The perfect setup
A friend of mine often says G. and I have the perfect setup because we have my apartment in the city and his house in the country.
“D. and I would love to have two places like that,” she says. “You have the best of both worlds.”
But 16 months in, this doesn’t feel like the perfect setup. Lately, it feels cold. That’s because I wore my coat to G.’s house one day when it was cool, and then it warmed up and I forgot the coat in the closet when I was heading back to Chicago. This weekend, we had an unexpected cold snap _ or at least I didn’t expect it _ and I didn’t have a coat. I layered up with some fleece, but the wind in Chicago cuts right through that, so I’ve been fairly miserable for the past three days.
It’s probably a sign of aging, but when I’m cold, my back and my right shoulder, which I pulled years and years ago while dancing, hurt. After running around chilly and aching all day, I’ve been spending evenings laying on a heating pad. Luckily, I have two heating pads, one at each home.
And therein lies one dilemma created by our bi-state relationship: What things should I carry back and forth (when I remember) and what things should I buy two of?
It seems wasteful to have two of too many things. Every time I buy a duplicate of something I already own, I start thinking about world poverty and hunger and other big issues that make me feel like a spoiled American.
But, it often seems like every time I want something, it’s in the other state. A couple of weeks ago, G. and I were going dancing in Chicago, and I couldn’t find the shirt I wanted to wear. Then I realized I had taken it to Wisconsin weeks earlier because we planned to go dancing there, but never made it.
If we had, and I had worn the shirt, I would have brought it back to Chicago to wash it. That’s another thing that’s literally a pain: I often carry enough laundry, food, laptop and other items back and forth on the train to give me a backache.
In the beginning, I was carrying kitchen appliances back and forth too. Just small ones, such as my immersion blender, but they still added weight. Finally, I decided that was ridiculous and went on a spending spree in which I bought a second of nearly everything I had in my kitchen and stocked the one at G.’s house. I figure it cost me about $700, but it was worth it to not have to carry things back and forth or get in the middle of cooking something and realize I didn’t have the knife, blender or peeler I needed.
My mom and I talked recently about how sometimes it’s important to spend the money necessary to make the situation bearable. When I took the transfer to Chicago, I told myself it was for a year, just until the economy picked up, and then G. and I would figure something out. Now, there doesn’t seem to be anything to figure out. The economy is not picking up, there’s no work for me in Wisconsin and it doesn’t seem like there will be in the future. The state is still losing jobs and industry.
G. initially didn’t want to move because he had just finished rebuilding his house. That’s a whole story in itself, but in a nutshell, he tore his old house down to the foundation by hand and rebuilt it. It’s slightly bigger, about 1,200 square feet compared to about 1,000, but much, much nicer now.
Understandably, after three years of doing that work and having it nearly done, G. didn’t want to move and sell the house. Since then, he’s acquired even more reason not to move because his father is sick, and G. had to move him into an assisted living facility. We found a nice one about a mile from G.’s house and got lucky because they had just expanded, had a lot of open beds and were willing to take G.’s father even though he’s on public assistance. It doesn’t seem likely we’d get that lucky again, somewhere else.
Also, G.’s job seems relatively secure, and at 48, he thinks it would be difficult to find another secure, decent-paying job. Companies don’t like older workers. This freaks me out a little. I wonder: When did G. become an older worker? And at 41, how long do I have before I become one?
So, I am now just starting to wrap my head around the fact that this could go on for a while, for years even. We will have two homes, and I will spend about eight hours a week on a train, and G. will have to drive Biggie B. down to Chicago even though G. hates driving because the trains don’t allow dogs. We will commute and commute and commute because the thought of not being together, or not being together often, is even worse.
We have done some things lately to make the situation easier. We hired a cleaning person to clean G.’s house. I hired her, but then it turned out she’s the younger sister of one of G.’s childhood friends and they knew all the same people growing up. She comes every other week for about two hours, and last week she was there when G. came home for lunch and she caught him up on all the old neighborhood gossip. Even though she’s only there for two hours, she takes care of the major cleaning _ dusting, mopping and cleaning the bathroom and kitchen. Having her do that doesn’t seem to free up any of my time, but it eases my mind because I’m not worried about what I’m not getting done. I already feel attached to her and dread the day when she’s paid off her debts and no longer has to take side jobs.
My work schedule also changed (again), and for the time being I’m working Friday to Tuesday. This allows me to go to Wisconsin on Tuesday night and stay until Friday morning and means we can dance with friends in Milwaukee when they gather at a bar there on alternate Wednesdays.
G. and I met in a dance class, and I also usually go up Sunday after I get off work at 3 p.m. for the class in Milwaukee. On Monday morning, I take the train back to Chicago before work.
With me in Wisconsin four nights a week, G. has stopped driving down on Friday nights, when the traffic seems to be worse. He brings Biggie B. down on Saturday afternoons, spends the night and then goes back to Wisconsin on Sunday morning, when I’m at work. This seems manageable.
Before, he was also driving down on Friday nights and then going back Saturday morning to do more work on the house and garden, and then coming back Saturday afternoon. Spending that much time in traffic tended to make him grumpy. I think if it had been me, I would have just pulled over one day and cried from exhaustion.