Monday, August 11, 2008

Happy Anniversary! What's for Dinner?

It was a really foolish thing to say, the first in a long line of foolish things that have come out of my mouth – and for which I have been repeatedly forgiven – over 24 years.

It was the first day back at work for each of us after our Hawaiian honeymoon. I got home first and when she arrived, my wife of ten days found me sitting comfortably in a chair reading the newspaper. I think I was wearing my house shoes. That’s when I said it.

“What’s for dinner?”

If looks could kill, oh my, it would have been a short marriage.

And wouldn’t you know I would do it again some years later when, she being the stay-at-home-with-the-little-ones spouse, I dared to ask, “What did you do all day?”

She hit the bull’s eye that time too.

Somehow we made it through those (and many other) little missteps on my part and today we are celebrating our 24th anniversary. Bless her heart for hanging in with me that long.

We could not have envisioned what life would be like these two dozen years later. She was scared to death she would not be able to have children and had warned me that, due to some little “imbalances” or something or other, if it happened at all, it would take a long time.

Not to get too personal, but suffice it to say that whatever might not have been in balance, it was not her ability to bear children. She was pregnant with our first before our first anniversary.

Just minutes after Number 3 was born via Caesarean section, her obstetrician, a guy with a great sense of humor, allowed as to how she was in great shape to keep going. I looked at her and smiled.

And there it was, that look again, the same one I had gotten when I asked that fateful question when she arrived home from work that day. (If you are a man and you are reading this, don’t act like you don’t know what I am talking about. Guys throughout history have been getting “the look” for myriad reasons and if you are honest you will admit that it scares the poop out of you).

“Tell him to do it NOW,” she said to me as she lay flat on her back, her abdomen open and her eyes ablaze. “And tell him to take care of you too, if that’s what it takes!”

(As if this had been all my fault . . . . but I digress).

“She’s a little delirious from the meds,” I told the Doc with a nervous laugh as I discretely tried to pry her fingernails from my forearm. But I knew she was as sane and as serious as she had ever been. We were now outnumbered – three of them and two of us – and it was time to call the quiver full.


I gave her a card on our first anniversary that said, “The fun has just begun.” That was my fervent wish – that our years together would be, if nothing else, fun.

I am pleased to report that we have had it in abundance. We have made laughter a staple of our life together. Our children laugh at us laughing at each other!

To be sure, there have been hurdles to jump. It took us a few years to learn not to get so excited about the little things that are so unimportant and, every once in a while, I still need a refresher course in that lesson.

Those early years sometimes felt like a competition, like, if her parents were coming over for dinner, I needed to call mine and invite them over. Didn’t matter that they lived two hours away and inviting them meant they would be there a day or so.

It took us a long time to learn how to have a really good, productive argument. I was just a year out of law school when we got married and I was especially impressed with how I had been trained to think critically. How could that concept not be readily transferable into a relationship, especially a marriage?

Here’s how: when she is talking, especially about something about which she feels passionately (for example, why the dog should not frequently pee on the carpet), she prefers to have the other party attentively listening, not thinking about what he is going to say in response and, more likely than not, how he will refute what she is saying.

As I said, that lesson was a long time coming. She dragged me to some class at church one time where this supposedly ideal couple told us how they would hold these little cards – one marked “Talk” and one marked “Listen”-- to indicate who should be talking when. I found that a little over-the-top and more than a little juvenile.

She threatens me with the cards every so often, a good reminder that maybe I am reverting to that critical thinking stuff again. But I am doing much better.

Like everyone, we have had our share of ups and downs -- jobs that did not work out, investments that did not produce, extended family that had to be shown boundaries. Eleven years ago I convinced her we should move from Arkansas to Tennessee (speaking of jobs that did not work out). As she puts it, I brought her kicking and screaming but she now is the first to admit it was one of the best things that ever happened to our family.

There are still “miles to go before we sleep,” with one just out of college (please join me in singing the Doxology), one still there (keep praying) and that last one I mentioned earlier still right here with us (give me strength, Lord, and thanks for such a wonderful gift). Even so, we have reached a place where I believe we are a little more relaxed and a little more able to take life as it comes. I like that.

When you go to a wedding, the pastor will often mention the “mystery” of marriage. Twenty-four years into this gig, I think I am only beginning to understand what that means – how two people really do, in a very real sense, become one. They start to anticipate what the other will say, finish each other’s sentences and sometimes communicate without even speaking. It’s a wild ride, really – a mystery indeed.

And if you are blessed, as I am, that mystery ride with your very best friend is also a whole, whole lot of fun.

Happy Anniversary, Honey! What’s for dinner?!


Kelly said...

Congratulations and happy anniversary to you both!! We'll mark 23 years later in the month.

This is one of those entries that reminds me of what a wonderful writer you are! I thoroughly enjoyed reading every word (with a smile on my face the entire time)!

Kelly said...

I just noticed you'd added the latest No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency book to your shelf. Did you enjoy it as much as the others? I'm waiting for the softcover.

Pam said...

I love this, Bob!! Congrats and Happy Anniversary!!

Wow, Kelly, forgot you were coming up on 23!

I agree, you are such a marvelous writer. I was hanging on every word!

quid said...

Congratulations, Bob!

This is a wonderful tribute to what sounds like a wonderful union!


Hal Johnson said...

Wonderful post, Bob. Happy anniversary!

Your words bring to mind the words from a Hal Ketchum song:
"Even love that is meant to be
is a garden in need of tending.
Even love that is for all time
does not promise a happy ending."

A little aside: My bride is in criminal defense, and I learned in the first couple of years of marriage that relationship types of discussions could wait until after the trial. I should have learned that in the first year, but hey, I'm a slow learner.

Debby said...

Happy Anniversary, and what a nice tribute! You'll almost get away with that 'what's for dinner' thing.

Just to make you feel better about yourself, my other half, heart of my heart, etc., and I took our youngest child to college. I cried my mascara off on the trip home, wondering how it all ended so quickly. Just yesterday, surely, we were up to our armpits in children. I was quietly pondering these changes later that night as I lay in bed. My husband said, in the darkness, "What's your problem anyway?"

Yeah. We hardly ever fight, but allow me to say that it really sucked to be Tim that night.