377. Playing Horseshoes in the Dark

“I haven’t been myself lately. You know, communicating fairly. I’ve just been stuck on the recliner while my incisions heal. The less I can do, the more I want to control my husband and kids, who are doing the best they can to step up for me. It’s not right, I know. I just can’t help myself. I’m hypercritical when I should be hyper grateful,” moaned Sheila with mild anger and smoldering self disgust.

Eddie, her husband responded, “She’s been meaner than a badger. I went into overdrive because I know how she likes to keep the house. I gave 150% until yesterday when she nitpicked me about something stupid. I lost it. I thought, ‘You gotta be kidding me!’ So I just quit. Shut down totally. It’s hard enough to do double time with appreciation and support. It’s impossible without it.”

“Yeah, I hear you. So Sheila, Eddie stepped up and gave it his all to carry your weight? Is that right?”

“Yes, he did a great job.”

“Did you tell him?”

“No, uh…uh…I…uh… just get so cranky and unfair…the words stick in my throat. I should be doing it.”

“Telling him or doing the work yourself?”

“Doing the housework. It’s my job and I want it done my way.”

“Look, I don’t know any other guy who would do the stuff I do. I’m not bragging; just telling the truth. I’m not your typical husband.”

“I know.”

“Why don’t you tell Eddie he is exceptional.”

“I want to… I just have this Miss INDEPENDENCE streak in me that is so angry. I should be doing all the stuff he’s been doing. It’s my responsibility and I’m disgusted with myself.”

“And you are taking out your anger on me and the kids!!”

“But you can’t do the work, Shelia. That’s your doctor’s order. Right?”

“Yes, but it makes me feel so out of control.”

“Sheila, Eddie needs to hear how he’s doing. Otherwise it’s like playing horseshoes in the dark.”

“I’m not following you.”

“Imagine Eddie is throwing horseshoes in the pitch dark. He thinks he knows where the target is and how far away the stake is. He’s throwing blindly, hoping to hear metal hit metal, like a bat operating on sonar. You need to tell him if he’s hit the target or not. Is he close?  Your words are like light for him. The more  you tell him, the higher the wattage bulb for the horseshoe metaphor.”

“Where do you come up with this stuff? Do you play horseshoes?”

“No, I’ve just been married for a long time. So, can you tell him he is exceptional and that you appreciate his efforts?”

Deep breath, “Honey, you are exceptional. And, and, uh, I don’t know any other man who would do what you do willingly. You know my expectations and jump to meet them. Thank you. I do appreciate you. Will you forgive me for being such a bitch? I’m just so disgusted with my uselessness.”

Eddie, “Absolutely. Thanks. I forgive you. I love you, not what you do.”

Sheila smiling, ” Whew! That was pretty simple. Hard but simple.”

“Like killing someone, huh? It’s not complicated, but it is hard.”

Eddie, “The horseshoe image clicks with me. If you don’t tell me what’s up, Babe, then I am in the dark, just guessing at what you need. Keeping me in the dark handicaps, no, dooms me to fail. I can’t fix what you don’t tell me. If you do share your thoughts and feelings…well, it’s like everything lights up, even the horseshoes. That would be awesome to have neon lit stakes and shoes.”

Sheila, “Oh, how cute, Eddie. That would be fun!”

Eddie, reaching for Sheila’s open hand, “Yeah, that’s my girl.”

“You two are too young to be Led Zepellin fans, I guess. But they had a hit song called “Communication Breakdown” in the ’70’s. Let’s see, click on lyrics…. there.”Image result for led zeppelin album covers

Hey girl stop what you’re doin’!
Hey girl you’ll drive me to ruin.
I don’t know what it is that I like about you
But I like it a lot.
Won’t you let me hold you
Let me feel your lovin’ charms.
Communication breakdown
It’s always the same
I’m having a nervous breakdown
Drive me insane!
“What I like is how the song bursts out impatiently in the guitar licks to reinforce the content of the lyrics. It just wouldn’t work as a slow number. Likewise, when we talk to one another under stress, we need to slow down and be totally clear.”
Eddie, “We’re more into classic Country music, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Loretta.”
“Yeah, sure. Stand By Your Man. One of my favorites. Let’s get that up here…”
Stand By Your Man

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
You’ll have bad times, and he’ll have good times
Doin’ things that you don’t understand
But if you love him, you’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him, oh be proud of him
‘Cause after all he’s just a man.
Stand by your man, give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.
Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can.
Stand by your man.

