For nearly all the 29 years Art and I have been together, he has been the food shopper and the cook.
I was a single mom when we met, working full time and scrambling to get everything done. I had a pantry, but it was mostly empty because I bought groceries on the fly. When he first started spending time with us, he'd arrive with grocery bags full of canned goods, and within a few months he'd stocked the pantry shelves.
I'd been fixing meals for my elementary-school boys for six years by then, but they were simple affairs, dictated by the needs of the kids rather than by any enjoyment I had for cooking. Once Art's three youngest children started visiting (Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other weekend), it was harder. One night his six-year-old son Peter said, "My mom is a better cook." I said, "I'll bet she is!" (She is!). So Art started preparing dinners for everyone, and he has done it ever since.
Art is a coupon clipper and sale shopper. Maybe it's because he was one of ten children in a working-class family. He'll go to five stores and pick up what's on sale that we need. I take my list and go to the closest place. He says, "You don't shop. You buy." So he has done almost all the grocery shopping for 25 years.
Last summer, Art did the electrical work for the remodel of the lower level of our house. He spent a lot of time on ladders, reaching up. He has spinal stenosis in his lower back, and it got aggravated. After three months of pain, he got an epidural cortisone injection, which helped, and then he overdid and reinjured himself. He has been waiting for three months to get another injection. In the meantime, he walks bent over, because that's the least painful position for walking.
For nearly all the years Art and I have been together I have been the person who does the paperwork, operates the computer and talks on the phone. He is a man of few words and I am not, he doesn't like computers at all and I like them enormously. It used to be easier, but now we are older and we need to contact health care providers for appointments and medications and Medicare coverage and coordination of benefits between Kaiser Permanente for the six months each year we live in Washington, and Banner Health for the six months we live in Tucson.
Recently I've also been the person who gathers the trash to put it at the curb, who retrieves the newspaper most mornings, who changes the overhead lightbulbs on the porch, who rehangs the shower curtain after it's washed. Art hasn't got a lazy bone in his body, but he does have sciatic pain all the way down his legs since his back injury last summer. And, also recently, I've sometimes felt like he was taking advantage of the situation.
Then I had an insight. I am serving as a concierge to Art. That sounds more positive. And, thinking about it, I acknowledge that he has been my personal shopper and chef for a very long time. Seems fair.
I feel better now that I know I'm a concierge!
Art gets his second epidural injection on Friday morning. It's about time.