Happy Day-You-Got-Cold-Feet, Honey!

By my calculations, today is the fourteenth anniversary of the day Tom got cold feet and called off our marriage. I don’t know what his problem was. We’d been dating for over a month and I had told him we should get married near the beginning of that time. Time enough, in other words, for him to get used to the idea, right?

Today he is adjusting to life with a wife and four daughters rather admirably. He still listens to my untestimony and fantasizes with me about how wonderful it would be to move to Australia (if they reimbursed for relocation and arranged visas and paid enough to cover our ridiculous monthly debt payments, but we still got several minutes of fun from the idea).

On Monday I got my hair cut and the neighbor lady who cuts it wanted to know what Tom has been doing to lose so much weight. I told her we’d both been doing it {insert obligatory “you look great too!”} but that Tom is much better at it than I am. (“It” is counting calories via MyFitnessPal on our iPhones.) Part of that is my hormones insisting a famine may be on the horizon and then how will we nurse the baby without a cushion of fat? And part of it is that Tom, once he sets his mind to something, is pretty unshakeable.

(See what I did there?)

This is Tom making his signature spinach shake. Real men with daughters wear pink blankets on a chilly morning. They also wear rainbow nose rings graciously.

(I had no idea that blanket was so ubiquitous.)

Tom is fair, Tom is kind. Tom is not puffed up. He seeketh not his own. Tom is so great, that if all the men in all the world were like him, I would have no practical problem with patriarchy. He is that good!

What brought on all this ooey-gooey biblicality, you ask? Well, I cannot find Lucy’s birth certificate to register her for kindergarten, and I WILL register her for kindergarten. But it costs $42 for a copy from Florida over the internet, as I lamented to Tom at dinner last night. He offered to look around the house and also the internet for a better solution. You go right ahead, honey, I said. (I said you were awesome, honey, not that you could find the mustard in plain sight to save your life, sweetheart.)

In my continued searching today, I looked through our wedding album. I knew we’d taken a picture on the same Manti Temple steps at our wedding, but I was surprised when this is the print I found. It’s not stamped with the photographer’s imprint, so it was taken by my mom or dad. I’m hoping it was my dad, because he took that other impromptu shot, and that would just be sweet.

June 13, 1998

January 13, 2012

The Triennial Colonoscopy PSA (a love story)

My soul mate turned 36 last week, so that must mean it’s time for another colonoscopy! Happy birthday, honey!

I signed up Tom for his first colonoscopy at 33 because his maternal grandfather died at age 43 from colon cancer. They found a polyp that was pre-cancerous but advanced enough to warrant a repeat in three years. We are fortunate to have good health insurance, but after paying all four bills (hospital, anesthesia, doctor, and lab) it will probably be about $400 out-of-pocket.

The most striking thing this time around was the nurses’ attitudes before and after the exam. Before, they were a little surprised as to why such a young man had voluntarily gone through the fasting, bowel cleansing, and breezy-hospital-gown wearing. I smiled serenely through their curiosity just as I had cheerfully (and perhaps callously) ignored Tom’s whinging about the entire bottle of laxative he had to drink. I even cooked him a fabulous last meal, complete with home-grown rhubarb crumble 36 hours before the exam.

After the exam the nurses were a little hushed and serious-faced. Tom slowly woke up and was his usual slightly-goofier-than-normal-post-sedative self. He said several times that he’d love to take that drug every night at bed time. (Finally I told him propofol was what killed Michael Jackson and that sobered him up a bit.)

The doctor came in and said they’d found one polyp again, less advanced than last time, but still concerning, and then he said that if Tom hadn’t started coming in this early to get checked out he would’ve been looking at cancer in his forties. When the biopsy comes back they’ll decide whether he needs to come back in three years or five, but he can never, ever, ever (I swear he said it like five times, but probably it was only twice) go longer than the 3-5 years without an exam.

We stopped at In-n-Out Burger (could their fries taste any healthier? yuck) on the way home and then Tom had the rest of the day to nap and contemplate the meaning of life. Mostly he is glad he married me, he says.

“Why were you so adamant about me getting a colonoscopy the first time?” he asks. “Was it because your dad is a doctor?” “How did you know my grandfather died of colon cancer?”

I stare at him, unbelieving. “Your mom told me.”

“But I don’t know that sort of thing about your family” he says.