 

Eddie, “That’s a real woman.

Sheila, “Bullseye, Buddy. That’s how I want to be for you.”

Eddie, “Deal! Man, I love counseling!”

Sheila, tugging on Eddie’s wrist,  “Is it just me or did it get a lot hotter suddenly?”

Eddie, “Definitely you got hotter. Let’s go home, Sweetie. Doc, can you give us a few seconds alone? I think I have a double ringer twirling on the flagpole of love. How about that? Poe tree.”

Sheila, “I like it, you big farrier.”

“I’ll be in the front room listening to Barry White songs if you need me.”

 

 

 

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365. Epoxy My Brain Shut

Quite unintentionally it’s been good to be me lately in my marriage. Naturally I think history simply caught up to me; the wave I’ve been ahead of has finally crashed behind me and my prophesies are seen as epochal truths. Of course, this is delusional thinking.  Put simply, my wife recently told me one Saturday morn, “I really like how you have been behaving lately. I wish you could always be like this.”

Such comments are simultaneously both a compliment and a complaint. They contain two parts. Part one is the limited compliment, specific praise for something recent. Part two is the ubiquitous complaint, the history lesson that says you usually, no make that almost always, suck. Days like these are comparable to balmy summer days in Antarctica, serving only to confuse the penguins, seals and walruses who live upside down on the underbelly of the planet. Those poor critters are so confused that they dare not venture north, where it’s warmer.

Well, like a penguin in Miami I did not know what to do with such a statement. I asked for some clarification, hoping I would not ruin this un-Cialis moment. Indisputable examples were given. I pondered further. Finally, since my brain chemistry was under discussion or debate, I leaned back against the stove and made a suggestion. “Honey, here’s what I’m gonna do. Since you like my present mood so much and we’re both pretty sure it will soon fall into a computer screen or television abyss, I am going to epoxy my brain chemistry in place right here in this sweet spot of marital bliss. I can put an epoxy-filled syringe in each ear and squeeze until my brain hardens in place. Then I will be your joy boy forevermore.”

Seasoning her egg sandwich, “Oh, I wish.”

“I’m sure. We’ve been married 36 years now, right?  known one another 41 years, or twice as long as we did not know one another. Which is hard to say. I would not want to translate that sentence into another language, say Moroccan. More coffee?”

“Yes. I don’t care about translations. I just want to understand the original so stop the obscure references. It’s nice to be close to you. I feel complete and secure.”

“Oh, I do too. So often we have stress for one reason or another that just derails us.”

“Usually, by which I mean always, it’s you. I am very stable.”

“Yes, but so is concrete.”

“Are you comparing me to a building product?”

“No! I’m, I’m just saying that you are so much more than stable, you know, sexy and smart and … like, uh, stable is just where you start, baby. Just the foundation of the Honey Pot Nation.”

“No! You’re going to ruin it again! You are so impatient!”

“I’ve never been in-patient.”

“And the puns. They are intolerable.”

“I know. I can’t help it. Aren’t you going to eat the yolk?”

“No, egg yolks are gross. Are you going to eat it?”

“Gulp. Mmmmm. That’s your problem, baby girl. You just don’t get my yolks.”

“Uhhhhhh. Must you?”

“Hey, I did not go bait and switch on you. I was like this when we met in 1974. In fact, I was wearing this same Grateful Dead tee shirt without the holes. Listen:  If I epoxy my brain shut now, are you prepared for bad yolks forevermore?”

