The stranger beside me

By Lori Clinch

Although my beloved spouse, Pat, is a pretty easygoing guy, he does have a few guidelines that he adheres to.

First of all, as far as Pat is concerned, sleeping past 6 a.m. is a waste of time.  Being a woman who loves to sleep in, this has been a bone of contention in our marriage from day one. But after lo these many years of marital bliss, we have come to a compromise where I let him get up early and he lets me sleep in as long as I like, or until 7 a.m. – whichever comes first.

Pat does not like a TV in the bedroom and as near as I know, has never snuggled in while the old tube blared out with reruns into the wee hours.

Vacations with Pat are a real hoot if you feel that boot camp is a walk in the park.  Not one to let moss grow under his feet, Pat loves to start out with a brisk early morning walk, go for a long bike ride, and, to the tune of “Yodelaheehoo,” loves to hike up the mountain. On a typical vacation day with Pat, this will all be accomplished before lunch.

After considering all of these things, I was truly concerned about how Pat was going to handle the Florida vacation we had booked with his family this last week.

While a book on the beach sounded like a slice of heaven for me, I knew it would be Pat’s worst nightmare. In fact, I was quite certain the only thing that could make it worse for that dear man would be if we dined at a restaurant with only fish on the menu.

Although I loved every minute of this dream vacation, there was a strange chain of events that occurred. It began on the first morning in Florida when that handsome husband of mine slept in past 7 a.m.

I kid you not.

Pat did not wake me from my slumber in the pre-dawn hours and he did not ask me at 5:30 a.m. if I was “up for all day.” Nor did he show up at the side of the bed with a cup of coffee, complete with cream, in an effort to guilt me out from under the blankets.

But the strangeness did not end with that, no sir. While dining out at a restaurant with plenty of beef and chicken options, my Pat ordered a fish sandwich. The next night he ordered a cheeseburger … with fish on it! If I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes, I never would have believed it and yet there it was.

I truly began to eye Pat suspiciously when he went to bed and turned on the TV.  I’m telling you it was a page straight out of “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and suddenly I wasn’t thinking about sleeping in, I was afraid to close my eyes.

After Pat did a 30-mile bike ride for no reason in particular, he went to the beach and actually sat down on a beach chair for the first time in his 50-plus years.

Does this not just freak you out?

When his sisters, who love to shop, dragged him into a tourist shop, Pat offered up nary a complaint. He rifled through the items, chuckled at a few things and actually picked out a hat.

He balked a bit at a $3 visor I had picked up for myself and then walked off.  That’s my Pat. But it was when he came back with a more expensive one that I realized what was going on. Pat had cloned himself and sent some other guy on this vacation.

Of this I am certain.

Now that we are home, I pay attention when folks ask, “Hey Pat, how was your trip?” You see, I need to know if my Pat is back or if we are still with the clone. His general response is “Oh, it was all a bunch of nonsense.”

But then his mind seems to drift, he appears to be lost in thought and an ever-so-subtle smile appears on his face.

In all seriousness, I know my Pat is still my Pat. Yet, if I catch him eating a flounder sandwich in bed while watching TV, I may take him for a 30-mile bike ride straight to the therapist.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to loriclinch2010@gmail.com.