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Chuck Hinman No 079-C: Husbands, Stay out of the kitchen
It's Just Me Again No. 079-C: Husbands, Stay Out Of The Kitchen: Advice For Retirement by Chuck Hinman, September 2006. Sometimes Chuck Hinman revised his stories for publication. A revised version of this story appeared on ColumbiaMagqzine two years ago but this is the longer and more passionate original with a few minor changes by me based on the later revision. - Robert Stone
The Next Earlier Chuck Hinman column: Chuck Hinman, IJMA No. 082: Freddie, the Tallgrass Fly
by Chuck Hinman
Husbands, Stay Out Of The Kitchen: Advice For Retirement
I retired in August 1985 after working 35 years at Phillips Petroleum Company. When retirement came we were living at 7714 Lacy Hill in Houston, Texas.
In the months before I retired, I pondered what "important" thing I might do as my first official act of retirement -- like "something for humanity." But, the thing that came to mind most often was to clean the garage! Heaven knows it needed it but that seemed so mundane.
I had procrastinated cleaning the garage for so long, why get in a big huff about that now! I preferred something befitting my status in life, whatever that was. The word "B-E-N-E-V-O-L-E-N-C-E -- doing something for mankind" kept cropping up. It seemed I had always been too busy for benevolent stuff.
After getting up that first morning of my retirement and enjoying a leisurely breakfast with Connie, I was looking for something in one of Connie's junk drawers. This particular drawer happened to be in the kitchen. It was overflowing with non-descript scraps of paper and news clippings, etc. There was no particular order which drove me crazy. Connie always defended it as random order which to me seemed like an oxymoron. But she vigorously defended it saying, "get used to it -- it's me!" The drawers in our house were all "arranged" in random order it seemed. And so it was for 50 some wonderful years.
Vexed at not finding what I was looking for, I started fingering through those bits and snippets of paper. They were mostly handwritten recipes. Remember I am retired and have a perfect right to snoop a little - this is my house as well as Connie's.
Hmm -- Mom Hinman's mayonnaise dressing for potato salad. Mom's been dead since 1973 and I don't remember having potato salad with homemade mayonnaise in all those years. Here's one for Lindy's Cauliflower Salad. We had that many times at Lindy's place in Nebraska but I never remember it gracing our table. Here's one we had when either I or the kids made it. It's for Maxine Lewis's Blueberry Cream Pie. Ooh, my mouth is watering! Here's Kitchen-Klatter Pineapple-Coconut Delight. I don't remember ever having that and I want some for dinner -- today!
I picked up my cup of coffee and joined Connie on the patio. While reading how the Astros had fared last night at the Astrodome, my mind kept thinking about that Coconut-Pineapple stuff. Without telling Connie I had been snooping in her recipe-junk drawer, I said "Connie, why don't you fix that recipe from Kitchen-Klatter for Coconut Pineapple Delight?" She finished taking a sip of coffee before she replied, "Oh Darlin', I will but I don't know where the recipe is. Someday, I'll make that for you, sweetums." And she went back to reading something.
Her reply hit me like a bolt of lightning! I knew immediately what my first "benevolent" act of retirement was going to be! She didn't make any of that stuff for which she had collected recipes because she didn't take time to organize them. I hadn't worked 35 years at Phillips for nothing! If nothing else, I knew how to organize paper. That's what Phillips people do best; they organize and reorganize paper. Producing oil was secondary; organizing paper was what we really did.
I was going to straighten up her recipe box and miscellaneous recipes and we would start having things like Mom's Potato Salad with home-made mayonnaise, Lindy's Cauliflower Salad and Kitchen Klatter's Coconut-Pineapple dessert. And of course, Maxine Lewis's Blueberry Cream Pie. We hadn't been having those goodies simply because Connie had lost track of the recipes. I could fix that!
Benevolent acts are historically cloaked in secrecy as to the identity of the benefactor. So I located Connie's recipe box and took it and the junk drawer into my bedroom office. I started by dumping it all on my desk so I could start from scratch. I would bring order out of chaos. I closed the door so Connie wouldn't know what I was doing until I was through. Then I could emerge with an empty junk drawer and a box of perfectly organized recipes. I was giddy about what I had stumbled upon!
Lunch time came and I was making headway but no way near through. I was having a ball. After calling me two times for lunch, Connie came to the door and said, "Darlin', lunch is ready and I've called you twice. What are you doing, sugar?"
With great pride and a big smile, I announced, "I'm organizing your recipes!"
Oh -- oh! I had touched a nerve!
Her mouth flew open and her usual pleasant demeanor changed to instant rage as she screamed, "You're doing wha-a-a-t!" Her mouth formed ugly contortions I had never seen before! How often do you find a corporate executive humbling himself to straighten up his wife's recipes I reasoned.
She was dead serious, I could tell when with beady-slotted eyes she announced in slow clear contorted words, "LISTEN BUSTER, I HAVE BEEN RUNNING THIS HOUSE FOR THIRTY SEVEN YEARS WHILE YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING. YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVEN'T MISSED A MEAL AND I DO NOT NEED YOUR HELP IN ORGANIZING THE KITCHEN NOW. SO STAY THE HELL (maybe she didn't use that exact word but it best typifies her demeanor) OUT OF THE KITCHEN OR THIS IS GOING TO MAKE YOUR RETIREMENT UNPLEASANTLY LONG FOR BOTH OF US!"
I was stunned! What did I say that upset her!
Connie retreated to the bathroom and slammed and locked the door! Whew - she's mad!
Fifteen minutes or so later, she joined me at the kitchen table. I could tell she had been crying but she mustered a smile as she squeezed my hand and picked up her sandwich.
The subject never came up again and the next day I dutifully got after cleaning the garage which should have been my first official act of retirement all along.
As time passed I learned to not infringe in your mate's domain. You can help but don't dominate. How thoughtless of me! As Connie said, I never missed a meal when she ran the Chuck Hinman kitchen during our 50 years of marriage.
With tears in my eyes as I write this, I remember the last time she made my favorite Ranger Cookies. She had made them so often for me she knew the recipe by heart. Now she was in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease and had lost her place in the recipe as I came home from somewhere.
When she later went to a nursing home, the recipe box and junk drawer looked exactly as it did when she put a screeching halt to my organizational skills when I retired in August 1985. She wasn't a home executive all those years for nothing.
Random order, I am finding, isn't all that bad. I practice it in my apartment here at Tallgrass Estates as I reminisce the time my sweetheart Connie set the ground rules for our retirement years.
Written by Chuck Hinman, September 2006 (emailed 30 September 2006)
This story was posted on 2012-09-16 05:45:12
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