I jerked awake, arms and legs tangled in the sheet and comforter, my pillows in a heap on the floor. What happened? What did he say?
Where am I? Oh no, not again. Not another nightmare, another shadow on my day.
If I were wearing a red-bordered name tag, it would read, “Hello! My name is Charlotte Angstrom Eddy McAntic.” At school, I enrolled with my given name, but I changed it to Charli when I was a preteen. Now I answered to hon, Mom, Auntie, “Where are you?” or “Help!”
When I was a teenager, at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, my friends and I were convinced that we wouldn’t live, or didn’t want to live, past the age of thirty. But of course I did survive to cross that infamous, untrustworthy threshold. I spent my thirties, forties, and even my fifties in peace and harmony aligning marriage, mortgage, careers, and children.
I married Pud, a no-nonsense, hardworking, establishment-type guy. Somewhat surprisingly, based on his serious, no-frills demeanor, he parlayed a math degree into an exciting career supporting open-wheel auto racing. I started out as a free spirit, and I ended up taking the more traditional route. I earned a law degree, focused on contracts, and then dedicated myself to my favorite jobs—wife and mother. Our two boys were young adults now, almost launched, although still within the orbit of Planet Home.
Thanks to love, the stars, and a little help from my friends, the seasons gently went round and round.
So why was I having bad dreams?
I aimed to be joyful. Most of my screen names and usernames contained some form of the word joy to remind me every day to be a positive person. I believed that something wonderful was always around the next corner. From a first grader who daydreamed during reading circle and then discovered an exciting game on the playground to a shy teen who bought an ice-cream cone and then flirted for the first time with the guy behind the counter, I always knew that something thrilling would be around the next turn.
But now, my husband was newly retired, and some of my home responsibilities had eased up, as well. Yet my personal positivity was challenged. Was there really something amazing ahead for us at this point in our lives? I didn’t even know how many miles or corners remained for us, let alone thrills.
Pud and I had been in harness for over thirty years, creating a home, raising a family, being responsible. After all that, I had to admit that I was bewildered by the way Pud and I were getting along now. Not only was Pud leaving me and heading to the golf course morning, afternoon, and early evening; even when he was at home, he was quiet and withdrawn. We didn’t talk very much, and I didn’t feel close to him. When he was away at the golf course, I was lonely. When he was home, I was even lonelier.
We seemed to be at a distance from each other. We were like people passing each other on a walk, smiling politely and saying nothing beyond “Hi” or like acquaintances waving across a busy restaurant. We were cordial but not close—and certainly not husband-and-wife close anymore.
Who was this stranger in my house? I suppose when Pud worked and I was more involved with my home and children, we had grown used to going our different ways. Pud traveled so much for his job that we literally were physically apart for much of the time. Had we also separated emotionally through the years?
I had high hopes that when Pud retired, we would have fun together. But what exactly should we do? Just take it easy and binge watch multiple TV seasons? Or have contests to see who could read the smallest print without reading glasses, or who could count his or her pills into the plastic compartments faster?
I didn’t seriously expect that we would spend dreamy hours of bliss in twin hot tubs sighing at the ocean view like in the TV commercials, but I did crave some romance now that we had time together after the busy years. I yearned to hold hands as we smiled and looked deeply into each other’s eyes. I desired to lovingly stroll together into our golden years. Pud was strolling, all right—hand in hand with a golf club.
Part of me understood that the guy had worked hard his whole life and certainly deserved the opportunity to indulge his golf passion, and I could even go so far as to say that I was glad he had something interesting to do and wasn’t just hanging around the house with the retirement blues. Truth be told, we lived on a golf course, so I had to expect some golf. But the other part of me wasn’t expecting golf to be a new forty-hour-a-week job.
The men’s league was on Tuesday; Wednesday was a men’s group at another course in town; Thursday, Pud and his buddies traveled to different courses around the state; and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were mandatory golf days. What about me? What was I supposed to do? Sit on a bench at the clubhouse and wave as he made the turn?
Some of our friends assumed that I golfed and that I enjoyed golfing with Pud. Wrong on both counts. We attempted to hit the links together early in our marriage, but I was too much of a type A personality and competitive. Pud was just as type A as I was, and when I had trouble learning the game, he became an impatient teacher. I was his frustrated student. Pud was a scratch golfer and relished the competition with his male buddies. I gave up and decided that I had better things to do than spend four hours on a Saturday afternoon on a good walk spoiled.
It was time for me to get up, but the dream had left my thoughts swirling and careening like an out-of-control carousel. Carousel? Oh, that was part of my bad dream too. There was something about clowns leaning from carnival horses and waving signs as they went round and round. What had the signs said? Pud, stay home! You can’t make him stay home! What should I do? I needed to catch the brass ring of blissful married retirement. Charlotte! You need to stop tormenting yourself. Take a deep breath, and think calmly.
Charlotte McAntic spent her thirties, forties, and even fifties in peace and harmony aligning her marriage, mortgage, careers, and children. As she stumbles into a new phase of life—also known as the Golden Years—Charli cannot help but wonder where the gold and her husband, Pud, are hiding.
Pud is happily