“No. Let’s think this through. There has to be something else that preserves a mood.”

“Formaldehyde. Radon. Volcanic ash. Death…”

“NO! Stop. Whose death, yours or mine?”

“Does it matter?  It was yust a yolk, my yittle chickadee.”

“What is in your head that makes you so weird? Is it a fungal infection that got into your synapses?

“Possibly. I contracted athlete’s brain in junior high from the gym showers. Mushrooms grew in the dark stall farthest from the frosted windows. That’s where Jody Riccio…”

“Stop!!! You see? This is why I want to hire a hit man. You start with a loving statement from me and then you go down bunny trails that lead to squirrel tracks that lead to mole holes that lead to ant farms that lead to termite tunnels on other planets!!!”

“Honey, honey. Sweet honey bee. You are surely exaggerating my exaggerations exponentially, even intergalactically. I will not lean here and be compared to insect life on any planet. I have standards.”

“Really?”

“Sometimes you must admit I’ve had a standard, at least once. I have stood beneath a bell curve at least once.”

“Standard deviation.”

“Well, you have to have a standard to have a deviation, right? I am an outlier. You gotta sin to be saved. Sister, come forward and accept God’s Holy Spirit on your tortured soul!!!”

“You got the liar part right. Can we focus here?”

“Did you know that Focus means Botox in Japanese. And now I see why. If you get shot up with enough Botox, your face will stay focused for eternity, sort of like the Joker after his weird mouth mishap.”

“I could not endure your happy face forever. It gets scary after a couple of seconds. Stop it! I hate your Jack Nicholson impression. He is so ugly.”

“So the answer is not Botox. How about laser surgery?”

“For what?”

“I read an article in AARP that lasers can melt your wrinkles together and make you look twenty years younger.”

“I knew you twenty years ago. I don’t want that again.”

“I could get my lips done so they are in a forever super model pout. How about this?”

“Don’t make that face. Now you look like Jack Nicholson imitating Angelina Jolie. It’s too freakin’ freaky.”

“Well, in other news, are you going to yoga tonight?”

“Are you?”

“I’m a go.”

“What?”

“No, I changed my mind.”

“What?”

“Nah, I’m a stay.”

“I’m putting on these lime green ear muffs now. I can’t hear you.”

“What’dya say?”

“I said, ‘I can’t hear you.”

“Do you still want me to stay like this?

“What?” Reaching for the epoxy syringe.

“I said, ‘Do you still want me to stay this way?'”

“How about we epoxy your mouth shut?”

“mmmmhmmm aaahummm eeyyoooo”

“Yes, this is lovely. Now Immastay. No, Immago. Immatalk. Youashutup. Yeah, nice.”

“mmmmnnnnoooo  aaaahhhhmmmmm puuuhhhhmmmm arrrrgggg.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

331. Not Fade Away

“If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad…”  So sang Cheryl Crow. Oh, but it can be this way; it is true. So many folks I know cling to something that made them happy, but over time it no longer does. They ache and pine for a lost loved one or an unfaithful lover. Bittersweet is the taste and the feeling that courses through them as they ping pong between tender longing with a dry throat or vinegary tears dripping down contorted cheeks. What a strange combination and contradiction when couples dance at wedddings to songs of heartbreak and melancholy, feeling safe, even invulnerable in a satin white coccoon. “That won’t happen to us. We’re special, protected somehow, immune.” And they sway to the slow rhythm of a broken heart song, unaware that they will follow in its hollow footsteps…

Bittersweet memories
That is all I’m taking with me
So, goodbye
Please, don’t cry
We both know I’m not what you, you need
And iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiIIIIII will always love you
I will allllllllllllways love you  {goodbye Whitney}

Oh, why do fools fall in love? Because love makes fools of us all.

 [Frankie Lymon and the Teennagers.]

