Well, we rarely argue anymore and especially not the loud knock-down, drag-outs we used to have. But there are a few things we bicker about, albeit quietly. First, he drives me crazy. Because he’s afraid of the house burning down, so all the fixtures in our house have 60 W bulbs. And it feels dark in here to me. So I go uptown, buy some 100 W bulbs and switch them all out. Once he came home and walked in the kitchen and said, “Wow, you cleaned up the kitchen today!” When we re-did our kitchen, he and the electrician ganged up on me and I let him have his way. I still put 100 W bulbs in the lamps by the bed so I can read. Well, heavens, we’ve been married 29 years and the house hasn’t burned down yet.

But the other day I couldn’t take it anymore. So I removed the cover in the kitchen and replaced the bulbs in one fixture. I decided not to press my luck with the others. Then I changed the bulbs in the living room. He came home and walked into the kitchen and said, “How come it’s so bright in here? Did you change the bulbs?”

“No.” I replied with a totally straight face, and he said, “Oh, I guess it’s because you have all the lights on.” While we were watching TV later that evening, he turned the lamp by his chair off, saying he was getting a headache from all the light. My daughter, Sarah, told me later that I should just do one at a time so he doesn’t notice. So I removed all but one of the 100 W lightbulbs in the living room–the one where I read is still 100 W. Then yesterday, I put a 100 W in a lamp on the other side of the room from him. Slow, but sure.

This is a funny battle we’ve had since day one. I’ll go around and change all the bulbs and it will be okay for awhile, then I notice it seems dark and realize he’s gone around and changed all the bulbs to 60 W bulbs. We don’t discuss it anymore, we just suit ourselves until the other notices.

Sarah said she read that people get more nervous in brightly lit rooms. But I get nervous in a dim kitchen. I need more light to read, with my failing eyesight.

Another argument we’re having lately is room temperature. Since I’m menopausal, I’m hot most of the time. I rarely need a coat in winter. But now, in the heat of summer, I’m miserable. Our swamp cooler wasn’t working, but Bill said it was because of the humidity. I went visiting teaching and the lady’s house was so cool and comfy I told him something had to be done. I considered, as I’ve done in years past just to get him to hook it up after having it all covered for the winter, turning the heat on an hour or so before he got home, which always makes him boot up the cooler. But I didn’t have time for subtleties. I made him look at it. Frankly, that old swamp cooler is 20 years old and I thought we needed a new one. Well, he’s too cheap for that, so he got his friends over and they spent a day working it, replacing the motor and fine-tuning the old guy. Works like a charm now. Problem is, Bill is chilly all the time now. I walked in from work at 10:30 pm the other night and about melted. Well, for heaven’s sake, he can throw on a blanket. I can’t breathe. I sleep in the room with the small window unit air conditioner and still have a fan blowing on me; no blankets. So here again, we go all passive-aggressive. I turn the cooler up; he turns it down.

We’re currently arguing about which steak is the better cut. I prefer rib-eye; he prefers T-Bone. I set out rib-eyes, only to find out the next day, he put them back in the freezer and put out the T-bones. Now. First of all, when we were young, we ate deer steaks. We never had beef steaks in the freezer. Bill, in his old age, thinks we’re going to starve any day now and anytime steaks come on sale (with the money we’re saving on doritos and cold cereal now that the last of our kids has moved out), he stocks up on steak. (I think this is a symptom of his family’s weird mental illnesses. My family has normal mental illness—depression, alcoholism, accompanied by stomach problems. His family has schizophrenia, OCD, hoarding impulses, diabetes and heart attacks). He does almost all the grocery shopping now, which is the subject of another post. We battled for control for all those years, then I left him and he got nicer. I surrendered and let him boss the house, for the most part. But sometimes I look at all the stuff he buys and think “Heck, I could get my hair done AND a pedicure on all this food.”

Anyway…..Marta Silver, aka “Extra Grandma” is coming to visit me. She’s here from Pennsylvania for the Sunstone Symposium, which I’m dying to attend. But I have work, so she’s not only flying all the way from PA, she’s driving down south to go to church with me. So I cleaned out the fridge yesterday (Bill will not throw food out; and he eats a lot of stuff I wouldn’t touch—too old. I say, “you eat it and if you don’t die, I might have some.” We take turns cooking, without rhyme reason, it’s more my turn than his; and cleaning up. When I clean up, I go through and organize quickly and throw stuff out and make room. He puts big bowls of mashed potatoes on top of all the salsa and pickle jars on the top shelf and shoves the new stuff on shelves in front of old stuff. well, that’s another post, too.). And we’re cooking steak for Marta. I set them out last night. One pack rib-eye; one pack T-bone. This morning, as he’s fussing around and I’m bleary-eyed on the couch, he comes in and tells me, “I’ll get those steaks out tonight.”

“I did it.” He stops short, pauses, considers if he wants to argue about this and says, “what did you put out?” I tell him. And we have a little nice discussion about steak. I’m determined on this one. I’m having a rib-eye.

The good thing about this is that this type of interaction no longer ends up as grounds for divorce. This is due in part, I’m convinced, because I have a good gynecologist who finally got my hormones balance. And part, is the wake-up call Bill got when I moved out. So, when Marta comes, there will be light, and cool and rib-eye steaks.