The Tilt-a-Whirl That is My Life

October 20, 2005 at 3:28 PM | Posted in Personal | 1 Comment
   I have been married for a long time.  17 or 18 years now.  Somewhere in between.  Less than twenty, I know that much.  It doesn’t have to be exact. Early on, it was 4 days, or three weeks, or six and half months. Then two years, three and half, then almost six, then over 8.  It quickly became at least ten, and remained thus for 4 or five years.
Oh, shit!  Did we have our fifteenth anniversary, and I missed it?  I don’t think we did anything special, other than NOT get a divorce.  So you need to know that of course I love my wife, our marriage is great, everything is wonderful, blah, blah, blah.
But I see that men and women need each other for several things, and one of the less obvious ones is, they both need someone to complain about. I mean, if my wife wasn’t married to me, she would have tremendous free time that is currently used to bitch at me, or about me, or to me about me.  What would she do?  She might have ended up a lobbyist or a cult leader.  Good thing I came along.
For her part, thanks to the loving intercession and constant insanity to which I have been subjected, I have many, many projects which remain unfinished that I can blame on her.  I am sure I would be a published, accomplished author, world renowned cartoonist, sought-after screenwriter, avant garde film producer, astronaut, explorer, scientist, magician, and street perfomer, maybe all of the above, if only—if only I didn’t have to
stop in the middle of something important and take out the trash. It just takes the wind right out of my sails.  Where the hell are the priorities, anyway?
But our initial nesting, or what-have-you, the period of time where we are trying to get to know each other as a married couple, was determined in large part by my wife’s pregnancy.  It is a lot to ask of a man, a young man–probably more of a boy–when a woman says to him, “Come with me, on this mystical journey, this roller-coaster of emotion that is my life.  And deal.”

We had been together for about a six months. In fairness, she was pregnant. We are in the drive-thru at McDonald’s, one car back from the speaker.  I turn to her and say, “Okay, what do you want?”
Apparantly, the wrong question.  “What do I want?  What do I want?  What do I always want?  How long have we been together?  What do I ALWAYS get?  You don’t even know me!”  She started to cry.
I turned to her, calmly, I took her hand, caressed it.  I looked into her eyes.  She looked up at me, eyes red and teary, searching me for understanding.
I said, “Look, I don’t even know what I’m going to get yet.”

Another time, crying over God knows what.  Kittens.  A telephone commercial. Who knows?  I ask what’s wrong.  She turns to me, displaying an unusual feminine vulnerability, “Oh, Bryan, just hold me.”
I go to her, arms up, ready to comfort.
She pushes me away and screams, “DON’T TOUCH ME!”

And the typical situation with one of the children’s schools is, we need to communicate with the teacher, or go to a parent-teacher conference, or something of the sort.  Or especially when there is a problem that we have to talk to the teacher about.  She will look at me in a very matter-of-fact matter and say to me, “YOU have to take care of this, because if I do, YOU KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN.”
And I do know, too.  I don’t know alot of people who would get escorted out the school building, by police during a simple, seemingly non-confrontational middle-school parent-teacher conference.

So now, after something less than twenty years of this, it may have shaped the man I have become.  Early on, I realized the impact I was having on her.  I was keeping her just on this side of the ravine, this side of sanity.  I calmed her, helped her reason, helped her see the humor in her bizarre behavior.
But just recently, I came to understand what she has done for me.  I used to be a push over.  I would let people walk all over me, I would allow myself to be taken advantage of.  But seeing her not give an inch when she was wronged by a store or a business, or anyone, gave me courage and direction to take a stand.  And she would encourage me, as well, to be a man, stand up for myself.
So I started with who was closest to me:  her.  I wasn’t going to put up with her shit.  She was shocked.
I reminded her of what she had said, and she was aghast.  “NOT ME!  Everybody else!”

But I have become stronger, and oddly independent, and I do owe that to her. And now, after all this time, I have seen how our kids are.  They are both smart, and funny, and independent.  Stubborn as hell.  The oldest doesn’t put up with shit from anyone, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks, has no patience for fools, and understands way more than I did at his age.  And I thought I was a genius.
My daughter is a social flower.  She knows everyone in our subdivision, and everything about them.  She is very friendly, and cares about them all, and hangs around with adults even.  It only recently occurred to me that it was much like me when I was growing up.  We lived in a very small town, smaller than most subdivisions are now, and I travelled around and talked to all the old German men sitting on their porches and whatnot.  I talked to them most days, listened to their stories, told them all of mine.  It was very Norman
And they are both very creative, very artistic.  It may come from both of us. I always thought of myself as an artist, but my wife is creative with–everything.  She sows, she bakes, she creates crafts–everything.

And the children know how we are, as well.  My son knows my wife’s mood swings, and plays her like a fiddle.  He knows he can only talk to me for three minutes before ADD causes me to be completely distracted.  It be seem like poor parenting, but it has taught him to get to the point.
Our daughter is younger, but she has learned the more subtle points of a family dynamic, and they have both come to appreciate that they live in a stable, two-parent family with relatively little disfunction, no alcoholism, hardly any abuse, and lots of love and openly displayed emotion, good and bad. So this is how our family has grown, and it includes our older daughter, her husband and two kids, and our older son and his kids.

In our marriage, there has been a lot of give and take.  Mostly give by me and take by her.  I am sure her perspective is the other way around, and that realization was one of the many epiphany I have had over the years.  I also know that I get away with a lot of stuff that normally I shouldn’t, but I have just worn her down.  (Victory for me!)  All of the little things, silent treatment, cold shoulder, passive aggressive battlings, in between the out and out arguing, number far less than all of the good times:  quiet times
together, the birth of children, going places, doing things, just spending time together. . . alone and dancing, and family functions–all the things that make a lifetime together.

One of my favorite stories about my wife and our marriage:  We were at home, alone, sitting on separate couches.  Baby was playing on the floor.  The two oldest, in their late teens, come home, or come over (I forget who was living where at any particular time).  Melissa sits next to her mother and berates us:  “What has happened to you two?  You’ve been married for less than a year! Here you are, sitting on separate couches.  Where is the love?  Don’t you sit together anymore?  Don’t you cuddle?  Don’t you spend time together?”
My wife answers, “We just got done having sex about half an hour ago.”  My daughter’s jaw drops.  “Right where you are sitting.”

And now, the emotional roller-coaster disembarks once more.  My wife is beginning that voyage of asinine helter-skelter known as menopause. Throughout the hot flashes, cold flashes, mood swings, erratic periods, et friggin cetera, I feel she actually relishes the change, because it gives her an excuse to be a complete nutbag.
Like she needs an excuse.
We are making the grocery list the other night, discussing what we need and what we have, and someone asks about the wrong item.  Who knows? And that is the trigger that sets my wife off on a small, gently obtuse tirade.
My son and I watch in amusement.Afterwards, she says,”It’s going to be like this for the next two years, so just get used to it!”
I said, “Really?  Just two years?”

As I dodged the various hangers, pencils, salt shakers, and whatever else was handy that she could throw at me, I mused that this is another situation where there is no “correct” response.

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  1. very sweet story here.does your wife know that you are writing about her on the internet?i think that would trigger a somewhat volatile response from her..actually, that would be a good story to post on this here internet,if you have the nerve,bring it up with it by phone,maybe even out of state, or over at a friend\’s house..somebody close..somebody trustworthy..somebody who is familiar with the word "danger". good bye. i mean good luck.

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