I don't know if you've noticed this, but after many years of marital... marital....
I don't know if you've noticed this, but after many years of married life, I have observed that some couples work well together and others can barely stand to be in the same room during projects. I would say S and I are somewhere in between. In the mornings when it really counts we are like a semi-oiled machine from the 1970s that has a couple of parts missing. We try to step around each other to put lunches together, after S asks the same annoying thing every morning – “What’ve we got for lunch?” which I have learned to ignore, knowing he will discover some container that looks like it’s edible eventually. We coordinate feeding the animals - a cat who emits yowls intense enough to wake the dead (but not a teenager) while winding around our feet, daring us to not somersault across the room before we produce her breakfast, and one blind dog who usually manages to slam his head on something as he bounces around the kitchen in anticipation of every meal he has as the cat looks on in disdain. If S lets the dog out I will usually let him back in. If I'm not in the bathroom, or ironing, or picking out earrings. Hey, with dressing myself comes great responsibility.
This obviously goes to prove that we can work well together. That is, if we both want to work on the same thing.
This, my friends, is rare.
Take one night a couple of weeks ago, for example.
I wanted to work on dinner. He wanted to work on the car. Granted, it was my car and he needed just a few minutes of my time to help him. Fine, I will go along with that. And it really did take just a few minutes. This time.
Then I wanted to work on dinner. He wanted to work on bottling the beer we had brewed a couple of weeks before... which, by the way, I didn't want to brew the night we did it but someone had already decided that was The Night.
The surprising thing is that I do believe S and I are becoming more compatible with age. Projects seem to go a little smoother now than they did in the dating days when he was screaming out the window of his '68 Torino which he put me in the position of towing with a chain attached to another car and I was crying the whole time, which caused the car to buck (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) and give S (this was prior to our marriage, and S stood for something else entirely that day) a rougher ride than was necessary. I mean, a rougher ride than was intended. Yeah, that's it, intended. In my mind the bucking became more unavoidable the louder the yelling behind me got... close to the point of leaving the car behind and riding away with just a bumper. The Torino eventually followed us to Maine and resides in a heap on the side of our garage, right next to the non-mowing ride-on mower and non-hovering hovercraft (yes, hovercraft), adding to that whole redneck image we try so hard to maintain.
After almost 30 years maybe we are mellowing, though in some ways I still foresee S relishing in being a cranky old man in another 30 years, cursing the newspaper boy and kicking the cat (he will still be the one to clean up the cat vomit and dead rodents). I won't be able to hear him by then so it won't phase me much. He is convinced I'm already practicing ignoring him. He might be onto something.
Here's the thing. S also tends to be very particular and a bit critical (which is like saying Lindsey Lohan's every move is a bit over publicized), even when he specifically asks for my help on a project - not a good idea around an arm flailing Italian. If we are doing something like preparing to paint, I can't help but take offense to his sanding over a spot I just did or worse - when he asks if I did it because he "can't tell" if it's been done. There must be laws about this sort of thing... when a spouse requires assistance he (or she - come on, it happens) should be forbidden to utter a single criticism, other than necessary directions, followed by a complimentary stage in order to ensure continued procurement of said assistance. I'm just saying.
I do happen to be witness to the fact, however, that my husband is an extremely hard worker. And so this past weekend he volunteered at our annual church fair. Oh, wait... I should rephrase that a bit.
I volunteered to be on a committee which meant S got roped into doing whatever I needed him for prior to, during, and after our annual church fair.
There, that's definitely more accurate.
At times like this I know better than to question his methods. After all, his participation at all levels was by default (de fault of his wife) (I'll be here all week, folks). And so I basically just let him loose on the fair grounds to jump in wherever he so chose. And naturally, there were several areas that needed assistance of some sort, most of them entailing manual labor. Good thing he had experience moving furniture from his younger days.
He moved tables. He moved heavy furniture. He moved plants. He moved to dissolve our marriage if I ever again attach his name to a conversation about volunteering. Wait... that hasn't been confirmed yet.
Before you get the impression this is all one-sided, let me assure you, it is not. As an example - while we are all very aware of the significance Memorial Day holds in honor of those who sadly lost their lives to fight for our freedom - for several folks it is a day off from work, a leisurely sleeping-in kind of morning, maybe heading to a parade or a get-together with family and friends for a barbecue. For our family it is up-and-at-'em at the crack of are-you-out-of-your-mind? We have become the non-official water stop family for a local Memorial Day run/walk, which started several years ago when Joe Volunteer over here raised his hand and thereafter committed not only himself, but whoever happens to reside in the house at the time - and on occasion - made the mistake of sleeping over the night before. Whether it has been one enthusiastic child who knew not what she was signing up for, kids with friends who thought it sounded cool until they didn't go to sleep the night before until 2 a.m. and had to be up by 7, or a cranky wife trudging after kids with friends, one or more of us has whined our way to the car and sleepily assisted setting up a table in order to fill dozens of little cups of water in anticipation of a sea of sweaty bodies bounding past. In what must look like a contorted statue to an innocent bystander, we assume the position, leaning forward with two fingers gingerly holding onto what is essentially a liquid rocket in the wrong hands, arms extended out in front as far as they will go in order to avoid: 1) getting splashed in the face by runners' arms swinging out to grab a swig only to crush the cup in their hand on contact, and 2) getting quite literally run into/over/aground.
The benefit (which does not outweigh the prospect of sleep) is that because S is at our mercy as far as having a crew, he is not demanding or bossy when we set up, so it is one of the times (I won't say 'few' but I definitely won't say 'many') that our efforts seem to complement each other as we joke and tease and basically all get along. And... I will be honest with you. It is a great event, it is fun, and it feels good to help out in our small way. Just don't try to convince me of that at shoot-me-now-thirty in the morning.
At one time it was an unavoidable fact that this would be the closest our couch potato bodies could get to participating in the event itself, but these days we are more into walking and have even done a couple of local walks, so I am convinced we would survive it. We might be dead last but we would survive. Until that time (if/when) we switch roles, we get to watch others run or sprint or walk or saunter by as we cheer them on and offer a quick pick-me-up en route, and we leave still only half awake but smiling, fully aware we can't go anywhere else in public until we go home and shower the scent of bug spray off.
And so we continue to work together even if we don't always work well together. It keeps us young. No... that was a lie. It is probably aging us rapidly. Sometimes I wonder if volunteering each other, which forces us to work together, is sort of like our version of a sadistic couples therapy.
All the more reason to volunteer us to set up the wheelchair races at the rest home in 30 or so years.