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COUNTDOWN TO DEPARTURE IS A DUTY THAT HUSBANDS PLACE ABOVE ALL ELSE

SHARE COUNTDOWN TO DEPARTURE IS A DUTY THAT HUSBANDS PLACE ABOVE ALL ELSE

"Plan on leaving the house at 8:23 a.m.," my husband says before stepping into the shower on a day when we have appointments to keep. I know he picked 8:23 as the departure time instead of a nice rounded 8:20 or 8:25, because he thinks the uneven numbers are more likely to stick in my mind.

For as long as we've been married, that man has seen it as his No. 1 goal in life to guarantee I'm never late for anything. It's the first in a trio of cherished responsibilities that all men (being created equal in the responsibility to be a good husband) bring to marriage. And it takes precedence over No. 2 and No. 3: Don't let your wife injure her vocal chords by talking on the phone too long, and make sure your wife doesn't make any mistakes when she's driving a car you happen to be riding in.Seeing that I don't slow him down is a duty he takes seriously. That's why whenever we're getting ready to go somewhere he finds creative ways to remind me that time does not stand still.

"Honey, it is now exactly eight oh four a.m. Sweetheart, the big hand is now on the one. Darling, the second hand just made a clean sweep around the clock."

Of course I really appreciate his loving concern, and, knowing how important it is for him to be a good husband, I dutifully wait for my turn in the bathroom. While he showers, I make the bed and fix breakfast. While he shaves, I vacuum the house. Then while he eats breakfast, I shower, dress, comb my hair, and put my make-up on. I do the dishes as he knots his tie.

By 8:21, I'm brushing my teeth, and, of course, helpful husband that he is, my man has already begun the two minute count-down. One hundred nineteen, one hundred eighteen, one hundred seventeen seconds left 'til take-off time.

So effective is his encouragement that I'm out the door and sitting in the car at exactly 8:23. And that's when I take out my book. I can probably get two or three chapters read by the time he washes the windshield, checks the tires and changes the oil so we can leave.

Sharon Nauta Steele, West Point, is a homemaker, mother of seven and a free-lance writer.