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Off to work she goes; after 20-odd years and three-odd children , the wife decides to go back to nursing, and hubby spends a small fortune preparing her to bring home those extra paychecks.


My wife had everything a woman could ask for. Besides me, there was a roof with only one leak over her head and access to a car that would usually start after pumping the accelerator a few times. She was also eating well, as our cowering bathroom scales will testify. So other than coming home with a $21.48 sack of groceries she could have carried in her teeth, why would any woman in her right mind (now there's a possibility) want to go back to work after all these years?

When we first united our plights in the trough of holy wedlock, or however that goes, she had been a practicing R.N. on private duty. Far be it from me to suggest that she used this noble calling as an excuse for dust in the refrigerator and meals that sometimes had to be thawed in the stomach. Let's just say I wasn't too upset when she knocked off" for a couple of weeks" to introduce our first child to this big old wonderful world. Then somehow her hiatus stretched into 20-odd years and three-odd children. But now that they were all reared (one of the girls a little too much so), and she was suffering from an acute case of quilter's thumb, and was bringing home these $21.48 sacks of groceries she could marry in her teeth, she had somehow decided that it all added up to grounds for going back to work.

"If you do, so help me, I'll do the housework!" I threatened. She might have grimaced, but it's so hard to tell. "And the cooking!" No use. Even the thought of this embarrassment didn't faze her. When the woman gets an idea in her head (where an occasional one will lodge), it's as good as set in concrete. So I threw in the towel (which I should have saved to mop my forehead) and braced myself for a few start-up costs.

It's one thing to be braced--quite another to have your back against the wall. My little bride having gone from a scrawny size 12 to a healthy 16, the first outlay was for three uniforms at $24.95 per. In a futile effort to revive my spirits, she jokingly announced that her white shoes had been refused by Goodwill ten years ago. Luckily (her word, not mine), she found two pairs in her size on sale at a mere $19.88 the pair--plus lunch. Woman was not made to shop for shoes, I was told, on an empty stomach.

That evening I was pasting an "Out of Order" sign on the cover of our checkbook when the refurbished nurse led me into the living room to point out the spaghetti effect in the hand-braided rug. Turned out to be her former white stockings. Foolishly thinking that another acquisition would end the outgo before the income began coming in, I went along with the purchase of what had to be, even if she crawled to work on her hands and knees, a five-year supply of white panty hose.

How could I have overlooked the vital nurse' cap? And if you think a nurse can walk into a dollar store (nee dime store) and buy just any old white cap, you aren't any brighter than I am. A nurse, you see, must wear the cap of her alma mommie or run the risk of being drummed out of the Florence Nightingale corps or whatever.

Thus we shot an order off to the Henry Ford Hospital School of Nursing for three caps. And when she couldn't get the doggone things to stay on (I'm sorry, not only because I frown on the use of strong language but because it's an indication that one is losing the battle), she made a hair-styling appointment, valued (by the stylist) at $16.

"Why not a simple bob job for a couple of bucks?" I inquired. "With the cap in place, who would know?"

"I would know," she responded. And if you have an answer for that, please call me collect.

Not only was our checking account by now a disaster area eligible for a low-cost loan, but the cash I had cached for a surprise weekend fishing trip wouldn't have taken me to the nearest self-serve gas pump. The only reason I postponed filing for bankruptcy was the assumption that the nurse, finally, was ready to slap a Band-Aid on our wounded assets. I have made better assumptions at race tracks.

I had overlooked dues to the American Nurses' Association and the Indiana state registry. For another small fortune, a nursing bureau would phone at 4:30 a.m. to alert her to a case. Although alumnae dues were not all that much, they included a quarterly publication, the current issue of which reminded her of the Social Security obligations of the self-employed. Finally--or so I thought--just in case she'd forgotten which thermometer goes where, I took out a second mortgage on the house and bought malpractice insurance.

The question of transportation was answered quite simply--she would take the car. And how would I get around? Her answer was so clever: "As I see it, you have two choices: Walk or jog."

The daily lunch money I "lent" her would, as I understood it, be repaid with her first paycheck. The daily extras, I began to suspect, were being considered out-and-out grants. I refer to such incidentals as the replacement for a hypodermic needle she broke while spearing olives out of a bottle the morning I couldn't come up with lunch money and she had to brown-bag it. One day it was flowers for an aide who had taken the afternoon off after dropping a bedpan on her foot. Within a four-day strech I underwrote two birthday's, a wedding, and chipped in to buy a Rolls-Royce for a retiring head nurse.

Payday, at last! Only a mother of twin daughters being wed in a double ceremony will appreciate my preparations for the big event. My dinner specialty--hot dogs, medium well-simmering on a back burner. Candles a-drip on the kitchen table. The dog sprayed with pine-scented room deodorizer. Lawrence Welk's "All of Me" at the ready on the record player. And all of little old apron-draped me smiling broadly in the doorway as my dear little thermometer caddy came aiming into the carport.

I assumed it was she, at any rate. It could as easily have been Raquel Welch with swollen legs. Legs were all I could see when this figure finally emerged and began stumbling toward the door. The rest of the figure was hidden behind boxes, bundles, bales, bags. . . . You name it, she had it.

In leading her up the steps I was able to name a few of the items. There was a pair of penguin door-stops we had been denying ourselves lo these many years. Here was a 2x3-foot framed print of "The End of the Trail" (if not essential, certainly appropriate). Sticking out of one bag was the rubber five hydrant our dog has been bugging us for since he was big enough to stand on three legs. Clamped in her teenth was the wire bail on a carton stamped "GOLDFISH."

"Is this all?" I asked sarcastically, hoping she knew the meaning of the word.

"Eee erie uh iah urs ah oo doon." After I relieved her of the bail in her teeth, this became, "It's everything but my purse. And don't bother, there's nothing in it."

Among the essentials she proudly displayed that night was a ceramic cardinal that, when wound, trills "Oh What a Beautiful Morning." I have yet to wind it--nor will I, as long as our mornings begin at 4:30 a.m. and our checking account remains in intensive care.

I live for the day when she may begin to put her money someplace besides the shopping malls. But I'm not banking on it.
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Stoddard, Marshall Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1986
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