He does know, of course, or at least he’s heard it all before, from me and my family. We see them often, and we talk about that kind of thing. It’s just that Tom is a Mary and I am a Martha. Maybe lots of couples are like that, with the husband secure in leaving mundane details of daily/household life to the wife. I don’t usually mind; I have a good memory and I like taking care of my people. I like being in charge and responsible. The only problem is when I forget our roles (like forgetting to remind Tom to bring his driver’s license to the hospital — who doesn’t take their wallet with them?) and then we both suffer–me from frustration and him from the force of my wrath.

But back to the mushy stuff. Tom kept asking why it was so important to me that he get tested and I stopped. “Dude, you act like this is some favor I did for you, when really it’s in my best interest to keep you around. I love you.”

(Not to mention the kids. I am not raising them alone.)

“I think I was really meant to marry you,” he says, “because you’re a doctor’s daughter so you know about these things and you trust doctors, so you got me to get a colonscopy and you saved my life.”

I shake my head. You were supposed to marry me because you are my soul mate. The life-saving thing is just a bonus.

 

Lucky Thirteen

Here is my first world problem a few months ago: my stupid iPod Touch keeps going offline so I can’t watch my shows and surf my interwebs and buy more ebooks. I tell myself this isn’t a big problem, of course it isn’t, and then I think how this little rectangle of metal and glass and technological wizardry is the only thing tethering me to the rest of the world when I am cocooned at home in my nursing chair, baby attached to my breast, four-year old clamoring for drawing supplies.

One minute I wallow wonderingly in the smell and feel of baby and the next, I must read something not written or thought by my own hand or I will die.

I will die.

The message “Cannot connect to the network” flashes again, and my rage simmers. The thought that Tom switched our internet provider so he could get March Madness streaming creeps in, joined by his friend the angry thought that Tom has been stealing my contacts for months and now I am out of lenses for my left eye, while my right eye is well-stocked for the forseeable future. I will walk in circles as my half-corrected vision lists me ever to the center. “I thought you knew” he sends by instant message. I send a word that I don’t print here, which shocks the computer he types on at work, I am sure. There is no obvious reason that the computer can go online and the iPod cannot and oh my goodness I hate technology.

He types something about trying the user manual for the router/modem with the internal PPOI protocol something-something password and it infuriates me that this man who cannot find clothes for his daughters in their dresser drawers speaks technology when I do not.

Then he sends me a link to a funny video and, wait I’ll look for it. I know this chat session was in March because that’s when I started writing this post, and I’m looking at the transcript of instant messages and I’m astonished at the escalation of crazed frustration and how patiently Tom keeps suggesting different passwords for resetting the network and calling the helpdesk to get it elevated to a second-level ticket and then he tells me to take a relaxing bath, which I treat with the scorn it deserves, because: pleasant bath with kids wailing at the door? Right.

He sends the video “speaking of feeling stabby” to me. The song (King of Carrot Flowers) is cute, but there are some f-words in the illustrations, so be warned. I think it’s worth it, even though I’m sure my parents would be shocked that that was something Tom sent to me instead of the other way around. But I can’t even describe how that video, Tom sending it to me with the f-words (I adore the f-word in certain contexts, like in Roddy Doyle’s Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha), and the apropos-ness of it, it vanishes my whole filthy awful mood and makes me laugh and cry and love him so much.

His knowing me, knowing what I need, what I like, giving me something I know he probably disapproves of (he is much stricter about that kind of thing and R-rated movies, for e.g. than I am), it’s everything. It is the glue that holds my life together, even when I fear I’ll fly apart.

A couple weeks later we were getting ready for Family Home Evening and one of the kids chose the story of The Good Samaritan for the lesson. Tom comes and whispers in my ear that he wants me to send all the kids upstairs on an errand and he will pretend to hurt himself on the bottom stair and we’ll see if they stop to help him or if they rush back to me to complete their task. We must have bribed them, because it’s not like they jump to fulfill my every request normally.

So they run upstairs and he dramatically falls and Callie rushes down the stairs and jumps over his body to hand me the book I asked for. Avery comes slower and asks him if he’s okay. We unveil the analogy and Callie is so upset that we tricked her, and I reassure her that she gets points for being helpful/obedient.

Sometimes Tom slurps his soup and sometimes he snores all night long. Sometimes he is bashful about calling someone to follow up on something that I want done and sometimes he watches Ultimate Fighting Championship (I guess his standards aren’t that high).

