Re-Couching the Potato

I'm on the couch watching an episode of "Castle," when I say aloud, "This is a fun show, Tommy, I wonder why I didn't watch it with you?"

Of course, there is no reply from my spouse as he has been dead for over six months. But, like many widows, I regularly engage in one-sided conversations.

I continue, "I know you're getting a kick out of me being back on a couch. They tried to pull me off, but the routines you and I treasured are winning out."

The "they" I'm referring to includes my daughters and my friends who derided my married couch-potato lifestyle. Neither Tommy nor I were partygoers or night owls and we preferred staying home, watching television on our dual couches.

It's likely they blamed my reluctance to venture out after hours to either my husband's preference and my adherence to his wishes, or later, during his illness, to wanting to be on hand for his care.

While some of this is true, I must now confess: Tommy wouldn't have cared if I left him to join friends for an evening out. On the few occasions I did this, I'd return, flop onto his couch and jokingly say, "Don't make me go out again."

"You belong home with me and the Pooker!" he'd say. Buddy, our Golden Retriever, would be tucked in next to Tommy, so I’d have to squeeze myself in between man and dog to make my silly announcement. Of course, that scenario occurred several years ago, before aphasia robbed my spouse of speech and when Buddy -- who somehow became “The Pooker” -- hadn’t succumbed to his 14-year-old canine ailments.

My life obviously changed when Tommy died. With his presence not overriding decisions, I opted to try to fulfill the wishes of They. So, I booked theater events and dinners out with friends. In long distance calls and on Facebook status updates, I trumpeted, “The potato is becoming un-couched.” At once, I was lauded by those championing an exit from my nightly horizontal TV-watching habit.

And, when I sold our house and moved to a downtown apartment, my support team concluded, “Now that you’re in the city, you’ll find it so much easier to go out in the evenings. Restaurants, theaters, movie houses all nearby.” With my interests at heart, they likely envisioned me dolling up nightly, slipping on high-heeled shoes, enveloping myself in new, not-black t-shirt and not-blue jeans clothing.

Alas, a leopard doesn’t change her spots and you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Take your pick of these animal-themed cliches. After a month in my new urban lifestyle, with a vibrant city and night lights summoning from my floor-to-ceiling windows, here I am plopped on my solo couch, and even finding new TV shows to watch. I offer a few reasons:

1) I love T.V. Tommy and I had a roster of shows -- primarily police and medical procedurals, with a few sit-coms thrown in -- that I taped so we could watch them together during our 7-8 p.m. viewing. Recently, I stretched that time to begin at 6 because I added Netflix and Apple TV and am catching up on missed programs.

2) I’m an early-to-bed and early-to-rise kind of a gal. I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. As proof, there are black-and-white photos of me slumbering atop folded arms on banquet tables at weddings and bar mitzvahs. So, like those metal doors that seal run-down storefronts, my lids fold at 8 p.m.

3) Because I am much more active during the day, I require evenings at home to recharge. I live adjacent to a health club, and I exercise most mornings. There’s a Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Mariano’s, and Target within walking distance. These frequent 2-mile roundtrips, accompanied by age and arthritis, demand relief.

4) I have lunch dates nearly every day. Friends are eager to see my new place,  so we’ve been booking meals at nearby restaurants.  One restaurant meal per day is fun, two is overkill.

So now, in my adorable urban apartment, with a view of the Chicago river and skyscrapers, I’m on my couch with a dinner tray atop my stretched out legs. While my loved ones might be disappointed in this turn of events, I know of someone who’s delighted. “Move over,” I imagine him saying. So, I do, and at the same time, make room for the Pooker.