L.A. Affairs: Just where is her husband’s home?

(Dan Zalkus / For the Los Angeles Times)

He handed me his smartphone so I could wish my mother-in-law a happy Mother’s Day. There it was, in large print on the screen, the identity of the place my husband, Ron, had telephoned.


Calm down, don’t make a scene. It’s Mother’s Day, I told myself. But it was too late. My heart was already racing, and my breathing was getting short and clipped.

How long does this man have to live with me before he stops calling his parents’ house “home”? We’re about to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary! I made myself stop the internal banter. I took the phone from Ron’s hand without looking at him and walked ahead. I didn’t want to show him my face, as it quickly was changing from pale and freckled to a bright, solid crimson.


It was Mother’s Day 2013, and we were hiking an easy trail in Griffith Park with our 29-year-old son, Andrew. I had suggested to Ron that this would be a good time to call his mother. He had called her and spoken with her for a while before handing me the phone.

When I saw “home” on the screen, I was tempted to hand it back and say, “You called the wrong number. I wanted you to call your parents’ house.” But I kept my thoughts to myself, fought the anger pulsing in my head and managed to convey some well wishes to my mother-in-law. Then I handed the phone to Andrew.

“It’s your grandmother.”

Before the hike, we had met for brunch at the MessHall, a popular restaurant near Andrew’s apartment in Los Feliz. Our younger son, Ryan, had joined us via cellphone from Northern California, near UC Davis, where he was in his third year. The plan for the day was to have brunch, take a hike and then see Andrew’s bachelor pad.

Throughout brunch, I had been fully engaged in conversation, but that changed during the hike. I became quiet. I had to fight the urge to ask my husband the questions on my mind: Where do you live? Where is your home?

After the hike, we drove to the day’s last destination. Once inside the apartment, I let go of the “home” incident and was telling Andrew about a one-room place I’d rented in New York’s hip Lower East Side when his father and I were his age.

“This is a lot like a place I had in the East Village before we were married. Wasn’t that a nice apartment, sweetheart?” I asked my husband.

“Yeah,” Ron said, but his thoughts were already somewhere else.

“I had a great apartment then,” he said. “Burned-out building on 11th Street. Rent was $125 a month, and I shared it with another guy.” He grinned as he recalled how clever he was as a young man making it in New York. I thought how he almost never slept in that rat hole of a building because he was sleeping with me at the time, in my nice, much more expensive apartment.

I cautioned myself. This was just going to be one of those days — the kind of day when a decades-long commitment is challenged. Not by a loud, justifiable argument but by the annoying little things a husband says that set a wife to wondering what she was thinking all those years ago when she married this man in the prime of her life. The kind of day when she asks herself if he’s trying to tick her off or if it just comes naturally to him.

I had to choose whether to speak up about the phone ID and his recollections of the ‘80s, or suck it up and keep the peace. I chose peace and proceeded with our goodbyes.

“Well, we’ve got to go. Have to get some things done this afternoon. Thanks for a great Mother’s Day, Andrew,” I said to my son. We kissed and hugged goodbye, and my husband and I headed for the car.

Ron wanted to take the scenic drive home, through the surface streets. As he maneuvered his Honda Fit along Sunset, it was quiet inside the car, just the two of us and our thoughts. Then he stopped for a red light and pointed to a poster for the movie “Gatsby,” one of the spring’s blockbusters.

“Let’s go see that tonight,” he suggested.

“OK,” I said. But as I thought about it, I changed my mind.

“Wait. It’s Sunday. Good TV night,” I said.

“Oh, that’s right. ‘Mad Men.’ ‘Veep.’”

Waiting for the light to change, he looked over at me, smiling. The muscles in his face were relaxed, and his steel-blue eyes had a sparkle that I see only occasionally now that we are in our later middle years. He was having a good day, enjoying this time with his wife and our oldest son, and talks with our younger son and his mom.

As he started to speak, his right hand reached for my left.

“Let’s take it easy tonight,” he told me. “Let’s stay home.”

McGlinchey King is a writer living in Culver City. She and her husband, Ron King, celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in September, at home.

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