This is what you can do: You can ask him to alleviate your melancholy by accompanying you to three events that otherwise would’ve had you attending solo. And since you no longer own a car, request he act as chauffeur in his. Importantly, you can advise him that the furnace filters need changing, show him how to pull down the ladder that leads to the one in the attic, and wait gratefully as he does the rickety climb.
So, on balance, it appears that the two weeks Chris is camping out in one of my guest bedrooms, while awaiting a move-in to his new apartment, is working out well. We made the unusual arrangement based on a barter deal. I provide his temporary housing in exchange for Chris -- a decorative painter -- to jazz up two tables I plan to take to a River North rental. And in a subsequent transaction, he will build me a flat-screen TV stand in exchange for my aged computer.
"What do you know about him?" daughter Jill had asked when I was in the decision phase of the roommate deal. “Did you Google him?” Her tone of voice was familiar: What the hell was her batty mother getting into now?
"Karen vouched for him," I said. Karen is a long-time friend and interior designer who has aided several previous real estate moves. "She's known him for years and has referred his work to many of her clients,” I added. “Very nice, quiet, dependable."
Daughter Faith was the one who -- in a terse text -- ordered "wear a bra." Like her sister, once convinced I’d be appropriately attired, and he was properly investigated, supported my new roommate.
The offbeat pact was actually my idea. When Chris visited to give me an estimate on the paint job, he also mentioned he'd be moving to a new space. Somehow, the two week housing void came up in the conversation, and the Jewish mother in me, who may have missed out on having a male third child, had asked, "Where will you go?"
"Oh, a friend will rent me a room," he said. "I'll be fine."
"If it doesn't work out," I said, in my Leap Before You Look philosophy, "you can move in here."
The invitation may seem odd because after my husband died in November, 2012, I rebuffed any notion of boarders. When various loved ones suggested that other people could forestall loneliness, keep me safe, and help with the bills, I thought about it for a bit. Then, I countered with the fresh delight of eating meals on the couch while watching TV, and the new freedom of caring only for myself. Thinking back to two marriages, I also relished thermostats now tied to my favored temperature, lights left on or off at my discretion, and the option to leave dishes stacked overnight in the sink.
"No," I said to the concerned crew, “no boarders, no roommates. I don't want anyone invading my space."
So, I’m not sure what flipped the switch to welcome Chris. Was it previously noted Jewish Mother-ism and a longing for a male child? Or perhaps simply monetary: a chance to save writing a check for the refurbished furniture?
This is what I have landed on: my husband Tommy, abiding now in his heavenly abode, has become anxious about his widowed spouse. After all, he has known me for 16 years, witnessed my ineptness with household tools and appliances, and is aware of my jittery reaction to creaks and thumps.
Unable to care for me in his habitual manner, Tommy has sent in a substitute. My husband knows I would have rejected an older paunchy type, as he himself was slender and fit, so he pitched a human I could accept. And, with Chris’ black hair, partial Jewish genes, he could pass for a relative.
“Good job,” I tell Tommy in my nightly report. “My roommate is working out fine.”
Then, I could swear I heard back -- or was it the wind -- “Always looking out for you, sweetheart. Never forget that, or the bra.”