January 2, 1993

January 2, 1993

Just like that.

Just like that time he’d asked, suggested is more like it, and it wasn’t a knee-bending thing or a fuss.

Just like that time he’d said let’s move to a new place, and then he said it again and again and again.

Just like that time he’d held the new baby and cried a little over the perfect tiny toes and told the nurse he hadn’t realized it would feel like it does.

Just like that time they’d fought and made up and fought and made up again and … you know.

Just like that time the baby drained away from her, the one she thought would be a girl, and he didn’t know what to say but he brought her an angel to hang on her wall. To remember.

Just like that time he didn’t understand her but he tried.

Just like that time she’d cried in the night and he’d held her.

Just like that time they’d held hands, and laughed, and ran away from the children for a while.

Just like that time she told him it would all be okay. And the time he told her.

And after twenty-one years, it is.

Advertisements

They are out there, you know. You might not hear as much about them – the guys who work hard, who stay with their wives through it all, who finish what they start and get better with age and open doors and wipe tears. You might hear more about the ones who quit or cause trouble or make waves or are just plain mean. But there are some really good dads in the world, I’ve noticed.

IMG_5618

The other evening, at book club, I cried over my husband. It had been a long couple of days and I was tired and when the question was asked and I tried to answer, well, I just sort of fell apart.

The question was something like, is there a person you know who lives authentically? We were talking about Bob Goff’s book Love Does, so the question was phrased much more Goffishly, but that was the jist of it, and I started to share my thoughts about my husband and about how he is who he is, no pretending, and it was all I could do to get it out.

He’s one of the good ones.

I was talking with my boys the other morning at breakfast, after their dad had left for work, and we were laughing over the way it goes sometimes when boys try to work with dads. The obscure directions, mostly, shouted from under the hood of a vehicle or in the middle of a goat birthing or from the top of a pile of bales. The get me the thing on the thing over there kind of directions. And after we’d told some stories and laughed, I said, You have a good daddy, boys. He’s not always an easy daddy, but he’s a good daddy.

I think they get it.

Good daddies raise good boys. Today, I’m noticing them.

January 2, 1993

January 2, 1993

We had our first big fight when we were on our first big car trip. It was over a cup of coffee. Except, of course, it wasn’t really. You know what I mean.

We were driving from Regina, Saskatchewan to visit my family in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. It was early in the morning and we were navigating our way through Edmonton and we stopped for fuel and I said I’d really like a cup of coffee.

We could share one, he said.

Well, why don’t we each get our own, I said.

I think we should just share one, he said.

Fine, I said. But then don’t put any sugar in it because you know I don’t like it with sugar.

So when I took the first sweet sip … oh my goodness. It wasn’t pretty.

Because then it became about the thing that had happened the day before when we were packing, and that disagreement over how to read a map, and the way he had said good morning like he didn’t really care, and the long drive, and the hot day, and the coffee was simply the last straw.

We occasionally refer to The Coffee Incident. It has become symbolic of what happens when you allow misunderstandings and hurt feelings to accumulate.

Yesterday was my birthday. The boys and I had driven to Moose Jaw, where Lyndon was working, to spend a few nights in the hotel with him. I woke up in the morning to the sound of my husband getting ready to go to work. He said goodbye and headed out the door, only to slip back into the room a few minutes later with a bran muffin and a cup of coffee from the breakfast room down the hall.

Happy birthday, he said. One cream, no sugarJust the way you like it.

 **********
I wrote this post two years ago. In three days I will be fifty years old. My husband and I have been married twenty years, and just a few weeks ago, my oldest child left our nest. Things change. Too quickly sometimes, it seems.
But some things, some great things, just get better and better.
1001466_10151498150842919_71549944_n

IMG_1244

I walk out to the barn to do chores with him, early morning sun already hot and the goats come running. I slosh water around, filling pails, and he feeds the layers and checks for eggs, and goes into the barn to feed the baby chickens. The twenty-five that are growing fast and healthy, to feed us when winter comes.

He calls, and I hear the confusion in his voice.

I take a step into the barn, wait for my eyes to adjust, and I see him tossing dead birds out of the stall. And right away I know it’s my fault. Because he’d been haying and I’d been left with the chores and I’d done something wrong. A pile of dead birds told me so.

What did you feed them?, he asks. I show him the pail I’d scooped from, and he says it’s the wrong one. And I’m a baby about it, tears pricking, and I feel a flood of familiar feelings. Ick and sludge I’d thought long banished, cleansed by grace and love and Jesus. But it comes unexpected, the shame, and I turn and walk out of the barn and across the yard and into the house, and when he comes, calling up the stairs, I’m in the bath.

It’s silly. It’s not a big deal. They’re just birds. People make mistakes.

I tell myself these things.

