By Rafiq Ebrahim
Glen Ellyn, IL
It is always the first few weeks after retirement that are really taxing. A retiree takes time to adjust to the new phase of life, either to pursue one’s hobbies, or to devote full time to relaxation.
In my case during the first week I ate a lot and slept a lot. Perhaps it was Nature’s way to relieve all the physical and mental stress that I endured for the last thirty years or so. The next week on a fine Monday morning, I got up fresh as a daisy, and while eating a hearty breakfast, reflected as to what my role should be at home.
I realized that all the members of the household worked really hard. My son, with his high-tech job which required him to manage project after project, was mostly at work, sometimes out of town, racking his brains eighteen hours a day. My wife and my daughter-in-law were looking after numerous household chores, besides attending to the demands of and taking care of the twins – one-and-a-half years old cute little boys, my grand sons. I, too, must contribute my bit to help in the chores, I felt.
Next to the dining room was the laundry area, where I saw that a hamper was full of clothes waiting to be washed. There was a framed quotation on the wall: Please help with the laundry. It makes me a basket case. I looked at the washing machine, studied various knobs and felt ready to start the job. I let the water flow inside and put the detergent powder. Immediately after that I put all the clothes and started the cycle of wash. Feeling somewhat satisfied I came to my room. It was about an hour later that I heard my daughter-in-law calling from downstairs. “Daddy, did you put the clothes in the machine? Can you please come down and see what you have done?”
I rushed down and saw that most of the clothes had patches of soap stuck on them. I realized that before putting the clothes in I should have waited for the soap to dissolve in water. Now instead of helping I had created an additional job for my daughter-in-law. These patches of soap do not come off easily.
An hour later, I saw my wife cooking. She was preparing our favorite qeema naan (minced meat and flat round bread). Seeing me, she said, “Could you stir this qeema a bit, while I prepare milk bottles for the babies?” I promptly obliged as I was eager to render as much help as I could. I began stirring the dish as vigorously as I could for quite some time. When my wife came back, she almost screamed. “What did you do? You have turned the meat into powder. It is all spoiled. Who is going to eat this powdery qeema?” I was simply speechless with a deep feeling of guilt. And when you are speechless, you can only shrug. I did that, much to her irritation.
In the evening I happened to look at the framed certificate of my son’s MBA degree. It had been lying on the dresser for a long time. Yes, I must hang it on the wall by my son’s desk. I went to the garage, fished out a hammer and a few nails. It was a child’s play to hammer a nail on the wall and hang the frame. I smiled contentedly, overlooking the fact that I had put the nail on a dry wall. Just after a few minutes the inmates of the house heard a loud bang. Frightened to the core, my wife and my daughter-in-law rushed to the scene of the disaster. The babies started crying. The frame had fallen, and the glass pieces were scattered all over - an extra job of collecting the pieces and vacuuming the area for the daughter-in-law.
I was proving myself useless in household chores. Guilt-ridden, I flopped on an easy chair in my room, making an effort to read the day’s newspaper. I thought for a long time as to how I should redeem myself. The opportunity came when my son, having come back from the office, expressed a desire to eat some popcorn with tea. I immediately jumped at the opportunity, put the corn in the microwave, but then made the blunder. Instead of keeping the time three minutes, I don’t know how I put it on thirty minutes, maybe the zero just crept in. The result was devastating. The burning smell along with the smoke spread all over. Not only that, the microwave was also burnt from the inside.
Later that night I saw my wife, my son and my daughter-in-law having a secret conference in the kitchen, surely discussing about how to restrain me from doing any household job. My wife then came to my room and softly said, “You have worked a lot in your life, and did everything you could for us. Now is the time to just relax. From tomorrow you are only going to play with the babies and resume writing.”
So this is how I am now typing out this piece, after having run around the house with the babies for a good half an hour.