My husband was very romantic when he courted me cross-country. “Oh my,” I swooned to my girl-friend, “he’s like Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday. Anything I want, anything I want – he says!” Flowers arrived by the dozens. I dashed home to retrieve his long romantic letters from my mailbox. He woke up at 4:00 am in San Francisco so he could call me in Miami and talk for an hour before I had to get ready for work. I felt like a princess during those magic days.
But it all changed within seconds after I said, “I do.”
We honeymooned in Moab, Utah – where he had secretly rented a four wheel drive vehicle. He tossed me billboard sized off-roading maps which I could open and decipher only by straddling the seat and turning my neck to a sharp sidewise angle. “Wow. Here’s a cool 4-wheel driving magazine. I’ll buy it for you, wife!” he winked at me. I began to suspect that my measure of being valued was going to need adjustment.
Twenty years later, I have grown to appreciate his ways of expressing his love. The clues tend to be subtle – the last fresh flowers I saw were at a funeral. He does write occasional cards for special events. The last one said, “Happy BD. You’re a swell wife.” And it’s true; he still calls me to talk. Just a few nights ago he rang up and said, “I’m having steaks and cigars with the guys tonight. Don’t wait up.” Just before I could hang up he added, “You’re a swell wife, wife.”
“He’s more like John Wayne, now,” I explained to the girlfriend who knew him during his brief Gregory Peck phase. “He’s turned into the silent type.” It’s the little things now that speak his heart. Recently, our son’s high school registration package arrived in the mail. Experienced moms know these packets too well. I’ve devised a series of short cuts to complete the reams of forms, including using pre-printed address labels and a signature stamp, writing “see above” and “not applicable” and keeping all social security numbers under “S” in my address book. So I gasped slightly when Bill picked up the envelope and said cheerily, “I’ll fill these out for you this year.”
While he sorted the Emergency Contact Information Card from the Permission for Counseling and Internet Usage Agreement, untangled the Sports Participation Authorization and the Traffic Flow Oath from the Consent to Publication of Photographic Images and while I leaned over and picked off the floor the Physician’s Medical Examination and Vaccination Record and the August/September Lunch Order, I remembered a time years earlier when he tried to help me with my domestic school chores.
“I’m never doing that again,” Bill shouted as he thumped into the house, two young children in tow. Our daughter was bright red with emotion and our little red-headed son was shaking his head slowly, whispering, “Wow. Dad. Wow. That was amazing Dad.”
“What?” I groaned with suspicion, “What happened? Nothing should have happened. It was just the carpool pick up line.”
“Pick up line?” he barked.
“Mom, don’t ever send him again,” our daughter began.
“That was not a pick up line. It was a drill organized by Nazis.” I could see he was in pain.
“I won’t get in the car with him next time. I’ll pretend I don’t know him,” our daughter continued sternly with her hands on her hips.
“Wow. Dad. Wow. You’re amazing,” chirped the background noise.
“Why can’t there be two lanes?” my outraged husband demanded. “There was plenty of space for two lanes. The whole thing would go twice as fast if you load ‘em up, two cars at a time. Can’t they see that?” I slowly began to get the picture.
“Mrs. Quinn told him to get back in line, Mom. And Mrs. Browning and Mrs. Daughterty and Mrs. McCormick all honked and rolled down their windows and shouted at him to get back in line.”
“Is that what those dames were screaming about? And who hired that nun as principal? She’s not religious using language like that at me.” Bill circled the kitchen island with fury.
“I have never been so humiliated in my life. I’ll have to find a new school.” Our daughter stomped from the room.
“Wow. Dad. Wow. You’re amazing. No one ever called Sister that ever before in anyone’s whole life. Will you pick us up again tomorrow?”
“That’s it for me, buddy,” my husband continued, slapping our son on the back. “Your Mom can handle those idiots,” he added, patting me affectionately. I felt valued.
Now, here I was, a decade later, standing over my helpful husband, dreading the worst. We had only one copy of each of the 37 forms that had to be completed absolutely no later than August 15 and if he got frustrated and, well, where was I going to get extra copies of the Tuition Assistance Plea, the I Promise To Pay Tuition or You Can Take Our House form and the Volunteer Opportunity to Wash School Toilets application? I waited quietly and prayed God would give him insight. Bill picked up the Application for Parents’ Association and Payment of Annual Dues and squinted.
Suddenly, my prayer was answered. “You do it,” he barked pushing away from the counter. “I can’t make any sense of this stuff. Why can’t they put all of this in one form and you mark “Yes, I agree”, write a check and that’s it?”
I silently took his place and he leaned, like a stiff cowboy, over my shoulder. “That’s somethin,” he mumbled as he tussled my hair. I swelled with pride.
How lovely it is to be valued.