Long ago I heard a therapist say that couples divorce for the same reasons they marry. This seemed contradictory to me, so I inquired further. Say what? “Yes. If a couple marries for looks, when their looks fade, as they inevitably do, then they divorce. If a couple marries for status and money, when those fade, they divorce. If they marry for the fun they shared in activities, when the activities fade, they divorce. And so on, with sex, popularity, health, etc. Even couples who are passionately attached with a sparky connection divorce when inevitably that spark fades.”

“So Doc, what’s the answer to this riddle? I mean, why don’t we all just hang ourselves now?”

“The answer is to marry for reasons that don’t fade or change. Immutable reasons.”

“Like what? ‘Cause everything changes.”

“Actually an adult’s core values are relatively immune to change. An honest adult is likely to be honest all his life, whether he is bald or happens to sport a full head of Elvis hair. A faithful, upright woman will be faithful and upright as well. A compassionate adult will live a compassionate life. A faithful friend is likely to be faithful to the bitter end.”

“So you are talking about abstractions not material world stuff.”

“Yes. Your ripped and toned body is going to soften and weaken if you live long enough. Your incredible hand-eye coordination is likewise doomed to a similar fate, even with Lasik surgery and testosterone treatments.”

 “C’mon, Man. Look at these abs…And great sex falls into this sad basket also?”

“Yeah, stuff wears out– muscles, organs, bones, blood vessels, skin, nerves. All fail one day.”

“You are killing me, man. Have you ever considered un-motivational speaking for a career?”

“Actually I have, but the market isn’t there. I have been called an emotional exterminator. The Undertaker of Conviviality. For a while I was a bouncer at Polish weddings.”

“Uh huh, you can empty a room fast.”

“Well, it depends on the crowd. Some folks lap up what I’m putting out there. But they are a lot more mature than you.”

“You mean older, right?”

“No, I mean wiser. The maturity that comes from successful suffering.”

“Look, I’m not going to stand here and listen to your condescending lecture.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know, I was hoping you’d back off if I got all Neanderthal on you.”

“Which only further proves my maturity point.”

“OOOOOkay. I get it. I’m infantile Now tell me something I don’t already know.”

“Life expectancy gets in the way of enduring marriages.”

“Huh?”

“Average life expectancy in the U.S. during the years of 1850-1900 was 40 years. And during those years folks didn’t have movies or television, fast food or central air conditioning. They worked 10 and 12 hours a day just to survive. They were so busy with survival that this drivel we’ve been discussing would have made no sense to them. You following me?”

“Yes Sir! I can follow hard facts easier than prickly paradoxes and slippery conundrums. These folks lived brief, painful lives and died after they procreated but before they grew tired of one another.”

“Something like that.”

“So they could fall in love for silly and superficial reasons but die before they saw the varnish tarnish.”

“Is that some sort of stupid play on words?”

“Yeah, you know, it’s like a rhyme. A little word play to lighten it up, Doc. You know, you are deadly.”

“Well, remember my audience, doltish, and the task I have undertaken.”

“Yup, I’m with you. I still think you suck at motivating people though.”

“Yes, so with the extended life together, American married couples were not prepared for decades of shared life overlapping more and more free time. It was just too much. Drama and bickering and the endless struggle for control developed once the television came to dominate American living rooms. It is clearly illustrated in this unrelated chart. As you can see, new marriages peaked in 2006 and by 2014 over half a person was  missing due to recessionary pressures.”

“Doc, I get the big picture, even though your chart has nothing to do with your subject at hand.”

“I didn’t think you’d notice. ‘Touche for ooya.’ How do you like that word play?”

“Doc, let’s finish with an affirmation. I don’t want to leave this post angry. Okay?  Think of the little Blogglers out there who need a boost. I mean, they have read this far hoping for something resembling intelligent writing. Lie if you have to, but don’t let them go to bed hungry.”

“You are pitiful.”

“I don’t care what you think of me, Mister. Just give my people a crust of intellectual bread.”

