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Semi-retirement reveals unexpected surprises

Since closing our shop doors over 18 months ago, Jay and I are still making adjustments to routines, not only in our daily lives but with each other.

Since closing our shop doors over 18 months ago, Jay and I are still making adjustments to routines, not only in our daily lives but with each other. Some of these changes have come as pleasant surprises. Others, not so much.

I'll do the driving ...

But first, allow me to provide some background information. I have been the main driver whenever we go out. The reasons for this are myriad, but the main one is because I am a horrible back seat driver. I admit it. I was in a bad car accident 30 years ago as the passenger. The car was totaled and my right foot sustained five broken bones, ending my ballroom dancing career. And because most men drive a bit more aggressively then us girls prefer, to avoid knock down drag out fights, Jay relinquishes his keys to me whenever we’re in the car together.

As it happens, I herniated two discs in my lower back, making the sitting (and driving) position excruciating. I could stand or lie down, that was it. Driving was not an option for several months.

With the Nashville Civil War show looming ahead of us, I agonized over the fact that Jay would have to drive. How would my back and nerves withstand the ride? Jay came up with a brilliant idea; I could lie down in the back seat of his truck. Fortunately, I’m under 5 feet tall. This not only put me in a comfortable, semi-reclining position, but also blocked my view of surrounding traffic. What I didn’t know or see couldn’t hurt me or irritate him.

It worked like a charm. For the first time in over 20 something years, Jay drove and I did nothing more productive than read magazines. Most importantly, we didn’t want to kill each other when it was over. Ever since then, we follow this protocol for long trips. The only major adjustment has been loading all luggage into the truck bed, leaving room for me in the back seat. A small price to pay for a peaceful ride.

Since when do you like ...?

Jay and Melanie Thomas

Jay and Melanie Thomas, seasoned dealers in Civil War artifacts, other antiques and collectibles.

Another change to our lives centers around eating, specifically dinner. We not only live in a retirement community, but the entire area has a lot of folks over the age of 55. The local restaurants cater to this crowd by offering early-bird specials, nice discounts off regular dinners and other assorted come-ons to get us inside.

This works for me because I hate to cook. Unfortunately, I’m a good cook, so whenever we eat out and I get served a less-than-stellar meal, it gives me great angst and heartburn to pay for a meal I know I could have made better and much cheaper at home.

To provide some more background, Jay and I negotiated certain things before we were married 25 years ago. This wasn’t the first dance down the aisle for either of us and we wanted to do our utmost to make it work. The pre-wedding conversation went something like this:

“I don’t cook and I never will. If you don’t want to cook, we’ll go out.”

“Jay, we can’t always go out and I’ll never want to cook, but I will as long as I don’t have to do grass.”

“Fine, I do all the yardwork, you do all the cooking.”

Pretty cut and dry. And we have stuck to this working arrangement ever since.

So, because I do all the cooking and grocery shopping to go with it, I have a pretty good take on what my husband will and won’t eat. He’s not a particularly finicky eater, avoiding things that most men would: tofu, liver, and asparagus.

Surprise, surprise, surprise

So there we were, perusing menus at a small local diner when my eyes fell on the daily special: liver and onions. Because I never make this dish at home (who wants to make two separate dinners), I placed my order with the waitress. She looked over at Jay and he said, “I’ll have the same.”

The same?

“Since when do you eat liver and onions?”

“I like it every once in a awhile.”

“Since when?” My brain was stuck like an old record.

“My mom used to make it about once a month. Maybe it just sounded good for a change.”

Huh. So now I can add liver and onions to my repertoire of home menus.

There are worse things, as I soon discovered.

Soup for the soul

Whenever I feel “Jack Frost nipping at my toes,” I break out the soups and stews. I grew up in the northeast where cool evenings start in September and don’t leave until mid-May. I not only enjoy this type of fare, but I can make a huge amount and freeze the leftovers for another day. Less cooking is always a win-win.

One of my favorite soups is lentil and I have a dynamite recipe for it. When Jay’s dad was still with us, I always made extra and saved it for Frank. He loved my soup. His son, not so much. Jay will eat soup and stews, but he’s more of a steak and potato kind of guy. He’ll eat just about anything I put in front of him, barring the items mentioned earlier. But knowing lentil soup is not one of his favorites, I usually eat it for lunch while Jay fixes himself a sandwich.

Even though our Gettysburg store was closed, we still occasionally hooked up with our regular clients whenever we had new merchandise. There was one client, I’ll call her Marjorie, who enjoys my husband’s company more than mine. This is okay with me. I don’t care who she hands her cash to, as long as it keeps flowing in our direction.

Jay met Marjorie at the prearranged spot. The weather had just turned cool and Marjorie mentioned to Jay she had just made a large pot of soup. Jay asked her what kind and she told him. Guess what kind. You got it, lentil. And what did my husband tell her?

The penultimate betrayal

“I love lentil soup, but not Melanie’s.”

That’s right, ladies. The ultimate (almost) betrayal. Confessing to another woman that his wife was lacking in certain culinary skills.

“Well, Jay, I’ll take care of you and bring you some of mine.”

The very next day, Marjorie called Jay on the ruse she wanted to purchase something else. Jay met her again at the restaurant down the street from our old shop.

Sitting on the table was a brown paper bag holding a container of lentil soup. Jay consummated the business transaction, thanked Marjorie and grabbed her soup. When he got home, I asked him what was in the bag.

“Oh, just some soup Marjorie made.”

“Soup? What kind of soup?” I asked as I reached inside. The container was clear and easy to see through. My eyes fell on lentil soup, still warm from her stove.

“She brought you lentil soup? Why?”

“I told her I didn’t like yours and she offered to bring me some of hers.” Jay was totally unaware of the effect these traitorous words were having.

“You don’t like mine? I thought you just didn’t like lentil soup that much!” I was hurt and angry, not a good combination.

“What’s the big deal? It’s just soup!” Now he was irritated because I was irritated and he stomped out of the kitchen.

In the future ...

I was tempted to sample the soup. I really was. But my pride wouldn’t let me and I poured it down the drain while running the garbage disposal.

I pondered what to do about her plastic container. Throw it out or offer to return it? Two minutes later, I had the answer.

Next time Marjorie called Jay for a little “business transaction,” I’d be the one returning the container and taking her cash. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and affiliated websites. 

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