Thursday, July 17, 2014

Love and Dirty Bandages.

I was in the shower, but not under the spray, howling like a crazed, feral animal caught in a trap. Big, gasping moans, guttural screams, panicked sobs. I was fresh from an agonizing and mutilating surgery and was paralyzed in pain. My husband, Sean, stood holding my towel, unable to help. My body, overwhelmed with hurt, was shutting down.

We should have been in Paris. We planned to arrive in time to imbibe champagne for my birthday, and then to walk along the Seine in summer,  eating buttery food  by day and watching the city twinkle around us at night.

Instead we went to Ohio, "medical tourism" we're calling it, to see a specialist who carved me up, and left me looking like a Walking Dead victim. In bleak moments I wonder where those hunks of flesh have gone. Burned up, I suppose. Meanwhile, I am a half-eaten burn victim, screaming with every step, trying hard not to let anything touch any of my exposed parts, trying to stop the angry blood vessels from spilling, trying to soothe the regenerating nerves, trying not to catch glimpses of myself in the mirror. Instead of the Eiffel tower, I have my own bloodied sheets and not much else.

Except. Except I have discovered this new side to my husband. Sean has always been a very sweet and patient man, but the truth is, when it comes to love, we don't speak the same language. Sean is a man of few words and no emotion. Strike that. Seemingly no emotion, we'll say, because I know if he were here, he'd protest that he does feel. I just don't see it.  It seems that he is not moved by anything, not particularly passionate. He never cries, but he's also never overcome by joy. I am his opposite in every way. So though I never doubt that he loves me, we sometimes struggle to really express it to each other in ways that the other will recognize. Sean loves me by filling my car with gas and giving me the good parking spot and emptying the dishwasher. I love him by planning elaborate, romantic trips. And when I spring them on him, practically panting with excitement, he can often muster an "Oh, neat" but it always falls short of what I'm expecting. Which is just my way of saying: I do the things that I'd want, and he does the things that he'd want. It has taken time, but we are learning each other's language. We're becoming bilingual.  He's not much for sentiment. He's a doer, but those things that he does are translatable: I love you, Jay.

Now I have been reduced to being his dependent, and his patient, and a terrible patient at that. Sean has become my nurse, one more gentle and delicate than I ever would have guessed. We could easily have a nurse visit the house to take care of my wounds. The bandaging is a never-ending battle, but Sean insists on doing it all himself. He winces when I wince. He soothes me when I'm hyperventilating. He waits me out when I can't take anymore. He never flinches. The sight unnerves me, makes me horrified and sick, but he looks in my eyes and tells me I am beautiful. The smell, he assures me, is the bandages, not me. I worry that I haven't shaved, or plucked my eyebrows, and he tells me that I am natural and lovely. And I believe he believes it. He hasn't lost his temper with me, not when I've lashed out, taken the pain out on him. He calls me brave and strong.

He's gone back to work - a lawyer you don't hear about in jokes, the kind that does true and honourable work - and he worries over me constantly. It is I who must reassure him. I am managing with the apples and the drinks and the pills that he has left. I lie very still, pray for sleep, and count the hours til he is home. I assume that work is a reprieve for him, a small breath of fresh air, but he's still coming home, happy as ever to see me, to spend time with me, even if it means browsing Netflix again, and watching as I fall asleep halfway through a 22 minute episode of god knows what.  He brings me gifts, big and small, so I know that he has  been thinking of me. Recently I unwrapped a piece of costume jewelry from a store he knows I love. It is a pendant that I already own. I laugh. Maybe someone else would be annoyed that their husband hasn't noticed this piece hanging on her wall (if not her neck), but I know the truth: he saw it and knew instinctively that it was me. Perhaps subliminally he remembered it, but at the very least, he knew I would like it, and clearly I have. Twice.

We have this thing, he and I, a mutual distaste for schmaltz. We can never be too mushy. If he says I love you (which is rare unless post-orgasm), I typically respond with "You better." Now I hear myself saying "You must."

So it's not France. But it turns out to be kind of romantic, if you look at it a little cock-eyed. We have discovered new ways to love and be loved. And there will always be Paris.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Best Couple Ever

A little while ago I asked that you spare us a minute and vote for us in a contest my husband was inspired to enter for "Best Couple Ever."

Very sweet of him, and very sweet of you to oblige us.

I've found myself reflecting on this notion of the "best couple", a silly notion, and a title impossible to bestow because although voting is anonymous, some of our generous friends and family have let us know we have their support despite being from very fine couples themselves.

Love is not a contest.
Marriage, as you may know, turns out to be this incredible, complex little thing, each one so unique that you can never truly know what it's like if you're on the outside looking in, and even the two people in question can spend a lifetime trying to figure it out . Even as insiders we sometimes struggle to uphold the very values and goals that we ourselves aspired to in the rose-coloured vows that we took. Married or not, any long-term relationship takes some work.

Love and marriage do not exist in a vacuum. Ours exists within a framework of all the successful relationships around us, and even the ones that have come to pass. In fact, I think I've probably learned more from the "failed" relationships, my own included, because these have all started out in the success column and slowly (or explosively!) made their way into the black. Is it luck? Experience? Willingness to look the other way? Settling? Grit? Fate?

I am probably too old and too married to still not really know what love is. I only know how it feels: like I'll take the bad times because of the good. Like I'll do whatever work is necessary to keep that fluttery feeling. Like I belong curled up in his arms. Like my life is terrific without him, but way better with.

Are we the best couple ever? Probably safe to say we are not. But we are getting better, because every day I hold his hand, and every day we still choose yes.

I am the world's worst patient and Sean turns out to be a gentle and patient nurse. Ladies and gentlemen, I do not deserve him.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Namaste And All That Shit.