“Okay, you’ve warn me down. My final point is that if you choose a partner for ephemeral reasons, you will indeed have an ephemeral mayfly marriage. Modern marriage is a covenant agreement that may last sixty or seventy years in our modern era. It’s longer and harder than ever to make marriage work. So, build on solid ground with proven materials– faith, integrity, truth, transparency. They don’t fade away.”

“I prefer Buddy Holly’s advice… amen.”

“Not Fade Away”

I’m a-gonna tell you how it’s gonna be
You’re gonna give your love to me
I wanna love you night and day
You know my love a-not fade away
A-well, you know my love a-not fade away
My love a-bigger than a cadillac
I try to show it and you drive a-me back
Your love for me a-got to be real
For you to know just how I feel
A love for real not fade away
I’m a-gonna tell you how it’s gonna be
You’re gonna give your love to me
A love to last a-more than one day
A love that’s love – not fade away
A well, a-love that’s love – not fade away

 

 

 

 

 

 

324. Stains, Repairs and Marriage.

So the decks off the back of my house needed to be repaired and stained yet again. They are twenty years old, maybe 22.  It doesn’t matter. They have been exposed to the blistering southern sun and cold western winds that sometimes whip against my house all these years. Rain is never far off for long in South Central PA, so the old pressure treated wood rarely gets to dry out. Then the filthy maple tree drops leaves and helicopters and bird poop steadily from April to October. All this exposure encourages warping, splintering and cracking. You don’t think on the last day of construction that you are obligating yourself to ongoing maintenance, not when everything is new and clean, straight and plumb, square and true. The piney smell of fresh sawdust sprinkles the air above the decks on the day you walk across their near perfection. Like a brand new marriage on your wedding day, you can’t see the splintering flaws hidden in your future. They are unimaginable. What could possibly go wrong?

My friend Jeff built these decks and the staircase that connects them way back when. He did a great job at cost, leaving me to finish the pickets and the braces, as well as finishing the installation of lag bolts here and there. I know I got the pickets installed, forgot the braces and might have installed the lag bolts incorrectly. It didn’t seem to matter because the decks looked so good. I put the tools away and just enjoyed what was there. From the start of it all, you see, I slacked.

Just for the sake of comparison, I got married 36 years ago. Yup. Been many a storm and drought in those years. Lots of bird poop and dead leaves have fallen on us, but so has new growth and some amazing blessings.  Three wonderful daughters any parent would be proud of. A great son in law. An adorable granddaughter. Like our old double decks, our marriage looked good from a distance. If you walked around my marriage often enough, however, you’d notice the sway and unevenness here and there. The corners were pulling out of square. The steps wiggled a bit. A couple of short cuts were visible. Things didn’t line up exactly and gaps appeared. Oh well, that’s okay. Good enough. It would not collapse outright, but it might be unsafe without routine inspection and maintenance… because I slacked at times. Nails instead of screws, screws instead of bolts. A good deck needs nothing but use, right?

So this past weekend I power-washed both decks and the staircase in the middle of a rainstorm. I blasted old stains, mildew, dirt and gunk for three plus hours. This rain soaked duty is something I would never have willingly done if it weren’t for the acute urgency I felt to make changes now. I’d been a poor and lazy steward of these decks. The steps had not been stained last time around I noticed. Likely because I’d said to myself, “I’ll get back to that” and never did. Many thoughts passed through my mind on that rainy day. Remorse and hope arm wrestled one another like I wrestled the power washer wand. “Why did it have to come to this point? Clearly it did not. Neglect, whether of a person or a thing, leads to decay.”