But when my husband texts me, sweetly claiming responsibility because he should have shown me where the chicken feed was instead of just telling me, I text him back that it was stupid of me not to check, and now we have no chickens, and I add a sad face to the end of the text because I am.

Because it’s my fault and honestly, I was thinking more about getting the stinky job done and getting out of the stinky barn with as little poo on me as possible than I was about the birds.

I spend the day working it through, gradually surrendering shame, and I remember that it’s when I think I’ve conquered that I forget who really has. I remember that victory is His, always, and that unless I lean into that, I fall.

By the time my husband gets home at the end of the day, I’m secure in grace once again. I’m leaning on everlasting arms, and they will hold me. Mess-making, chicken-killing me.

When we wallow in guilt, remorse, and shame over real or imagined sins of the past, we are disdaining God’s gift of grace.

Brennan Manning 

Today marks twenty years for the marriage to which this man and I committed ourselves.

IMG_0516

Twenty years. Crikey.

You know what? In twenty years of marriage, I’ve read a lot of relationship books.

You know what else? In twenty years of marriage, my husband has read exactly zero relationship books.

And another thing. Out of all of those relationship books, I don’t think a single one of them was written by a woman. Nope. And to save you the trouble of reading them all, I’ll sum them up for you here. In one sentence, this is what they say:

Women are complicated and men are dense.

There might be ten or twenty chapters explaining why this is the case and how to overcome this dilemma. There may be exercises to try, and assignments to carry out. But really, this is the main point of every marriage/relationship book I’ve ever read or seminar I’ve ever attended.

And I have to wonder. Why are men writing books that only women are reading?

So here is my contribution to the marriage book industry.

If I wrote a marriage book, it would contain only one sentence:

Be nice to each other.

I wouldn’t spend time explaining that men and women are different (duh!) or that sometimes men don’t understand women (duh!) or that men have needs (we know, already!) or that women like to talk about things. I wouldn’t spend time making jokes about these differences or explaining how men can overcome their manliness to be better or how women can overcome their womanliness to be better. I wouldn’t spend any time at all on brain research or historical research or the newest and most up-to-date social research. I wouldn’t even spend time digging out all the relationship scripture references.

In fact, I’d make this a One Year Guide to a Great Relationship book. It would have 365 pages and at the top of each page it would say… Be nice to each other. And on the rest of the page, if you wanted, you could write how you plan to be nice that day. Or better yet, write all the ways your partner was nice to you that day. I won’t even ask you to buy it. Just grab a notebook and write it out yourself. One for you, and one for that special person to whom you’ve committed yourself.

Presto.

A marriage book written by a woman, that even a man will read.

Sleepy still, and its cold in my kitchen, and my bare feet on the frigid tile floor begin to ache, and all I can think is, I need a cup of tea. I really want a cup of coffee but we are out of beans. Oops. But tea will be a welcome substitution in a pinch.

I open the dishwasher door and am greeted by a musical sound. I think it might be Lyndon’s phone? Did he change his ringtone to Dashing Thru the Snow? I doubt it, I think. He’s not usually that festive.

I take out a knife and close the door, puzzled.

I peek back in the dishwasher, curious, and the music begins again, and it makes me smile. The dishwasher is fairly new and a little bit fancy and I think, Wow. They programmed this thing to play Christmas music for the holidays. And I wonder if it will be a new tune every day, or what?

I make the tea and start the breakfast and when Lyndon comes downstairs I say, Go and open the dishwasher door.

He does and it plays its music, and we both look at each other, smiling. Cool, he says.

I take my new Christmas mug out of the dishwasher, the mug I got for free with my recent purchases at our local second-hand store, and we sit down to eat.

I pour our teas and when I raise my new cup for a sip, if it doesn’t begin playing Dashing Through the Snow.

We look at each other.

It was the mug, I say, a little sheepishly.

And to tell you the truth, I am a little bit disappointed. Because a dishwasher playing Christmas music is cute and magical.

But a mug sounding off each time it’s raised for a sip is, well, just annoying.

I love my husband.

He’s an old-school, hard-working, hard-playing kind of guy. He’s guns and dogs and motorcycles. He wears wool socks with his sandals. He doesn’t give a lick about fashion or style and he wouldn’t have a clue about designer anything. He’s meat and potatoes and chocolate cake once in a while for dessert.

We’ve travelled some rocky roads for sure, but he’s the one for me. We’re gonna grow old together. Sooner rather than later, it feels like.

I peeked over at him the other evening. He was holding down one couch and I was stretched out on the other. He’s always looked younger than his age, but that evening he looked… old. He’d had a long day, worked hard at his job and then at home with all the things needing attention, and it showed. I could see, in the weariness on his face, the old man he would one day be.

It set me back a breath.

Time marches, leaving its mark on us in all kinds of ways.