The White Cottage

MY DAYS IN RETIREMENT

Separation of Place and Family

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From the very day Nat and I moved to this fabulous little village, I’ve felt separated from all of my sisters and even my brother (despite living in the wilds of Northern Ontario). Only a half hour down the highway, to some it feels like a day’s drive away. Pack a lunch and let’s go for a day trip!

Yes, we’ve had family visits, have had family over for special dinners and even guests from England. How ungrateful can I be?? Nat and I have also been to their places and have always had a great time, but it never seemed long enough to me. I could never get caught up on everything that was going on. Too many people, too many events. Maybe just too nosy??

If I may clarify or explain, this has been a feeling I’ve had even while living in St. Catharines and only a block away from one sister. Isolated. No one knowing I was there. Married, or not, I still felt alone whenever we were all together. I was never in the loop with what was happening. I had no idea of what each sister was getting up to. It was only at family gatherings that I would huddle in amongst a group to listen in and see what was going on. My fault, of course. I hate the telephone – whether land line or cell. A working life time of being on the phone, dealing with good, bad and just irate clients. There was a time I would talk to an old high school friend for hours but it was usually about her love life. One sister (a self-appointed mother hen) and I would have a bitch sessions now and again, but health matters and marriage have put those times to bed. I’m the kind that likes to talk “mano e mano”.

You make your bed and you have to lie in it, and there stands the rub. Times have changed. I’ve changed (or so I’d like to think) and am wishing more and more to be involved in my other sisters’ lives. Somehow I now realize I need the sisterly inter-action. The camaraderie. The emotional connection. Sometimes, even the re-assurance. Each one of them have something to contribute and God knows, each have their own opinions. Each one of them also know how unabashedly independent and stubborn I can be – even dear hubby found this out early in our marriage. As I grow older and after 20 years of marriage, it’s taken me that long to realize I can’t always do it alone. Hubby (much to his frustration) has ever-so-slowly tried to tear down that wall. It takes constant reminding on my part that I have to let other people in. During our courtship I did confidentially confide in one sister about my relationship and it felt so wonderful to have someone actually sit and listen to what I had to say. Not criticize. Not judge. Just understand. I can still picture that day even now and I’m forever grateful for her advice. As I said earlier, this is my 20th year of being married. Trust me, no one would have seen that coming when I was 40 and single!!

A woman can sometimes get bored with a man (sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true!!). She needs another woman’s sympathy and understanding. Someone who “gets it”. Someone you can just bitch too. After 20 years of marriage and not really having a whole lot of outings with any of my sisters, I can sit alone with my thoughts, become depressed and lie to Nat that things are okay. There are times a woman just wants to bitch about “his side”. It’s not easy being a stepmother, with no relationship at all and it’s even worse when you don’t feel right telling your husband about all of this. Again, a man just doesn’t “get it”. Besides, he’s prejudiced.

I realize, too, that I’ve done some pretty goofy stuff in the past. I went through a lot of medical side effects after my transplant. I could tell people were being polite and wouldn’t say it to my face. I wished they would have!! It only made me continue on, wherein maybe I could have corrected or held back on some of those impulsive actions. But I continued to embarrass myself (and sometimes hubby) because no one would sit me down and just say “STOP”.  My one huge, huge grief – never ever lie to me. That old adage – If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all. A credo my family obviously stuck to. Hurt me once – I can get over it. Hurt me twice – I can be unforgiving.

At times I feel as if I’m being excluded. “Boring” has become my middle name. Maybe emotional instability has reared it’s head in the eyes of some. I don’t seem to have an opinion in the eyes of others – or at least one that doesn’t count. Unreliability – I’d do anything in a flash if asked – but maybe that’s a bit overkill. Every now and then I mull all of this over and before attending any family event I tell myself “shut up, listen, and be cool”. I get away from myself now and again – that’s understandable, but I’d like to think at most times I’m pretty good – at least Nat has helped whenever I ask.

I must take the first step. However “butting in” isn’t always a good thing. Getting pushy doesn’t help either. So I’ll sit and wait and continue on until someone tells me it’s okay to come out and play. Just don’t feel sorry for me ’cause all my life (the adult years, at least) I’ve lived on my own terms and have made my own fun and mistakes. I’ve survived just fine, thank-you!

Getting past all of this emotional crap, I’ve had this bug in my head about the kitchen cabinet door handles. The originals that came with this old house were not my style, butt ugly and difficult to clean. I’m facing reality, too, that there won’t be a renovated kitchen any time soon. Other repairs, renovations and upgrades have cropped up and the old reservoir is getting drier as I write. SO, I decided the least I could do to make things look a tiny bit better, was to buy new cabinet and drawer handles. I took on the task quietly without Nat knowing for a few months. Research online and in the hardware stores certainly gave me a huge amount of ideas. Then one day I announced it to Nat and naturally, he didn’t feel the need. “They’ll get changed when we renovate the kitchen”, was his reaction. “Can’t it wait until then?” he queried. Not in my eyes!! I get an itch and I need to scratch it right away. This little idea was not going away. I continued on my quest and then sprung it on Nat again this past week. My quick retort to his repeated statements – “Let’s face it, the kitchen isn’t going to get renovated any time soon as the money is almost gone. It’s going to take a few years to recoup what we’ve spent. At least for now I’ll feel better and it will make the cabinets look a bit more modern and clean”. I think I had him – he couldn’t answer and he knew I was right. Kitchen renovations are huge expenses – especially when you want new cabinetry.

As a result, after a doctor’s appointment in St. Catharines, we headed over to Lowe’s in Niagara Falls. I had found the handles I wanted online and we were there to make sure of their availability and amount. I got lucky. We grabbed the 24 needed and headed home. We would try and install them on Saturday afternoon. Rain was forecast and this would occupy a little of our time, plus give me a great chance to clean the doors thoroughly.

Saturday evening we were invited to Zoe’s 13th birthday. Cake and family – a no brainer.  The cabinet handles would wait ’til Sunday. We arrived early at the party after having a quick supper at Swiss Chalet and had a chance to sit with the kids and their parents for a half hour or so before the other guests arrived. I could see in Nat’s eyes, he was at least glad Zach had the hockey game on. Couldn’t hear the play-by-play, but at least he was seeing some of the game. Nat and I stayed long enough to have a piece of cake and see Zoe open our gift, along with a few others. We headed home early because the rain was now on and a night time drive back to Fort Erie. We both had a great time and a few laughs to lift our boring spirits.

This afternoon, the door handles were finally installed. I wiped down the cabinetry as Nat installed each handle and it makes me feel so much better. I can now look at kitchen cabinets that have had a bit of upgrading and modernizing – even if they are just door handles!! I’m happy!!

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Author: Twila

Born and raised in a small town in Ontario, Canada, with 5 sisters and a brother. Now retired, my husband and I travel, play golf and am slowly renovating our new (old) home. After my kidney transplant in 1999, we've learned to enjoy life to the fullest. Nat and I have driven across Canada, taken an Alaskan cruise and drove home via the Northern United States. We've also been to Mexico, the Caribbean, the East Coast of Canada and Cape Breton. We've done the "Snowbird" thing, having lived in Destin, Florida for a couple of months of the year. In 2007 we changed our travel plans in order to move into and renovate our new "old" home, but hope to someday get back on the road again. We also love returning to Scotland (Nat's origin of birth) to visit his family and tour the Highlands and surrounding Isles.

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