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Is that retiree still the man she married?

My husband was missing. It didn't happen overnight. I didn't wake up one morning and ask the man sleeping next to me, where's Warren? But on this cold February morning, the man across the breakfast table from me wore a blue and orange knit 1978 Broncos Super Bowl cap. We were having breakfast, his version of the nationally advertised egg and muffin —an English muffin covered with ham, cheese and hard-boiled egg, and coffee and orange juice. Warren would never have eaten a homemade concoction. He was a coffee and toast, lightly buttered, or maybe a Pop-Tart kind of guy.

Day after day, he had sat across from me in a white shirt, maroon tie and business suit conducive to his status, coffee in one hand, newspaper in the other.

"Who are you?" I asked in desperation. "Warren and I used to do things, go places, talk, have fun. You seem happy to watch TV, and every now and again, take me to dinner, but it's not the same."

"Retirement does that," he responded. "I can do what I want, when I want. I've no schedule. I started working long before you, so I get to retire earlier. And, when the time comes," he paused, "you can do the same. Meantime, want more coffee? Smells goooood."

In fairness, he had other daily tasks. Since retiring, he restored two high-end automobiles, managed our portfolio, paid the bills and maintained the house and garden. As for me, my sales job was wonderful, and I wasn't ready to retire. But I was ready to learn something new, something challenging. That was why I decided to go back to school. After 30 hours of psychology, six of anthropology, credits from my bachelor of science degree, what had been a lark turned into a B.A. in general psychology.

During my pursuit of the study of human behavior, I discovered a personality test, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter-II. My elderly professor encouraged my class to complete the test and apply it to everyday life. It's composed of 70 one-line questions with either (a) or (b) answers. With the help of the notable Myers-Briggs labeling system, it categorized people into one of 16 combinations of descriptive words: extroverted or introverted, sensory or intuitive, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. There were no tricks or gimmicks, no right or wrong answers. For example: "Are you more satisfied having (a) a finished product or (b) a work in progress?" Another example: "Is it your way to (a) make up your mind quickly or (b) pick and choose at some length?" The questions, when considered individually, were innocuous, but, for me, as I considered my husband, perhaps together we would explore who we now were as a couple. Maybe he was hiding in a new personality, and Keirsey would find him for me.

We sat together at the dining room table and completed the test. Every now and again I looked up at him, incredulous that he was still there, filling in the blanks.

"Don't cheat," he said, laughing. "I know you hate it when I make better grades."

The funny thing about the test was although we answered some questions differently, we scored the same in the major classifications identified as thinking, sensing and judging.

For example, we both wanted closure. That designation placed us in the judging category. We both scored borderline for either extrovert or introvert. We relied on facts (thinking) rather than feelings to make decisions, and focused on the present and on concrete information gained from our senses.

Thus, according to Keirsey, we were a strong, compatible couple. Reading the answers to his test, I saw my reflection in him. Just as he had changed, so had I. We were slowly changing together.

Now I know the man sitting across from me is my husband, the most exciting man I'll ever know, the man I married so many years ago when we were young and incredibly in love. He introduced me to deep-sea fishing, body surfing off Galveston Beach and fast cars. My contributions perhaps pale in comparison: a love for Italian food, which he now shares, horse racing, which is too rich for his blood, and two bookies in my family whom he just accepts.

One thing is certain: When I retire, I won't wear a Broncos cap to the breakfast table. That's his identity. I'll be wearing my purple kimono and gold-colored Daniel Green slippers.

Now retired, Jacquelyn Milan lives in Metairie, La., and enjoys writing and volunteering.

Is that retiree still the man she married? 06/22/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 21, 2010 11:22pm]
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