Carole waited behind the rest of the housekeepers to clock in and then made her way to the cart room with them as well. Sort of. She trailed behind with a couple of the older ‘girls’, unable to keep up with the younger generation whose laughter and chit chat echoed along the hallway.
It was her second week back to work and her body was still acclimatizing to the new change. By that I mean that most of Carole’s sixty something being was aching or paining in some way as she padded along. Her back was especially sore these past two days since she developed a limp from a blister on her foot due to a new pair of shoes and the limp made her use her back muscles in ways they weren’t meant to be used. She was exhausted.
About the second or third room into her day she found a rhythm and managed to finish all twelve rooms. Carole was allotted four hours but it took her four and a half and when she got home she grabbed a glass of ice tea and sat down on the couch to put her tired feet up.
“How was yer day Luv?” Ed’s gravelly voice reflected her own haggard state and she replied, “Not bad. We only had twelve rooms today and managed to keep up a bit better. I am happy that tomorrow is my ‘friday.’ ”
“I am so sorry you have to go back to work Luv,” Ed said as he brought her an ice pack for her back. She knew he meant it. Ed always prided himself on being able to provide for his family but since his last heart attack he could no longer work. He had a modest pension, but increasing medical bills, prescriptions and food and everything else made it difficult for them to maintain. Carole worked just a couple of days a week as a secretary when the kids were in school and that was the extent of her work history. It took some adjusting within the both of them to see Carole become the ‘breadwinner’.
Ed sat down next to her and opened the bottle of ibuprofen to give to Carole, who upended it to empty three tablets in her hand and then she gulped them down. As she handed the bottle back to Ed she noticed the tears start to form in his eyes again.
“Now stop Dearest,” she said and wiped the first of the tears from his cheek. “We are in this together and its really okay.” Ed could not contain himself any longer and he broke down at these last words. This was a daily ritual for them since Carole started back to work. Ed couldn’t help himself. His dear sweet wife being forced to work at this age and after all this time was a difficult situation for his manly pride to bear. A part of him was crushed.
Carole found it best to just sit and let the moment pass, she rubbed his hand and kissed his cheeks until he finally composed himself several solemn moments later. She turned his attention to dinner and asked how the roast in the crock pot was coming along.
“Just fine,” he answered, “and I think I’ve figured out the right way to make the potatoes this time,” referring to the distinct taste Carole always managed to give them – her secret was half and half, lots of butter and plenty of pepper.
“Sounds lovely Dearest, ” she said, smiling adoringly “You’ll be cooking as well as our son in no time!” she laughed. It was a long standing joke in the family that Sam was even a better cook than Carole.
“Pfffft!” Ed retorted, “I am not so sure about that, but I do know the value of a good vacuum cleaner now.” Since his wife went to work, Ed took it upon himself to do all the house chores. He had Carole teach him laundry and dishes before she went to work so that he could take them over once she did. It was the least he could do and it helped immensely to ease his guilt and keep him busy during the days she was gone.
The rest of the evening passed as usual with casual conversation about how much things had changed the past twenty years interspersed with the latest family gossip. They clung to each other mentally and emotionally within this quiet routine and the familiarity of each other. Ed fixed her plate, the same way Carole use to do for him, and got her bath ready after dinner. He laid out her uniform for the next day before going to bed. They snuggled in together, whispering short “I love you’s” in various form and drifted to sleep together, still holding hands.
At exactly four thirty hours Ed awoke and started the coffee for Carole. His internal clock never let him sleep past this time for as long as he could remember. He fixed her breakfast and packed her lunch and tenderly saw her off to work three hours later. Once her car round the corner of his street, he sat down at the dining table and bawled as if he were three years old again, unbeknownst to his beloved. Ed would never adjust to the idea of his wife working for as long as he had a breath to breathe.
Meanwhile, Carole waited behind the rest of the housekeepers to clock in…….
Author’s note: This story is dedicated to the thousands of senior citizens who’ve had to join the working ranks these past two decades as a result of the financialization revolution. May they find peace……