The great escape- this deals with what happens to a happy marriage when the husband finally retires. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence!
The great escape
When she had been so tied up with house work, children, elderly parents and, of course himself, she had often fantasied about escape. How could one do it? How could you vanish without a trace? Without triggering a police man hunt of course. The knack would be to secure yourself a do able alternative life before anyone could track you down. Often when driving to see her sister, she would think, why not just keep going? Cornwall? Wales or even over to Ireland? Then the bourgeois in her would ask about clean clothes, knickers and toothbrushes, oh and passport for the latter. Charity shops would come to mind, but then the thought what the children would think or say would regretfully finish the fantasy off, at least for now. So it became a little escapist exercise. But how could it be have been done?
I mean, I just feel desperate sometimes, she confided in her dear friend Mitzi. I love them all, but there is just nothing of me left. I know that I am relatively privileged, financially at least, but my life was not just supposed to be a one woman service industry. What an earth were all those years of study actually for?
To humor herself she actually started the one thing she could do. An escape fund. A secret little building society account in her name only. They had plenty of money so it was relatively easy to salt away the odd tenner here or there, and of course there was the family allowance. In the end, though, she even ran out of steam on this one, as with parents aging and needing care and attention, and himself retiring early, the net closed even tighter around her. I expect on one level, as women in her position often do, she became low level, but persistently depressed.
There had been a time when she had longed for high flying Jeffrey to retire. She had been grateful, of course, that the long hours he had devoted to his monolithic employer had provided them with a comfortable life style. But did miss the fun loving, beer swilling, Morris Dancing, guitar playing, nice man she had married. The business success he had enjoyed had been almost accidental. The Morris dancing and beer swilling had long been discarded as not dignified enough for a man in his position. She did feel that he was still a nice kind man under all that though. Which is what had stayed her hand all those years ago, when she felt that she still had spirit.
Retirement, especially early retirement, which is happening more and more, is one of the great bear traps of our affluent society. There are three main problems with it. Firstly – rather than popping their clog’s after a few years you may be looking at 30 years in the retired state. Secondly- after having lived a corporate life, leaving the wives to do everything else, there is a tendency to either throw their weight around at home or expect to be waited on hand foot and finger, or sometimes even both. Thirdly- after many years of separate roles, being stuck exclusively with each other again, the parties either find they actually have no interest in each other or in extreme cases actively dislike each other. When the children, who were the focus of things, actually leave home, what was a happy family becomes a bored and unhappy couple.
Anyway, the longed for retirement actually happened. Jeffrey hung up his briefcase. But as it often does, the retiree’s wife thinks great now we can do things together. The retiree thinks yippee now I can actually do what I want. I am tired of compromising. To Jenna’s great surprise the latter is what actually happened. He took up tedious hobbies in which she had no interest. What was worse, he took up sailing which actually frightened her, and spent all of his time at that dreadful, pretentious Yacht club. Realizing that she may actually have 30 years of this, the last bit of spirit, long buried flared back up. Her escape plan reignited itself.
She found the long lost passbook. Her escape fund now looked pitiful. When the last child went to uni the family allowance had stopped, and during those mild depressive years, she had got out of the habit of stashing the odd tenner. Still it was better than nothing. Now how did she plan to do it again?
She had her own car now, with the log book and insurance in her own name, and a relatively new passport, so that bit would be easier. She found a medium sized old suitcase in the garage and surreptitiously began the packing. Why the secrecy now? Well she did not know or like this new Jeffrey much so did not want to risk an open confrontation, in which her courage would almost have certainly failed her. Charity shops did prove very useful, for clothes in a slightly different style to her usual expensive garb. If she was going to hide she had better blend in. She also found a lovely black plain handbag, leather but actually looking as if it was not for only 20p. A boring but nicely cut coat (£5) finished off what was almost a disguise.
