Apple TV

Jealousy At The Gym

“I thought you said you’d never get married again.” It is my deceased husband Tommy who startles me awake.

“Where did you get the idea I’m getting married,” I say. His voice, which started in a dream, shifted me from prone to upright in bed.

“I saw you at the health club. Heard your conversation with your trainer, Kim. You were asking her to introduce you to some guy.”

“I thought you hated the East Bank Club,” I said, referring to the posh fitness place I tried to get Tommy to join. “What were you doing there?”

“Keeping an eye on you,” he said.

“Look,” I said. “I’m still wearing my wedding ring and I have no intention of ever taking it off.” I raised my left hand to the ceiling, assuming the image could break through the stucco and reach my complaining husband.

As I waited for his response, I thought back to the day more than 14 years ago when he and I walked across Ashland Avenue to Service Merchandise where we purchased our $25 gold bands.  After our wedding in Las Vegas, where we placed them on each other’s finger under the guidance of an ecumenical minister and 16 guests, I never took the ring off.

“Listen, Tommy,” I said. “I don’t ever want to marry again. You are my last husband. But, would you mind if I started to date? It’s been nearly a year, and I’m beginning to feel the need for a male companion. I miss the ‘what did you do today’ conversations and a guy on my arm.”

There was silence from my celestial spouse. Although in the last years of his life I had become accustomed to his aphasia, in our imaginary conversations, I had returned him to full voice. That’s why this pause bothered me. Was he angry and retreating from our beloved dialogues, or was he contemplating my question?

“You change your mind so much,” he said, ignoring my excuse.

“I won’t debate that,” I said. I counted on my easy agreement to let me off the hook.

“I heard you tell your daughters and your friends you were glad you rented a small apartment because there’d be no room for anyone else in it. Did you mean that?”

“True,” I said. “But, I’m talking about dating someone, not having them move in with me.”

“Well, it was hard for me to hear you asking your trainer to play cupid,” Tommy said. “You can understand that.”

“Of course I do, honey,” I said. “But, I’m spending too many nights at home; me and TV. When you were alive, and we watched shows together, that was one thing. But, I’ve continued our tradition in spades. Now, with Apple TV and Netflix, I’m more tied to the set than ever.”

“What’s wrong with that?” he asked.

I smiled as I recalled our evenings on our two couches. Each of us stretched out, watching our favorite shows night after night.

“No, honey, you’re right,” I said. “I loved every minute of our marriage. And I know I’ll never find another guy who wants to sit home and watch TV with me.”

“Well, it seems like you’re trying hard to replace me,” he said. “I also heard you asking your two lawyer friends to keep an eye out for a single man your age.”

Now I was rankled. Tommy disdained my health club in favor of his plain YMCA. Oh, he liked the golf center all right, and he enjoyed running its track on winter days. But when I posited joint membership, he turned up his nose. Now, it appears I can’t get him away from the place.

“Okay, you’re right,” I said. “I did ask Jimmy and John to keep me in mind. I’ve known both of them for years and they’re my same age. I thought they’d be good matchmakers.”

“They’re both Jewish, aren’t they? Is that what you’re looking for? Finished with Gentiles are you?”

“No, no, honey,” I said. “I didn’t specify a religion. In fact, I wouldn’t mind someone who’s not Jewish. You and I were in-tune, despite our different faiths.”

Another pause from above, had I convinced Tommy of my innocent need for a companion, and not a husband? Had he retreated to his heavenly home, contented he would never be replaced?

Then came that voice that I can still hear clearly. “Listen, sweetheart, I’m really just teasing you. It makes me happy to hear you’re thinking about dating. That means you haven’t soured on men; that my part in your life has you seeking another me.”

“Never another you,” I said.

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.