Nails had worked themselves up and out of their holds mysteriously. It was a simple matter to pound them back in or replace them with galvanized deck screws. I felt a measure of self contempt and self satisfaction as I repaired the results of my neglect. I looked at my physical efforts as half a metaphor for my marriage relationship: can I do the same things with my good, solid wife? Can I draw the corners of our relationship back into square and make our rails plumb? And what did I contribute to their warping? My harsh judgments had been blisteringly unforgiving, simmering under the painted surfaces, cooking the sap of her timbers. My icy words and frosty silences froze her heartwood, cracking and swelling each carefully laid board. I did not cherish or respect her enough to do the needed maintenance cheerfully. Only when life was power washing me did I do the right stuff.

I bit my lip harder as I self confessed my arrogant stupidity. Twenty years ago I used to paint others’ houses with great care and precision, taking great pains to make them look good. Many a fellow painter said to me, “Just make it look good from the street.” That rubbed me the wrong way.  Yet, in retrospect, I see that I did to my house what I did to my marriage and family: I often gave my best overs to others and my left overs to my loved ones. Who does this? Who is more present, respectful, patient, etc.  for strangers than for their own family?

The answer is a moron, i.e., me.

I remembered the old joke about the painter who thinned the paint he used for painting the church’s steeple. He thought no one would notice and he’d pocket the difference. As he was finishing the scam, the voice of God shook his scaffolding.

“Clarence, you have cheated the church and me. You did not cheapen the paint but you did cheapen yourself. You have seriously sinned here, Bro.”

Clarence, “Lord, Lord, I am sorry. What should I do?”

The Lord, “Repaint, repaint and thin no more.”

As I reclined with a sore back that night, I thought about those braces. I had bought some 2×4’s along with extra stain. Before the sun went down, I went back out and  cut and screwed three of them on the diagonal into the staircase supports. Amazingly the wobble was gone. The shaky shake stairs were suddenly rock solid. I was thrilled with the difference. I could not wait for my wife to walk down them like a new bride– safely, steadily and securely on a fresh new promise.

“Repent, repent and sin no more.” I can do the first and struggle hard against the second… but only through the power of my gracious God can I succeed. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

228. thirty five years of bliss and blisters

It must be said, blog sparrows, from every hill and dale: my bride and I are celebrating 35 years of continuous, uninterrupted, matrimonious existence together this July, (next month for the calendar challenged). Let it be written; let it be done.  In our present day and age it’s approaching the nearly unimaginable that ordinary married people can survive the institution of marriage for three and a half decades. Consider this:  Jimmy Carter was president in 1979 when we wed. For political junkies that’s pre-Reagan 1 & 2, Bush the first solo, Clinton 1 & 2, Bush the second 1 & 2, and Obama 1 & 1/2. Over these decades our fearless leaders told us, “Just say no.” “Just don’t ask.” “Just don’t ask me. Ask Dick Cheney or my dad.” “Just do it but don’t tell me about it.”  But along our private path my wife and I had three kids. Two and a half foreign exchange students. A mortgage, refinanced three times. Two undergraduate degrees and two masters degrees. Four distinctly different jobs. Hair loss. Weight gain. Ten cars. Two dogs, two cats, a pile of lizards, a clutch of birds, fish, bunnies, guinea pigs, and an albino frog. Yes, what a long, strange trip it’s been.

It has not been easy. Anyone who has tried to just be a sibling or a friend for most of a life can tell you that. But add on marriage partner and parent to that load, and it’s entirely in another league, like flying a jet off an aircraft carrier is to flying a kite from a sandy beach. Complicated, scary, dangerous, thrilling, burdensome, rewarding, and much more. But we have plodded along the slow and steady path of delayed gratification. Yep. We have read books on communication and marriage, purpose and meaning, novels, psych books, and spiritual books together. We’ve listened to speakers on the radio and cd’s. Went to church together and prayed together.  Did small groups together. We did a marriage retreat or two.

