Red Beans and Rice for a Weekend/Warrior

One of the things I’ve noticed since retiring:  I no longer really distinguish between weekdays and weekends as I used to do.  Then the weekend was the time of respite from the week of teaching, advising, conferencing with students, grading.  Wait.  Not from grading.  That tended to go on all the time.  Yet I became more and more reluctant to grade on the weekend if I could manage not to.  Those precious days were mine.

Weekends were when I had to crowd in time for everything else; sometimes I could run errands during the week, on Fridays particularly since I didn’t teach on Fridays.  But a lot of projects waited until weekends.  I know the term “weekend warriors” originated to describe people in the reserves, but I think a lot of us are weekend warriors of a different sort.  We work on the weekends to complete things that we don’t work on during the week.

Now though, the days are all mine.  Sort of.  Once I’d moved to Egan, my weeks fell into a different pattern:  MWF/TThSaSu.  Dialysis days and not dialysis days.  Dialysis days and doctor days.  And I’m sure that is the way the time will divide itself once more when Dad comes back home.

Since he’s been in Southwind, my time has been spent on renovations and being around while the contractor worked.  Sometimes I’d run errands while he worked; sometimes I’d go away for hours.  But on the whole, my days were spent in the house, doing errands, and visiting Dad.  Nights were when I managed to paint, to try to box up things, to move what I could.

Weekends — most of them— have been Lake Charles time.  My sister Kay and I joke that I have the M-F shift and that she has the weekend shift.  Weekends became the sleeping time, time when I tried to recuperate from exhaustion.  And tried to keep in touch with friends by having coffee.  Many times, sleep won out over going to dinner or having drinks.  I have a 5 on/2 off schedule, mostly — five days on, two off.

This weekend, though, I stayed here in Egan.  The last days that the contractor worked were primarily spent under the house and outside, replacing the plumbing.  So much of the plumbing in the house was ancient — galvanized pipes from the 1940s.  The “new” plumbing (circa 1966) was a jumble of four different types of pipe, from galvanized pipe to oilfield leftovers to pvc.  By Friday, the plumbing was all new, and I didn’t worry anymore about lack of pressure or anything.

Those days I spent indoors, working on painting and cleaning and trying to figure out what I’d packed in what and where I’d moved it.  By Friday, I was physically tired.  As long as I needed to go full steam, I could, but once that need had passed, my body knew it and simply shut down on me when it wanted to.  It didn’t consult me; it just did it.

And that’s what happened this past weekend.  By Friday, I was just exhausted and wondering whether I was coming down with a cold or had caught a bug.  When Tim the contractor left that afternoon, I lay down for what I thought was a nap.  I woke up about 7:30 p.m., realized I wasn’t going anywhere, and called Dad to tell him I really didn’t feel well; he told me just to sleep.  Which is what I did.  I had already missed seeing my friend Mike play guitar at a coffeehouse in Lake Charles.  I decided I was simply crashing and that Lake Charles would wait a few days.  I turned over and went back to sleep without setting an alarm clock.

Saturday morning I woke up about 9 a.m.  I spent my Saturday beginning to catch up on washing clothes, staining the new bed frame I’d bought, and reading and watching television.  I didn’t even dress until I went into town to visit Dad.

My brain had also decided to go on strike, I think.  I’d try to start the blog, only to find that I couldn’t manage more than a few sentences.  Nothing.

I hadn’t had that kind of exhaustion in a long time.  Not since I retired in May 2011.  It was what I used to experience post-finals every semester.  I was always grading like a madwoman at finals, and when I turned my grades in my brain would simply go on strike.  It wanted mind candy, murder mysteries mainly, and a break from any kind of organized thought.  I guess that’s what happened this past weekend.  I gave in to it; I read and watched television and worked around the house.

And I cooked.  Yesterday, hoping to tempt Dad’s appetite, which has flagged so much that he’s lost an alarming amount of weight, I cooked a pot of red beans and sausage.  He’d also requested cornbread, so I baked some, using a cupcake tin to make it easier for him to manage.  I knew my sister and niece were coming for the day so I decided to wait until suppertime to visit.  Two visitors would be sufficient, and since our friend Billie was also likely to visit, I thought it would be easier on Dad if I waited.

So yesterday I puttered around the house here in Egan in my nightshirt.  I didn’t have to dress; no one was coming until Kay and Rachel dropped in after leaving Southwind.  By then, I’d dressed and was washing another load of clothes.

They dropped in for a little while to visit.  Rachel hadn’t seen anything we’d been doing, and this was her first chance to see everything.  Kay and I visited and talked about plans for the house, for when Dad comes home.  After maybe an hour, they headed back to Natchitoches so that they could get home at a reasonable hour.  Kay hasn’t retired, after all, and she had to be at work early this morning.

After they left, I watched more television and folded clothes.  I put up the shower curtain in the back bathroom.  I started sorting through some of the stuff in the new office, making a path through the boxes and chairs so that I could manage to get around.  I bagged some things to throw out.  There’s now a pile of four or five bags waiting to be thrown out.  The dilemma now is where to throw them, since the garbage truck failed to empty the garbage can on Friday.

Probably I’ll take advantage of the fact that Egan has a garbage dump.  That means I’ll load up the truck and head off to the dump.  Probably not today, though.  Those bags will wait.

Today I’m just trying to get my brain to work again, and it seems to be willing.  At least, so far.

Now I simply sit here working on the blog, wondering when the plumbers will show up today to finish the last few things they need to complete. I hesitate to start washing or drying any more clothes.  There are a few dishes to wash, though, and I need to put the bed frame together so that I can take the mattress off the floor.  Hippie style mattress on the floor:  okay for the short run, but at 60 I really prefer not to have to haul myself up off the floor when I need to get up.  The charms of that simplicity have run out already, and I want to be a grownup again.

There’s a paper to proof for a friend. And since I’m heading to Lake Charles for the night, I guess I ought to put my few things in a shoulder bag.  I don’t need a suitcase, after all — I have clothes at both homes.  I just need my medicines and my iPad and my laptop.  And myself.  And a tank of gasoline.

In fact, I hope that the weather is sunnier than it is now.  I have dreamed of driving with the top down, and I’d like to do that if possible.  Of course, that means I have to clean out the car, which looks as though I live in it.  That won’t really take long.

It’s Monday.  The weekend is over and my workweek has begun.  It’s not the work I did for so many years, but it’s work nevertheless.  Some people worry about what they’ll do in retirement; I never really did.  I may not be doing what I’d planned, but I’m learning every day that retirement is truly what I laughingly referred to it as:  I never said I was retiring.  Instead, I said I was graduating.  Again.  And so I have.  I’ve graduated into a new life.

So maybe I do still see time in terms of weekdays/weekends.  It’s just not in the same work context, however.  Weekends still have their uses, apparently.  Mine provides renewal still — just from a different kind of work.

Mondays used to have their own song: “It’s just another manic Monday.” — No, Belinda Carlisle and the GoGos.  It’s not a manic Monday anymore in the same way that it used to be.  It’s Monday, but not so manic.  Kind of slow, in fact, which is a joy.  I can putter around the house,  I can take breaks, and I don’t have to grab books and teach and have office hours and grade.

I’m still a warrior of sorts, but a slower one, battling a new kind of front. Managing two houses, juggling my needs with Dad’s, and trying to find some kind of balance.  I still have goals to achieve — to join Anytime Fitness in Crowley, to make time to exercise, to travel to England and Greece and Italy and wherever I can manage, whenever I can manage.

Time to switch gears now, to take a break and dry some clothes.  It’s Monday, after all. At least the red beans and rice are ready for lunch.

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