She in the Netherlands, me in a sort of netherworld

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 9, 2011; 9:37 PM

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. If that's true, My Lovely Wife and I are in for a real love-fest. Ruth moved to The Hague last week, making it very easy for me to remember whose turn it is to walk the dog. It's mine.

This is not a decision we made lightly. Ruth put her career on hold when we had children, working part time as a lawyer, teaching law school, helping students prepare for the bar exam. Our girls aren't really girls any more. One's in college, and the other soon will be. If Ruth was ever going to pick up where she left off workwise, the time was now. She found a great company with a great opening. It just happens that the great opening is in The Hague.

It turns out that The Hague is in the Netherlands, or Holland, as some people call it. The people there are Dutch.

I'm sorry, but how many names is a country allowed to have? In America, we're Americans. Why aren't the Dutch called Netherlanders or Hollandaise? Or why isn't their country called Dutchland? Also, since when do the names of cities include a definite article. The Hague? Why not just Hague? We don't live in T he Washington. Even the Congo and the Ukraine have gotten with the program.

Sorry. Where was I? Ah, yes, The Hague. Well, I wasn't. Ruth was. Is.

We know this is a big deal. We noticed over the past couple of months that when we told people about Ruth's move they eyed us suspiciously, as if looking for a heretofore unnoticed chink in the perfect couple's facade. But maybe love means both never having to tell your wife she can't move to The Hague and never telling your husband he has to move to The Hague.

The truth is, I like my job too much to leave it. I can't do "John Kelly's Washington" from The Hague. And for some reason, The Post has no interest in "John Kelly's The Hague." Therefore, my quirky take on the lighter side of the International Criminal Court will have to wait.

Of course, I'd be lying if I didn't admit I was worried. My daughter Beatrice and I both realize there is a real possibility we will starve to death. That's an awful thing to say: that we think of this accomplished woman with two graduate degrees mainly as a cook. But I'm just being honest here. I have never developed the forward-thinking skills required of a person who must reliably feed a household.

I cook occasionally and invariably find myself 30 minutes from dinner time looking at a recipe that begins, "Marinate meat overnight in refrigerator." Noooooo!

Beatrice thinks her mother should continue to shop for us, ordering groceries over the Internet from Giant's Peapod. I have offered to install webcams in our cupboards so Ruth can check inventories remotely. It is possible Beatrice and I will subsist entirely on Potbelly sandwiches for the next 12 months - or at least until she goes to college and takes me with her. Or perhaps our neighbors will leap into action, bringing us covered dishes as if someone at our house were recovering from a serious illness.

I also harbor the fear that I might let myself go. In the coming months, will I cover the furniture with dropcloths, close off entire wings of the house and shuffle around in a bathrobe, my feet shoved into empty tissue boxes?

But this is not the end of the world. Hopefully we'll see each other every month or so. We're fortunate that this is a matter of choice. It's not like one of us has had to flee law enforcement or paid a coyote to sneak us over the border. Spousal separations are common, especially in this area, right?

And so, if you've been part of a couple who found themselves an ocean or continent apart, I'm curious how you handled it. Was Skype your friend? Was it the best thing that ever happened to you, strengthening your relationship and making your fleeting times together that much richer? And do you have any quick and easy recipes?

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