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I wouldn't change a thing

I push the vacuum around my husband's size fourteen feet, which are plunked down in front of the coffee table. I miss a spot of carpet, but my husband's head is buried in a book. His feet are two immovable objects when he is reading.

This tiny bungalow was perfect for me when I bought it. Determined to live alone forever after my starter-marriage of seventeen years fell apart, I purchased this house for me and my two cats, and basked in introverted glory until one day, I hired a painting company. The man who came to paint the outside of my house was surprisingly appealing. Curly hair, athletic physique, and those blue eyes. It rained a lot that June. The painter and I found other ways to pass the time. When the house was finally painted a cheery pale yellow, the painter moved in. Thankfully he didn't own much, due to his former life having also fallen apart - an ancient Ford Galaxy, a microwave oven, a futon and those swords from Spain. No problem fitting him into my little house.

Now it is a different story.

I give up on cleaning the living room and push the vacuum down the hall to Bob's study. There are books on the floor, and more shoes scattered around the room. Each one could fill half a closet in this house. I reflect on how I used to have the whole place to myself. How I used to be in charge. What belongs solely to me now is one placemat on the kitchen table and my tiny study, next to his. The tidy one, without shoes all over the floor.

I put the vacuum away, remembering how much the cats used to hate it. Eventually they went to the rainbow bridge and I could do housework without guilt. But then Bob's spirited teenaged daughters came to live with us every other weekend. We ran out of towels, the water bill went through the roof and I gave up keeping the rec room tidy. Later we added a frisky dog to the mix. I gradually lost control of the entire house, one room at a time. Power tools and devices that I don't recognize fill the workshop. There is a guitar stored in our bedroom cupboard. The dog's bed takes up half the kitchen, and dog food bags line the floor of my office cupboard. We could move to a house with dreamy walk-in closets, but the dog likes the yard too much. So we hunker down, making the most of the space we have. Huge boxes of shoes and piles of slides from Bob's former life take up most of the laundry room. And last year, we bought a large powerboat. Now marine supplies can be found in nearly every room. Boating books are piled on the coffee table and on Saturday nights, we watch DVDs on diesel motor maintenance.

Thirty years have passed. The girls are fabulous, successful women now. We survived Bob's heart disease, calls to 911, his subsequent bypass surgery, two hip replacements and a pesky hernia operation. It has all been a grand adventure. So what if I can't vacuum everywhere? Tonight, I will crawl into bed beside the dog and Bob. He wears giant black splints strapped on his wrists with Velcro every night, due to carpal tunnel syndrome. I never expected to be married to Darth Vader, but I wouldn't change a thing. At least his light saber still works and he doesn't wear his shoes to bed. Not yet, anyway.

-Leslie Bamford

Leslie Bamford lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her wacky husband and eccentric dog. When there are moments of calm, she writes, paints, bakes and sneaks off to conservation areas to take photos of nature. Some day she hopes to finish the needlepoint she started in 1974 but really, what's the rush?

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