But every single day for the past thirteen years I am so (beyond words, even the f-word) grateful to be his wife.

Happy Anniversary, my love.

 

Ode to the end of romantic love

Tom with his littlest girl

Sometimes my husband is the annoying partner on the group presentation. I always preferred working alone because the partner never gets all the crumbs when he sweeps the floor and why for the love of everything holy is he even sweeping when the vacuum is right there and then he might have some chance of getting that piece of bagel petrifying under the breakfast bar? Does he work at doing everything the wrong way or is obliviousness an Olympic sport now?

Once he did do something worse than just not reading my mind, an actual wrong thing, except not really a thing-thing but a principle-thing, but still a thing worse than leaving me with the kids to go play basketball — s0 I do know the difference, but still it’s the everyday things, like slurping your soup, that slowly smother romantic love. Or as Irving Becker said, “If you don’t like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious; if you do like him, he can turn his plate over in your lap and you won’t mind.”

I think what he really meant is that when you love someone and they slurp every single time you sit down at the table, even when they know it hurts you deep inside where you simply can’t overcome the buggingness of it on a cellular level, it’s grating enough that you’d rather they dumped it in your lap.

It’s like Fiddler on the Roof, and one day you’re the Motel and Tzeitel couple, giving each other a pledge and knowing the world would end if you had to marry the stinky rich butcher. And then two (or thirteen) years later you’re Tevye and Golde, even if it wasn’t technically an arranged marriage, even if it was wild and crazy and Motel and Tzeitel to begin with. Even if this isn’t tsarist Russia and we have the leisure to sit around debating the relative merits of romantic versus companion love.

Tom has always been The One, ever since I read his literary biography (it was college, we were English majors, being pretentious was a requirement) and then met him in person on Valentine’s Day, which is funny because we are not romantic-type people, until you realize that having someone to laugh with about how absurd the mechanics of sex really are is actually the most romantic thing ever. Someone you can tell anything to, who won’t be shocked (or worried) when you admit your doubts, someone who lets you change your mind and is patient when really you’re the same old person no matter how much you want to change, or don’t want to change because change is hard.

Last week I tried church lady zumba. I thought my uterus was going to shake right out, I don’t think hips were really designed to do that, except in active labor, maybe. I meant to take some ibuprofen, but then I started watching hulu and the medicine cabinet seemed far away from my comfy bed. Tom snuggled up in that way he has, that way that means he wants to love me, head on my shoulder, and since he let me finish NCIS first, I was willing.

I was so relaxed and happy afterward I forgot all about the ibuprofen (until the morning, when I surely did remember).

If I had known thirteen years ago what I know now about Tom, about our kids, about our marriage and our life and the sex and his patience and hard-workingness and even if I had known that he wipes his nose on the sheet on his side of the bed (probably when he’s mostly asleep but still) and thinks I won’t notice (I do) . . .

I would’ve proposed on our first date, instead of waiting for the second.

Going to bed angry

You know how they say the number one thing married people fight about is money?

I hate that it is the number one thing that Tom and I fight about too, because we don’t have one of those marriages. We have a happy marriage.

But bring out the budget talk, or, worse, the Freelance Eviscerator Taxes, and . . .  Let’s face it, it’s mostly me. (Because I always do the taxes.) (And because I am a shrew the likes that would make milquetoast Bianca look good.)

Do you fight about money the most? (If you never fight, and by fight of course I mean “discuss rationally and lovingly but from understandably different points of view” then try to make something up, because I already feel bad enough.)

The thing I love best about Tom

Today at church I entertained some (quite probably blasphemous) thoughts. I was bursting to share them, but I restrained myself throughout the beautiful, music playing softly in the background lesson on Jesus Christ, our chosen Leader and Savior.

As soon was we walked in the door afterwards, rushing to change into comfortable clothes (pajamas) and to make lunch for the family before we just stuffed our faces out of the refrigerator, I told Tom my thoughts and he listened, nodded and then we started talking about something else.

He was in a grumpy mood today, but he was still the only person I could tell what I was thinking, and really, the only person I wanted to.

And even though he was grumpy, he made us read scriptures as a family tonight, which is a new program, finally successful, in which he or I (usually he, because he is the Mary to my Martha in this household, how can you think of reading scriptures when this house is such a mess?) read the chapter ahead and then tell it as a story to the girls, who now know more about the early Old Testament than I did until college. We have Sally read pertinent passages, and they have to answer three questions at the end (Susan’s idea). I think  family scriptures at the end of a long Sunday and three hours of church is an abomination but I still love Tom, and I hope he keeps making us do it.

p.s. I’m glad our first date, twelve years ago today went well, and that you weren’t scared when I told you two days later that we should get married, even if you think now that you were the one who proposed. Whatever.