The next big hurdle was, when and of course where too? Where too was surprisingly easy. She had an old school friend, a bit of a man hater actually, who she had recently re connected with on Facebook. Jeffrey did not know anything about her and she had never, to her recollection come up in conversation before. He did not hold with Facebook and would never think to track her though that medium. Shaula now, conveniently, lived in Wales, and being anti men would quite understand what was going on. She worked out that if she topped up with petrol here, and paid for the next batch with cash, she could make a clean getaway. Escape fund would keep her until really knew what she wanted to do. Once that was organized, and she felt able to face him she could start using the joint account and credit cards again. Until that happened she would make sure that she did not use anything, like her phone, that could be easily traced. E mail, she supposed would be safe. She opened up a new E mail account and thought she would E mail the children and tell them not to worry when she had settled herself in. They were so busy with their new lives, that they would barely notice, she sighed sadly at that thought.
When was a different matter. Jeffrey, although not requiring her company, did require his supper on the table at 6 sharp. If she said she was visiting her sister, he would grudgingly eat at the Yacht Club, but would expect her back by 9.ish or would make a fuss. Paradoxically the hated sailing gave her the opening.
There was a boy’s weekend due to cross to Cherboug on the next neap tide. That would give her 48 hours at least, to make her getaway. Even longer if the weather turned whilst they were away.
Then there was the problem of the note. Should she leave one? Having agonized about this one she settled for a simple “Gone away for few days don’t worry.” stuffed behind the kettle. He would hate its lack of information, but as she would not be around to be on the other end of his irritation that would be irrelevant.
As she dropped him at the Club at the appointed hour, suitcase, new handbag containing money and passport (you never know), and new coat in boot, she just filled up with petrol and carried on going. Her phone of course she had left at home on the kitchen table. He would be annoyed at her not answering it, but would presume it was lost in the bottom of her handbag as usual. Jeffrey did not even offer his usual peck as he bounded through the club doors. Sod you, she thought, banishing some tiny wisplets of concern for him and what she was about to do.
The reality was, of course, quite different. Shaula did turn out to be a man hating alcoholic. After an initial high of relief and a couple of wine filled evenings thing deteriorated, with Shaula ranting about the uselessness of men. Plus after a couple of nights alone in a hard narrow bed, she began to waver. She missed her lovely home, she missed her friends who thought she was so lucky with her lifestyle. Because she knew they would not understand what she was doing she had not told them. She particularly missed Mitzi who she knew would understand but did not want to compromise by telling. She even, to her surprise, began to slightly miss Jeffrey. After all he had been a constant in her life for 30 years and whatever had happened they had shared memories and children together. For all his faults, she missed having someone warm in bed to cuddle. She also knew with searing clarity, that the children would not understand, and her relationship with them would not ever be the same again. Besides she admitted, I am probably unemployable and this single life, having observed Shaula and her friends, seems both harder and more boring than I had imagined.
At dawn the next morning she crept out and headed for home. She did leave a note for Shaula and a bottle of whiskey. Luckily Shaula did not know where she lived and it would be only a matter of blocking her on Facebook to ensure she could not be contacted again. The suitcase was deposited at the first charity shop she passed. She used the last of her cash to put petrol in the car and sped down the motorway, hoping that Jeffrey had not yet returned to notice her absence.
To her horror his sailing rucksack was in the hall and she could hear strains of radio 4 emanating from his study. How could she ever explain? She had spoiled things, he would be angry, hurt or sarcastic for the next 30 years. The note however was still untouched behind the kettle. Luckily he had beer when he came in, not tea. She crumpled it into a ball and popped her head around the study door.
“Ah there you are old thing” he said. For once the endearment did not annoy her. “Sorry we took the extra day, prop trouble. Tried to phone you, but you, as usual, did not pick up. Where have you been? Out with the girls I expect.” She dumbly nodded, and then out of his hearing, sighed.
All those years of my escape fantasy and I fell at the first hurdle, she thought. Then brightened up. I did manage to pull it off though, that is something I suppose. Knowing in the end what did matter to her did enable her to enjoy things more anyway. Accepting that Jeffrey was not going to change, but that she did need him there, also helped. Life did get better or more tolerable, for a while. Until of course the day came when she realized Mitzi and Jeffrey had escape plans of their own. But that, of course, is another