There is an old adage that says absence makes the heart grow fonder. I was thinking about this recently because my husband is away for a while. When he travels he says that I don’t miss him, while he misses me. That isn’t exactly true. What happens is that I adjust to him being away, which in my book means that if I think too much about missing him I have a harder time during the separation.
For a number of years now my husband has been traveling during the summer — three months or four months at a time typically. When we lived in DC I had a lot of support systems to make this work. We had several dog walkers, who could come during the day, and someone to look after the yard. So, even though I was working full-time, and I had to get up 30 minutes earlier to get the dogs walked and fed, it all worked out. This year, in a small town rather than a densely populated suburban area, it is much harder.
First of all, Shiloh had surgery four weeks ago, exactly one week before Larry left. Shiloh is my black lab who has very bad arthritis in one front elbow, and some arthritis in the other; the surgery was for an ACL and meniscus tear in the rear leg. This actually the second surgery on that leg, but that’s another story. When I picked him up the day after the surgery I got a seven page set of directions. These included: remain in an enclosed area, no running, no jumping, no roughhousing with other dogs, no stairs, and whenever he goes outside he has to be on a leash. These instructions covered the twelve weeks post surgery.
So the work began. First I had to contain him in a small area. We put a baby gate in the kitchen. That lasted about five minutes. He barreled through it a number of times before I realized I had to put a chair with something heavy on it in front of the baby gate. I put the dog crate behind the baby gate so that when you open the baby gate my other dog, Barkley, could go into the crate and with his weight prevent Shiloh from pushing the gate down. I came up with a system for blocking the stairs with two chairs and a laundry basket full of dog toys on them. For the first week my dog with barely two good legs was still trying to knock over the baby gate and push over the chairs blocking the staircase. By week two he had adjusted to this new routine of living in three rooms and a hallway so I didn’t have to jump up every few minutes to stop him from going near the danger zones of the stairs or the couch.
I also had to keep Barkley similarly confined and happy and have him NOT play with Shiloh. This meant keeping him occupied and tired.
Then there’s the evening routine. Since stairs are a potential landmine for recovery as dogs tend to jump up more than one stair at a time, and going down is equally harsh on a recovering bone, I have to carry him up and down. After the first day alone I realized that I could only do this once a day. This dog weighs 66 pounds on a good day. I am a middle aged woman who is in good physical condition and works out, but still . . . up stairs?? I developed a strategy for this as well. I put Shiloh on a chair in the living room, sit down next to him and get him on my lap, using my legs as leverage I push off, and carry him up stairs, down the hallway, and put him on my bed. Shiloh likes to be on the bed before we go to sleep, so if I don’t put him there, he will try to jump up. And jumping is bad for healing bones.
Then there are the six exercises I have to do with him daily, if he will let me, and the physical therapy that starts later this week. On top of this, there is the garden, the various repairs, the watering, the laundry, and somewhere I am trying to have a personal and professional life.
What was the original question? Do I miss my husband?
Do you see where this is going?
I am very busy and every day is full. On the bright side, when I make an appointment for the vet or the landscaper or the chimney guy, I don’t have to check first to see if it’s convenient. I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner or when to go to bed, or what movie to pick up from Redox. I can meet with my friends or go on an outing when it works for me. I just decide and do it. No discussion, no negotiation, no compromise. This is the positive side of singleness.
Now the negatives: I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in over three weeks. The dogs start getting restless around 6 AM. They don’t recognize Sundays or care if I stayed up late watching TV. They have to relieve themselves and they can only wait so long. I don’t have anyone else to take the garbage and the recycling to the curb, which is a long walk from the front door. I have to walk the dog every day, and pick up the poop and entertain myself. I pay the bills and balance the checkbook and make travel plans.
Do I miss my husband?
Of course I do. I love him dearly. We’ve been together nearly 20 years. He’s my best friend and my darling. I trust and respect him and laugh and cry with him. But for now, he isn’t here with me and life goes one. I focus on each day as it comes, on the dogs and the garden and the house and on my work and social life. We talk frequently on WhatsApp or Skype with the seven hour time difference. He sometimes tries to tell me how to handle something and I gently or not so gently tell him thanks, but I’m good and I’m here and he’s not so back off. He tries to be helpful and I get prickly and remind him that if he really wanted to help he would be here.
Do I miss him? Of course. If you’re reading this right now Larry I’m sending you hugs and kisses. And don’t worry, when you get back I’ll be happy to turn over the dogs and the house and the bills and the yard work into your competent hands and take a nap.