Betrayal

It is 4:03 on Friday morning, and I had another dream that my husband is divorcing me. I am not insecure in my marriage; it’s only when I’m pregnant that I have these serial abandonment dreams. This one was a continuation of the last one, so it just got worse. This time I asked my family “there must be another woman, I mean, right?” And they, seeing that he was serious about apparently never speaking to me again, began to think it wasn’t really my fault, but of course this dream was horrible, because I was sure it was.

I think this pregnancy it’s worse. Before I would dream that he had died in a horrible car accident, the kind of waking nightmare you have when your husband is twenty minutes late coming home from work and you’re stirring dinner on the stove and the kids are wild in the background and you wonder how you’d ever cope since he’s surely dead on the highway because he isn’t answering his phone and he hasn’t called to explain that he just had to finish that one application before he could leave his desk.

This time it’s always divorce, and it’s always much worse, and I wake up feeling so sick at heart. I feel, in fact, just like I felt in March two years ago when my mom called me before church and told me that Marcy’s husband had left her. Then, nothing we could say was any comfort. We all agreed it would’ve been easier if he had died, loving her.

Now, my sister is getting married this summer. She is different: stronger, not emotionally insecure. She’s not a doormat anymore, she can tell a guy to take a hike if he isn’t good enough for her, if he doesn’t love her and respect her as she now knows she deserves.

Her fiance is a very nice man. He’s divorced, also, with three kids, also, and they have lots of other things in common, including exes who make very nice villains of their separate pieces. I have seen him with Marcy’s kids, and he is as good with Marcy’s kids as my husband is with ours, or almost; some of that just takes time. He and Marcy are more alike in the ways that matter than she and her first husband were. I think, in general, that they will have a good marriage, if anyone wanted my opinion on it.

At Thanksgiving (the first time I met him and his kids) Marcy told me she had given him one of my posts to read (the one about how blended families can be beautiful), and she said she liked my most recent post (the one about the snowy day), because it had my usual blend of frustration with motherhood ending in acceptance and [joy].

And then she said that her fiance (who is the residential parent) used his wife’s blog against her in the custody hearings. I quickly joked that Dick wouldn’t ever have to do that — he knows if he ever left, I wouldn’t dream of fighting him for custody.

But I can’t forget that conversation, at 4:18 in the morning when I’ve woken with the copper residue of fear in my mouth and the tearful certainty that in reality my husband would never, ever leave me, and more, if he ever did, that he would never take these words of mine, these words that I have labored so strenuously to deliver, honestly, onto the page.

Because there have been times when I resent my children, when I resent motherhood, when I think what could have been if I’d pursued my other dreams instead. And if I thought my husband, my Tom, who in our first year of marriage, ever since that tender beginning, labored beside me our final year of college, when we holed up, side-by-side, stopping only to eat and drink and talk, once in a while, to share the questions and answers we were so elegantly, passionately weaving into our papers and essays, if he were to belittle and demean the offerings of my heart, however so pitiful and inadequate they are once sprung from my short fingers, I would never be able to forgive him. I would know, finally, that he didn’t understand, that he never would, never had, never wanted to, and how could you ever stay married to someone like that?

Of course divorce is always betrayal, and it’s a better betrayal than the betrayal of self or of the children one swears on one’s life to love and protect, and the question of who betrayed whom first is one that only God and the families of the first-betrayed really care about anymore. And sometimes it is a betrayal forced though the first-betrayed would have forgiven anything if only the betrayer would reconsider.

I remember thinking, right before Tom and I were married, that marriage wouldn’t be such a significant, and potentially joy-giving institution, if it weren’t also such an unfathomable risk. The more of yourself you commit, the more you stand to lose if you are betrayed; if you commit less, there is less to be betrayed, but also much less to make the marriage worth desiring. Total giving of self, of merging of dreams and hopes and plans and subduing of extraneous, give-up-able wants, is vulnerability defined, and also the only hope for making a marriage so good, so life-sustaining, that the thought of losing it, fueled by raging fetus hormones, is enough to make one wish it were morning and no longer night.