The Regression Of Middle-Aged Man Back To Toddler

You worry about how your marriage will evolve with age. You prepare yourself that one day there may not be enough to hold you together and you’ll end up another divorce statistic. What you never consider is that you might end up alone when your husband decides to become a hermit. sand-1500351_1280

 

As another dinner party looms ominously closer this evening, I’m concerned about getting the old man to actually leave the apartment. I understand that this is a common problem with middle-aged men, who can become so set in their ways they regress back to the behaviour of toddlers who are known to be highly reactive to change and things they don’t want to do.

 

It is becoming more and more apparent that the old man is not just the grumpy, old, middle-aged sod I had begrudgingly grown to accept, but that he would actually prefer to live on his own and pledge his troth to his man shed and the dog rather than me.

 

There have been signs of his yearning towards a solitary lifestyle for some time, that I’ve either chosen to ignore or bullied out of him, but the attraction has strengthened with age and as he becomes more intolerant to life in general.

 

Since he began to work from home, he rarely leaves the apartment unless he has to –  for exercise and to buy food. Fortunately for him there is a gym in our building – I call it a ‘gym’, but it’s actually the size of our kitchen, which as you know makes an appearance in the Guinness Book Of Records for being the smallest functioning kitchen ever designed. The gym holds two pieces of equipment, which the old man fights over with the Chinese lady on Level 1, who cleans down the saddle of the bike each day before her husband uses it.

 

The old man never cleans it down after use.

 

I managed to persuade him to come out to lunch with me at my favourite noodle restaurant the other day, because he was looking a bit peaky and I had watched an ugly, nervous rash develop when I reminded him about our weekend plans, but he got himself in such a state about the hoards of ‘people’ at the train station that he accidentally rubbed chilli in his eye and ended up crying through the entire meal, then made some excuse about needing to get back to check the post box.

 

The little conversation he has these days is with The Princess, who does a good impression of listening to him. However, I suspect that she isn’t as bright as we her proud parents like to believe, and so their dialogue is more likely to render her into a permanent state of confusion, and maker her more and more anxious by the day.

 

I’ve stopped turning around to him now when he says ‘hello, beautiful!’

 

He occasionally shifts from the two seater sofa to the three seater sofa, I assume to mix things up, which I see as a positive sign when he is such a creature of habit and bagsied the two seater when we first moved into the apartment. No-one apart from the Princess dares sit there.

 

Instead of going to the golf driving range, he has converted the small area in front of our lounge window into his golf practice area and we have the dents in the ceiling to prove it. He practices his small game down the narrow hallway to the bedrooms and The Princess, a willing partner in their symbiotic relationship, retrieves the ball for him each time.

 

Meaning there is less and less reason for him to leave the building.

 

He has told me that he will only holiday in Australia next year and now I am beginning to think that by Australia he actually means the Lower North Shore, which is the area in which we live. He has begun to graffiti ‘keep free’ through weekends in the family calendar.

 

This is why I expect him to throw himself on the carpet and kick and scream around 6pm this evening.

One Man and His Man Cave

 

Tip Or Man Cave?
Tip Or Man Cave?

Our celebrations have been tinged with a sense of undeniable loss this week, as we closed the front door for the final time on our old house.

Selling the house was cause for celebration; the ‘loss’ was suffered by the old man who was forced to farewell his leaking shed and the facilities of Kimbriki Tip.

I’ve mentioned the old man’s questionable fascination with Kimbriki Tip before; his home from home. (Why Gardening Can Lead To Divorce.)

My husband is a man caver, (like my son is currently aspiring to be). Man caving is apparently a fairly common pastime of a lot of middle-aged men, who allocate more of their free time to their man caves than to their children at the weekend.

His distress was evident as we began the final stages of de-cluttering the house, and my heart almost broke as I watched him tearfully clear out his crap precious artefacts from  the shed.

That shed held a myriad of good and bad memories for him. It had been his smoking bolthole when he thought none of us knew, our dumping ground for things that had no other home, but most importantly, it was his own precious man-space.

When we first bought the house and planned the renovations needed to create our dream home, (that is, before we got the quotes), I remember him saying to me, ‘Build what you like, Lou, I just want a shed.’

So I gave him his shed, although admittedly it did have one minor design fault in that it was slightly prone to attracting water in wet weather.

Shed With MoatHence the money allocated in our renovation budget to my spangly cushions and weathered oak beach furniture had to be spent on drainage solutions for that fucking shed. None of which worked. And it was only when the old man, either in desperation or because his cave issues had sent him barking fucking mad, suggested a moat, that I finally pulled the plug on financing that useless piece of corrugated iron crap and bought him a pair of wellies instead.

Nerd Child backed me up (for once), helpfully reminding her father of the physics involved in the relationship between water and an un-level garden. Apparently water will always travel downhill and if a shed is foolishly located at the bottom of a garden, (and in a suburb renowned for some of the wettest weather in Sydney), the shed will not always remain dry underfoot. It was a poignant moment in their relationship when she put a comforting arm around his neck and said, ‘it’s time to give it up, Dad.’

So with a white elephant for a shed, the old man was forced to source another man cave and Kimbriki Tip fitted his criteria, becoming his refuge for the next six years.

If he had a bad week at work, he consoled himself at the tip; when things got stressful at home, he scarpered off to the tip.

Which is why it was with such a very heavy heart that we dumped the final load of our shit at the tip on Sunday. As we passed through the first barrier and saluted Dave, there was a weighty silence in the car, only broken by the old man’s observation of, ‘fuck me, they’ve increased the charge for general waste to $15’.

Security At Kimbriki TipSecurity is worse than at JFK Airport at Kimbriki Tip. An unfounded sense of guilt assaults the nervous system even when you know you aren’t concealing any paint pots under your veg, and the body twitches uncontrollably in the effort of trying to appear as normal as possible as you pass through the two Gestapo checkpoints.

I always imagined some Bond-esque action sequence taking place as I waited in that queue nervously. I envisaged this army of helicopters suddenly whirring into life overhead and the garbage men ripping off their yellow fluorescent vests to reveal Federal police uniforms, if we actually dared secrete some illegal paint pots, (or heaven forbid, a car battery), into the vegetation section.

The old man shared many memories with me on that car journey back home. It was obviously cathartic for him, yet it was still an uncharacteristic display of emotion from a very proud man. He spoke of his disappointment that the council had never offered a membership policy for Kimbriki, some sort of loyalty card for people like him, who needed its sense of community. He talked of his fears for the empty weekends ahead, the loss of his two man-sanctuaries that had been so close to his heart.

I can feel his anxiety building as we prune our new rose bushes. His initial enthusiasm for our new maintenance-free courtyard with its few pathetic shrubs has been replaced by a concern that trips to the tip will no longer be warranted. And there is nowhere to ‘dwell’ in the courtyard.

After six years of raking leaves, cursing at fallen Gum branches and Paper bark and wading through a waterlogged shed, it is the end of an era.

Man seeking new man cave.