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Marriage in the Long Run
Retirement has its ups and downs

What's it like having your driver home all day, every day? Ask Joanne who, after 39 years of being "Queen of my house," had to adjust to having her recently retired truckdriver underfoot 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "It's a whole new lifestyle and we are both learning," she admits. "It takes patience and a sense of humor."

Before her husband, Lee, retired, Joanne was concerned that he would literally sit in front of the television and while away the hours. After all, he never had time to be interested in hobbies or clubs while he was on the road. Their six children took much of his time and attention when he did get home, so he didn't have a lot of free time for himself.

These days, Joanne and Lee have found a way to enjoy their children, their grandchildren and their new life together. They've been able to travel more often, and to get away for family events. They aren't tied to schedules and dispatchers anymore.

When asked about some of the challenges in adjusting to his retirement, Joanne listed a few of her frustrations, but was quick to point out that there are benefits to having him home too. It took her a while to get used to having the television set on for hours at a time. (Unfortunately, Lee is somewhat hard of hearing, so this makes the volume level unbearable at times.) Joanne copes with this by playing her organ with her headphones on. She takes lessons twice a week, which also gets her out of the house.

As wives of professional drivers, we are used to washing clothes, dishes, floors and children's ears without thanks. It's a rare treat when our husbands come home and take some of these responsibilities from us.

"I told him that the chores around this house are gender neutral," Joanne said. "He's been spoiled all these years. Everything was done for him. I no longer say 'thank you' every little time he does something around the house." No one ever tells me 'thanks' for cleaning, cooking, [or] laundry."

After spending years alone, it is sometimes frustrating to adjust to having another person around. "I'm not used to having someone ask, 'Who's on the phone [or] at the door?' 'Where are you going?'" Joanne added, "When I'm working in the kitchen he is always coming in to get something to eat or drink . that means he is literally underfoot!"

Once she was bending to get something out of the oven and Lee bent over to get a kettle out of the cupboard and Joanne, "almost got butted right into the oven . wouldn't that make a great cartoon?" she asks.

Despite the challenges, there is "good news," as Joanne calls it. She now has someone to help with the chores, take the garbage out, shovel snow in the winter and mow the lawn in the summer. She admits that he does do a little cleaning, but she's working on getting him more involved indoors. "But then, that's my fault, she points out. "Not his. So, we're working on that."

Joanne says that the biggest relief for her is that she no longer has to worry about his safety on the road. She isn't wondering where he is, or when he'll be home, or what the weather is like where he's at. It may be a challenge adjusting to having her husband home every day, but Joanne is coping well. "Do I wish he was back on the road?" she asks. "Not really (except some days) . He isn't doing anything wrong, he's just there!"

Although Joanne and Lee are just getting used to each other after 39 years of the trucking life, they are fortunate that their children and grandchildren are nearby and their health allows them to enjoy time with their families. When Joanne gets frustrated, she recites the Serenity Prayer. "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference."

Some day, most of us will have to make these major lifestyle changes. Learning to become a couple again will take time, but that can be a time of freedom and togetherness. We'd love to hear your stories on adjusting to retirement. Please share your experiences with us at the address below.