Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rehearsing Retirement

I find myself unexpectedly on family medical leave for about the next three to four weeks.

No, no one here just gave birth. [Wiping brow in relief just at the thought.] This past Monday my wife fell and injured her knee. Finding the ER waiting room surprisingly empty (I guess you don't get a lot of gunshot wounds at Labor Day picnics), we got taken care of in pretty short order. We received mixed news:

  • On the up side, the injury turned out to be a slight break, not as bad as the previous one, requiring an immobilizer but not a cast.
  • Also on the up side, I got a lot of compliments on my improvised scrap wood and duct tape leg support-immobilizer attachment for the wheelchair.
  • There was some bad news too: due to budget constraints, the hospital no longer validates parking for the lot across the street.

My wife isn't in any pain other than what would normally be associated with having me home 24 hours a day. Mostly she's just understandably frustrated about being immobilized.She'll be laid up for a few weeks and, until she can look after herself, needs someone with her. With the boys away at school and the cats saying they'd like to help but it's not in their cat-union contract, it looks like I'll be home for a while, playing the role of gentleman farmer.

There are adjustments to make and every day we're figuring out work-arounds to manage another one or two normal things. The overall pace of juggling house tasks is constant but not hectic. After several days of me sleeping on the sofa and my wife sleeping in the lounge chair - getting upstairs is not an option at the present time - we finally remembered yesterday that the sofa is the sleeper kind, so last night was actually spent in the relative comfort of a real bed.

The cats, much of whose daily routine revolves around our normal bedroom, are walking around very confused these days. The whole business of us relocating our lives to the living room was disorienting enough for them. Yesterday, when a bed magically appeared there, their bewildered stares moving back and forth over it nearly made everything we've been through so far worth the trouble. I can only imagine what they're thinking, since it's in the very spot that, every December, a tree that blooms cat toys mysteriously grows.

One good part of all this is that I'm getting to do some real cooking. Up until now I've made mostly fun, individual items when I felt like it - baking a pie, things like that - or making a batch of something or other to have for lunch that week. For the first time I'm having to plan out and make contiguous meals - a protein, starch and vegetable that are coordinated enough to seem like they're
not the culinary equivalent of a ransom note with glued letters from eight different newspapers. It's fun and interesting and requires a lot of "ok, let's see what we've got in the house and what can I do with it," something the plan-every-step-beforehand cook I've always been never had to do. I'd always been a disciple of Ina Garten for the odds-and-ends stuff, but now that I need regular meal items on a daily basis I'm quickly coming to appreciate Tyler Florence. Great stuff, and not complicated for someone making it the first time. Yesterday alone I made two of his on the spur of the moment: roasted rosemary potatoes, and green beans with almonds and caramelized onions. At this rate I'll be going through his entire list of recipes before my leave is finished, kind of a K-mart version of "Julie and Julia." Other recipes are coming from wherever I can find them; an outstanding (and thankfully simple) baked salmon recipe came from the back of the salmon fillet package. I'm learning a lot, too, from my wife's directions.

In some ways the hardest part of all this is not having a day-structure provided for me. That kind of freedom is fine for people with discipline, but what about the rest of us? I'm hoping to keep up with what's going on at work through phone messages and e-mails. My goal is to keep them from realizing how well they function without me.

Unrelated Item 1: No Love Lost

Memo to self: Do NOT get Serena Williams angry.


miss alaineus said...

sounds like your wife is in good hands and will be on the mend and up/ around soon.


Tawnya said...

Well, at least you are being handy in the kitchen. I love recipes and have many many recipe books, another chef on Food Network that is easy to follw is Rachel Ray. She is kinda annoying, but her recipes really are a 30 minute dinner. I have made several of them and they really work..

oldhousegal said...

I will email you links to two websites that I think will be very helpful to you in your new cooking adventures.

As far as struggling with the lack of structure, all I can say is -- I'm so envious!

Angie said...

Who needs structure? How I laughed at your "scrap wood and duct tape" immobiliser! That's just the kind of thing Keith (hubby) would do. I wonder if there's anyone in the world who uses duct tape for what it's meant for? What IS it meant for?

love, Angie xx

Amy said...

aww.....being stuck sucks. I hope your honey heals quickly!

are you accepting guests? i'm getting tired of cooking....:-P