The Freedom in Work

Dearest Rachel –

“Work makes [you] free.”

So the saying goes, most notoriously and deceptively on the iron gates of Auschwitz. Personally, I was never one to believe it; you recall how grateful I was to be freed from my job when your parents passed away, and you were pleased to be able to let me quit. “You’ve supported me for all these years,” you told me, “Now, it’s my turn.” I could walk away from that job and my boss in particular, and spend however much time with you and Daniel as any of us could want, or stand.

And yet, I felt the need to still be doing something, rather than lazing about the house all day. In turn, you were supportive of my setting up an ‘office’ in my folks’ basement, both as a means to focus on my future plans and dreams of having a presence on YouTube and to simply be able to look after them if and when necessary. This setup freed me up, allowing me to concentrate on the tasks I set myself to do, although those dreams were set aside with surprising speed; first, on the books for both church and the camp, and eventually, on writing to you, all without the distraction of the many diversions that come from being at home and with the two of you (and later, of course, just Daniel). “You need to keep yourself occupied,” you agreed, and while you and Daniel would come over now and again, sometimes to be with Mom and Dad, other times to make plans for this or that trip in the near future, you would leave me to my work.

I wish I hadn’t spent so much time there, these days – so much of that time now winds up as time not spent at home with you. Had I known how little time we had left together, I would not have bothered nearly as much with the ‘office.’ But how could I have known?

Of course, the pandemic forced me home rather shortly thereafter – not even nine months into my new ‘career,’ it was all but shut down, and we were suddenly together nearly 24/7. Not that either of us minded so much, but it was a strange situation, and a confining one, I think for both of us. While Daniel enjoyed not ever having to leave the house, and made something of a game of how long he could go without ever setting foot outside, I think both of us would get a little antsy from time to time. Preparing meals at home was a hassle as often as not – especially given the clutter of the kitchen (again, how I wish you could see what it looks like now!) – so we would place orders from one place or another, considering it our patriotic and civic duty to support local businesses like restaurants. And when I would go out to pick them up, you would always be by my side. To this day, whenever I’m driving on my own, I try not to look to the passenger’s side, as I got too used to your being there, and it hurts to know you’ll never be there again.

But it wasn’t the same as ‘work’; at least, I don’t think so. It’s one thing to be doing something because you have to in order to make a living. That’s work, even if that old proverb claims that ‘if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Eventually, there will be a day when you’re just not feeling it as much, and that thing you love will, in fact, feel like work. Going out with you, be it to a restaurant or a supermarket wasn’t so much a chore as a mild adventure. Not the kind that isn’t fun while it’s happening, but rather an event that mixes “well, we’ve got to get this and that from this list” with “oh, look what they have on sale today! Shall we get some?” Mundane stuff, and yet, not quite – especially when we had each other to reflect these thoughts off of. For what it’s worth, those trips, taken on my own, still have echoes of both of these attitudes, but without the crosstalk between ourselves, so there’s a lot that’s is lacking from them.

I do wonder if the round-the-house chores got that much less dealt with in those locked-in-together days. Just as I couldn’t get work done when I was distracted by the fact that there were you and Daniel to spend time with, so it must have been distracting for you to have us underfoot all the time. Or maybe you were happy for the excuse to not bother so much; it’s difficult to have to free yourself up in order to do the things that you’d rather not be doing in the first place.

You would think I wouldn’t find the need to talk about household chores; they should be such an ordinary part of life that they’re not worth remarking about. But I haven’t gotten to the point where I find freedom in such work, any more than you ever did. I don’t want to even guess how long it’s been since I’ve changed out the sheets and done a laundry of my bed linens.

And yet, I make a point of both washing and putting out your little quarter size pillow.
I don’t know why; it’s not that it’s aesthetically necessary, and it’s not like it’s going to be put to any use.
It does give me a chance to use another one of your quilts; this one about the beliefs you expressed in the form of apparel.
I’ve said a number of times before about how you wore your heart on your sleeve, and your opinions on your chest; these are the most obvious example of that.

Anyway, it’s not exactly freeing to take care of these sorts of things. They just need to be done, and I’m the one who needs to do them. If there’s any liberty involved, it’s more to do with the moment the job’s done, at least for now.

So, until I have to do this next time, keep an eye on me, honey, wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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