Here's an update. Al and I no longer work. We quit our day jobs - me at the end of last year; him in March this year - to explore what would happen next. I'd convinced Al to retire as I was having such a good time not slaving away at work. Well, it hasn't quite turned out as expected.
I've written the following with husband, Al's permission. Hard to have any privacy when you're married to a blogger.
The other day, I was cutting out a paper pattern for a dress for my daughter. Sepia tissue paper off-cuts fell in a loose pile on the floor on my left, Dust motes shone through the afternoon light in my gemütlich kitchen - gemütlich - German word meaning cosy, warm, welcoming and more, according to my German teacher Do we have an English word that conveys so much? Ed Sheeran's heart-breaking yet uplifting music was playing on Spotify, reminding me of how I felt listening to a young James Taylor back in the early seventies. Seems to me that as young singer-songwriters, both have/had wisdom beyond their years. Ah, makes me wish I was young again. I popped back to about 1972 in my head. When I was a nascent seamstress I spent many a weekend cutting out paper patterns and making my own clothes while listening to music. It's still a lovely, easy and productive occupation.
Amidst all this, Al came in to stand, as he often does behind the kitchen bench: cook, thinker, observer. I didn't take much notice of him. Just registered that he was there; hoped Ed with the sound up wasn't bothering him.. I sang a bit of a chorus with Ed, lowered the volume a tad, then offered Al a random thought from my mind-bin.
''You know one thing I regret?'' I asked as I continued my cutting. No response from Al. I looked up at him. He was a soldier behind the bench, standing very still. He's used to me prattling; sharing my inner monologue. Facing me, he had the light behind him, handy at our age. I couldn't see what his face was doing. I noticed the outline of his bald pate, his ears, then resumed my cutting.
''I no longer have a waist,'' I lamented, cutting carefully around a sleeve. Something about making a dress had prompted the thought. ''I know my lips disappeared in the early 1990s; in the Kennett era,'' I said. ''Simply couldn't go out without lipstick from then on in. My waist disappeared more gradually though. In my late forties maybe? Early fifties?''
Thought he'd acknowledge that one, perhaps a brief humph; a little chuckle. Silence, well, apart from the music. I pressed on then, pushing for a reaction. ''I used to look good back in the day, Yeah?" Nothing. "Could have been a model if only I hadn't decided to devote my life to education.'' No comment. ''I didn't have the teeth. Hate my teeth. But I sure had the boobs,'' I was really plastering it on, in case you hadn't realised. Well, maybe not about the teeth and the tits.
Not even a tiny guffaw? What the...? I looked at him again. He hadn't moved. He remained at attention behind the cutting board; stock still. I put my scissors down. Was he all right? I stood and walked slowly around to his left so I could see his face. Sheesh. Was he having some sort of transient ischaemic attack? Do symptoms include apparent paralysis?
Suddenly, I realised what was happening and I was instantly hysterical and perhaps you had to be there, but I was. Bent double - I won't say at the waist - I steadied myself with one hand on the bench under the microwave, tears streaming, and relished the belly laugh. I'll avail myself of any opportunity for healing mirth.
'Glad you're amused,' he muttered quickly like a six foot ventriloquist's dummy, still frozen, trying not to lose count. Clearly he can't move his mouth and count at the same time.
You see, he was doing his pelvic floor exercises. It's a clench, hold, release thing and he needs to count out a few reps a couple of times a day.
About five months ago he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had a prostatectomy. Didn't see that one coming. Turns out we're a cliche; the couple who retire and discover that one of them has a potentially life threatening illness. Well, it was found in time, and, just three months after his major surgery he's made a remarkable recovery and is even back on his bike. For a few weeks after surgery he was frail, but since he's been able to he's religiously done his pelvic floor exercises, albeit without an easily entertained audience.
Glad we quit work when we did. We had a lucky break. Turns out that had he not retired, had he not felt a bit light-headed after riding up a hill in top gear on our first big post retirement cycle, I wouldn't have forced him to see a doctor to check his haemoglobin. (It's not enough for me to be paranoid about my own health.) He went along with it, pretty much to shut me up. That's when the elevated PSA - Prostate Specific Antigen - was discovered. It all happened really quickly. Cancer diagnosis, major surgery, and happily a bit later, an all clear. Wouldn't mind a dollar for every time someone told me it was a good cancer to get. Didn't feel like it, but in our case they were right, given it was found in time.
So that's what happened when we retired; a bit of bedlam that neither of us imagined.
What's more, in an awful coincidence, Al had his op two days after my beloved 86 year old mum collapsed, broke her arm and femur and sadly, subsequently, died two weeks later.