Counseling helped also when it didn’t suck. Mostly it sucked, which is how I got into the business. I think my bride told me once, “You could do a better job than that.” Hey, ringing endorsement or not; I ran with it into my second career. Now that I think about it, my wife’s advice also started me in my first career of teaching. She told me I was a people person not a paper person back when I was a proofreader for a Big 8 accounting firm in D.C. She saved my eternal soul if not my mortal life. I quit the proofreading job that very day and left this note behind…

“How do you get a one-armed proofreader out of a tree? Wave at him. Goodbye.” I was home before the rush hour, unemployed but invigorated.  Rather than setting up like concrete, Life became an adventure again.

Over our forty year relationship we have argued and resolved hundreds of issues. Okay, my wife has and I later agreed with her wisdom. But it comes out to the same thing a few years down the road if you don’t overanalyze everything, alright? I have learned how not to pack a suitcase. How not to do laundry. How not to eat. As a single guy I could just throw my wrinkled clothes into any old bag and be on my way. Likewise I could wash shirts, gym shorts, socks and sneakers in the same load. No worries there. I could also wolf, gobble, slurp, gorge, smack, lick whatever I chose. Life was simple if crude, like a coyote in its natural habitat eating feral cats. Now I am more like a collie dog who occasionally sleeps on the couch but gets wheat free, all natural dog food twice daily. Domestication is not so bad. Shed no tears for me. I could be this homeless guy living on the street. Single and desperate.

I am a fairly classic extrovert married, of course, to a fairly classic introvert. I used to think this was a good thing until I recently read Quiet, by Susan Cain, which elevates the tortoise introverts to hallowed heroes and deflates extroverted hares like me to zeroes. The problem I have with her book is that it’s true and resonates through me on every page. I look over my shoulder now as I shower. It’s creepy how she seems to know my faults.  Slow, methodical approaches to problems win the day in science or buying and selling stocks, she asserts. Extroverts are impatient risk takers. Okay, true. More scholars and researchers are introverts, which makes sense, but it does not make for much of a party. Remember the Far Side cartoon scientists? There’s a dormant party looking to go viral. Just add fun and personality.  I would take offense to her claim that the 1% sexy extroverts get credit for the efforts of the 99% hard working introverts, except I have no ground to stand on there. Dang it!

My bride and I met 40 years ago. I was instantly attracted to her, but that alone is not unusual for 18 year old males who are just larger versions of mosquitoes, I’m afraid, seeking pleasing females doused in clouds of cloying pheromones. What was unusual was that she was attracted to me. My record with attracting girls was pretty weak to that point, and then I retired from that field early on. We struggled in our dating. We struggled as married partners. We struggled as parents. And somehow we survived it all. We are not 51% married and 49% other. It’s not like that. Overall, victory has its share of losses and failures. Ours is not a fantasy marriage. She still hates how I drive and I can’t stand how she drives. She has gotten better at making coffee, however.

No matter the exposition of flaws and disappointments in one another. That is just negative space that enhances all the good and great qualities that remain, like a statue that is exquisitely carved from a clumsy block of stone.  I know my wife thoroughly yet still incompletely after 40 years of intimate life. I like the wonder of love that is never exhausted or fully known. Joy-filled summer breezes still blow through our relationship, scented with honeysuckle and lilacs, roses and peonies, and promises of more years ahead. All my loving… I will give to you.

 

 

 

141. Dancing at the winery

While listening to the Al Parson’s Band at the local winery on a hilltop overlooking Gettysburg, Pat said something about blogging this. Okay, I can do that. It’s a nice place to chill out after a hard week. The crowd is not too boisterous and only rarely do folks get noticeably drunk or obnoxious. So the winery is pretty smooth, easy to take.

We usually meet our friends Pat and Clark and share a couple of hours of their company. My wife gets a glint in her eyes and says, “Let’s dance.”  And then stands over me awkwardly, a dance bully who won’t take no for an answer. This after a day of yard work, yanking weeds and grass, weed whacking, push mowing, and groundhog hunting. Slavery and dance bullying were supposed to have been outlawed by the 13th amendment.

