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Little by little, my home is being turned into a housing project for a pack rat with filthy habits. Dirty laundry, dirty dishes, papers, books, all strewn about an intermingled, with nests of cables and power cords on the floor, spilled juice dried on the carpet. Through the mess twines a person-wide path.

I've just now lost the kitchen table, which has been turned into a desk for bills, writing paraphernalia, and related junk. I had hoped to hold the line at the kitchen door, declaring the kitchen mine to have and to hold and to keep in sanitary and sane conditions.

But it was not to be. When I moved the stuff off the table, to land on top of existing mess, he said, "There will be severe repercussions. Bills won't be paid and important papers will be lost." And his prediction came true (self-fulfilling expectations always do).

I assuage my feelings of frustration and anger by reminding myself that actuarial tables predict that women live longer than men. I may actually live long enough to clean my house out of detritus and sludge and be able to invite my friends to visit without shame. Some day, that is my dream.

I fantasize about opening the garage door and having a truck come by and just load everything up and take it away. Ditto the living room and his bedroom. Not to mention that makeshit "shed" by the side of the house made from tubing and tarps.

Then I remind myself that both of us come from long-lived families. It would be the last laugh of the Universe if I should die first or if I should at last be alone in splendid solitude, only to be so old and enfeebled that they have to cart me off to a retirement home.

But for today, I just clean around the mess as best I can and have no visitors past the front door. I've seen the looks on their faces, all accusing me, as the wife, of being a bad housekeeper. As if it were all my fault, my sole responsibility, and the poor man has to live in a pigsty.

If only they knew...the five weeks that he spent in the hospital were a revelation. Each night after work, I came home to an empty house, no dirtier than when I left it. And each morning I left for work the house was one room cleaner, until the place looked pretty good. It looked pretty darn good and I was happy with it.

Then he came home.

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