August 1, 2000

Getting a roommate

Filed under: Fatherhood — schroder @ 3:00 pm

I spent July 4th enjoying my last day of independence. The next day, I rented a van, drove to Charlotte and picked up my first roommate in eight years.

For many years, I used to come home to a spouse, two children, a dog, two cats, two hamsters, eight fish and a turtle. Then, one day, I started coming home to … silence. At first this took a little adjustment. I enjoy my quiet time more than most people, but for the first few years, I made sure I had a good number of events on my calendar. Back then, if I saw a totally empty weekend ahead on my calendar, I began telemarketing to fill up the slots. But in the past few years, if I saw an empty weekend looming, I guarded it jealously, relishing the solitude.

All that energy I stored up is in full demand by my new arrangement with my 17-year-old daughter, Sally. We’re spending lots of time together, talking about some issues in her life and working out her plans for the next year or two.

When you live alone, you fall into habits and rhythms without realizing it. Add someone else to your space and you begin to look at things differently.

For instance, I now have to remember to wear clothes when I walk around my house, which is way up on a hill and beyond the eyes of neighbors – lucky for them! If I wake up early, I can’t blast loud music to get my heart jump-started. I find myself keeping the kitchen cleaner since I won’t be the only one walking in there. I neatly stack the newspapers in the recycling pile, rather than leaving them on the floor. Dirty clothes go quickly into the hamper rather than pausing – for weeks sometimes – on a bedroom chair.

I have a fine old stove, but there was a time last year I considered having a plumber install a cut-off valve for the natural gas line leading to it. Since my at-home eating tastes had gravitated toward cereal, salads, fruit and yogurt, I went almost a year without turning on the stove. I felt guilty running those pilot lights all day and night. Now I cook frequently, even surprising myself with my domestic capability by producing three differently colored items from various food groups arranged smartly on two plates. Arranging settings for two at my kitchen or dining room tables was a surprisingly fun experience. I’m sure I’ll get over it.

I’ve been leaving my car at home for my daughter’s use and recently took a cue from a salesperson who lives down the street. I hopped on board a bus near my house and stepped off at the front door of our downtown office building. During the short ride, I read the newspaper and looked at stores and houses I’ve never noticed before.

We’ve had some memorable moments. One night she was going to bed as I was just getting up. She had been chatting on the computer with all her friends. She has helped me prepare for two birthday parties, helping cook one shrimp-and-grits entrée and running to the store to get a last-minute birthday card. We’ve been shopping together for my house and I have appreciated her sense of design. She’s been accompanying me lately to dinners and concerts and trips to the movie store.

The funny thing is, I’ve already gotten attached to having my daughter back in my house. I know I will really miss her when she moves on.

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