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Well, I have to hobble to my feet and justify the hours of dance lessons we have endured over the past three years. I’d be completely content with the Grope and Shuffle while Al sings, “You were always on my mahnd”, more Willie than Elvis, but my wife wants more. Swing, swing, swing. I think it’s because the woman is the elegant one in these dances; she twirls and sizzles while the hapless post up guy who has to actually think through each carefully choreographed turn and catch is tired from yanking and lugging weeds and groundhog carcasses. It’s not fair that the dance gene is so randomly and rarely distributed. I don’t know one straight man who possesses it.

Okay, so here’s something you don’t see everyday. In preparation for this night out my wife was searching frantically for her black knit tights that she wears under a cute dress she would not wear without leggings. I’ve told her she looks good in this outfit, and I’m sure that she can figure out that if I’m getting her vibes, so are other guys in my demographic and perhaps younger dudes, but definitely older letches if they still have their blood pressure and eyesight. Anyway, she could not find the black leggings, which I called Spanx. Now I know they are not Spanx, and she knows I know this, but I told her I’d look for her Spanx. I did for about 2 seconds and then gave her unhelpful suggestions. “Did you look in the laundry room?”  “Maybe Jess put them in with her laundry.”  “Do you think the guy who is staking out our house at night stole them while we slept, you know, for a creeper trophy?” No good. She did not like my  counter productive hints. Finally in a fit of madness or perhaps a fashion-driven or possibly rabid seizure, she turned on a neatly stacked pile of clothes and began digging through them like a terrier after a gopher. T-shirts, blouses, pajamas, shorts, underwear went flying up behind her as she scoured through the pile until there was nothing but bare floor in front of her flushed panting face. “Aaaghhhh. I’m mad! I wore them in Tucson. They’ve got to be here.”

I began laughing out loud, realizing that such behavior had a 50/50 chance of ending in bodily harm for me. Fortunately, she began to laugh at her furious canine activity. I began to scream in my Black woman falsetto voice, “I’m sooooo mad. I’m a get me my black Spanx. This aint right! I’m maaaad. Oh I’m so maaaaad.” And so it went. We never found her black tights. We left the bedroom in total chaos with a solemn promise to downsize, recycle, reduce, and refuse to shop ever again.

On the way up to the winery, which is a mere 15 minute drive, my wife will sometimes engage me in a deadly debate that she presents as an innocent “conversation”. For example, not long ago we were three minutes into our drive and she asked me if I’d thought about end of life nursing home care! I foolishly said, “No” without thinking that this was not what I thought it was. It was an ambush.

“Well, I have. And if I’m in a horribly critical accident, I want to come home. I want you to make the therapists rehabilitate me so I can come home.”

“Okay, sure.” Again, stupid move. Not enough compassion and reassurance. I did not get on the cruise ship Empathy with her request. I stayed in my little dingy of disinterest.

“I’m serious. So many rehabilitation hospitals hit a certain plateau and then they give up on you. I want to pull out all the stops so I can live a full life. Promise me.”

The red light seemed stuck at 997 and Route 30. Time slowed down as my blood pressure began to rise. My survival instinct was activated. “Well, you can leave me in the nursing home. Pull my plug. I’m okay with that. I don’t need any heroic efforts to bring me back into full turnip capacity.”  Again, stupid move. Now I did not value her since I was devaluing my own potential  incapacitation.

“Well with that attitude I will leave you in the nursing home.”

I broke into laughter. I could not take another dramatic moment engaged in a passionate debate about something that was unlikely to happen ever, but the more we talked about it, the less likely it seemed we’d arrive alive at the winery. “Honey, it’s five thirty on Friday night. We’ve both worked a long week and we’re going to relax for two hours on the mountainside. Why are we debating end of life issues now?”

“You don’t care.”

“I do care about my sanity, and this conversation is pushing me off the cliff.”

“Fine! I’ll leave you in the nursing home, and I’ll go out dancing with some younger man.”

“Hey, that’s okay. Just don’t forget where you put your Spanx.”