -- so how come I had to wait four months? The latter is a question not to ask on this momentous day off. After nearly 28 years of marriage, I know better.

As for entertaining prospects of any early retirement, I'm just hitting that pause button on the remote for now.