Sean has started doing yoga with me.
I am awed and mystified that he would agree to this.
We do yoga on Sundays - not only on Sundays, but always on Sundays.
Our Sunday rule is : we don't drink until after yoga.
Sometimes we have to do yoga before breakfast not to break the rule, but it works for us.
Sometimes the yoga itself doesn't quite work for us, but that's okay. I try to fail with panache if fail I must.
I am returning to yoga after a long absence due to my disability. I have not recently become abled again, just a little more brave, a little curious, a little more willing to try. Sean is a complete newbie, so we are finding our footing together. He's got his body type going for him, long and lean like the tall glass of water he is. I'm a little round teapot beside him, but it takes all kinds, right? Refreshing in our own ways.
He has always been an athlete: swimming, volleyball, basketball, rugby. My high school sports were more along the lines of smoking pot and reading liner notes, but who's counting?
At any rate he's quickly discovering that yoga is a very different animal, and a surprisingly good workout. He's also realized how old he's getting, and how cocky he was in his youth. All those early morning practises where he skipped the warm up and cool down stretches? They're killing him now. His legs have paid the price. He isn't as flexible there as he should be. My legs, however, are my strength. My arms, of course, don't do their part. There's a point in our instruction where the yoga teacher wants you to bend over, hands on your mat, and hop a little so that all your weight's on your hands. I haven't made it through a single class yet without cursing her over that. There is almost always a point where I feel nauseous, sometimes from overexertion, sometimes from expressions like "smile through your collarbones" or "flower your buttocks", but there's also always a point where I feel a sense of accomplishment. And stupidity. You can't roll around the floor like a happy baby without feeling just a little stupid. And just try pointing your belly button at your heart. Feeling stupid now?
After challenging ourselves with the plank, Sean will start to feel his abs just a few hours later. For me it tends to take another day before I'm feeling it. We call them "yoga abs" and I'm pretty sure mine take longer to make themselves known because the pain has to travel through so much belly fat first. Sean tells me this is "biologically impossible", but he's always trying to use logic on me, which, I assure you, is the real biological impossibility.
But before yoga abs comes yoga penis, which is a glorious thing to behold, and a very good reason (maybe even the only reason) to put off post-yoga drinking for another, say, 5-6 minutes.
We're so fucking zen.

Friday, June 13, 2014

For All the Fathers, Young and Old

I made and sent 4 father's day cards this year.
None were for my father.
Most days, if you were to ask me, I would not own up to having such a thing. A father.
In fact there was a man who fathered me. He was a bad man and most likely still is, but I pushed him out of my life and haven't looked back.
This post isn't about those kinds of fathers.
I have maybe been a little sensitive to the whole dad thing over the years. I feel melty just seeing a dad turn up for his kid. It gives me pause every single time I see a dad throwing a ball to his son, playing soccer with his daughter. There was a time I thought that was just a thing in movies, but I have since known many men, an inspiring and heartening number of men, who are those kinds of fathers.
It thrills me to see my brother-in-law softly kiss his son on the cheek.
To see my dear friend play princess with his daughter.
To see my father-in-law on the floor, building trains and playing superhero with his grand kids.
To hear my grandfather boasting about his great grandsons, of which he now has three.
And to see my mother's new husband, not trying to be our father, but being a strong, loving figure all the same. Willing to call us his family. Doting on grandkids who aren't his by blood but who couldn't love him more even if he was.
It's a blessing, a blessing a thousand times over, to have such wonderful men in my life.
Happy father's day to them all, to you all, and to my mother, who was all the dad and twice the mom I ever needed.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Zoom Zoom

My father was a truck driver, and so each summer his left arm (the hanging out the open window arm) was always much more tanned than the right.

I am not in the family business, but I do drive a convertible, which has tanning problems all of its own. In fact right now I have to admit I've got a convertible burn, which is not great, but also not terrible, because this is not my first convertible, and so I've learned a few tricks of the trade.

1. Seat belts leave tan lines. However, they also save lives, so I can't discount them entirely. I do put the chest strap behind me and depend solely on the lap part. I usually wear clothes in and around my lap anyway. Sunscreen in the glove compartment.

2. Sunglasses are an absolute must. Not only do they keep bugs out of your eyes, they also keep the front part of your hair in check if you wear them just right. I don't much bother to tame my hair. I actually love the feeling of it blowing back behind me, but I do attempt to keep the front strands out of my eyes, and perhaps more importantly, out of my lip gloss.

3.  You learn to sing like a ventriloquist. Now, like most people, I have never willingly been to a ventriloquist show, so how do I know how they sing? Well, I have been on a cruise. And it's nearly a guarantee that if you're on a boat, you're trapped at sea with at least one ventriloquist. Only cruise directors think they're appropriate entertainment. It's how any ventriloquist makes a living. So yes. You learn to sing like one. Mostly you just learn to enjoy your music in your head, and keep your head nodding\car dancing to a minimum. But if your jam comes on and it simply cannot be helped, then you mouth the words, and keep the actual singing repressed. Because no one needs to hear that. No one wants to hear that.

I absolutely adore my little convertible and I could never go back. It's changed my whole attitude to driving, because it changes the drive. I slow down. I keep my car neat. I take the longer route that goes down by the water (to feel a cooler breeze on my skin, maybe even a little mist in the air). I can smell the lilacs and feel the warmth of the day and hear little kids ring the little bells on their bikes. A red light becomes pleasurable when you tilt your head back to soak up some sun. It's not just a commute anymore. My 40+ minute drive to work is a new way to be connected to the environment. There are no blind spots. I see things I would normally have missed. Some men whistle, but most people are friendly. Pedestrians chat at intersections. They ask questions. Another convertible driver will give a jaunty over-the-windshield wave.

In the fall, when the weather's a little cooler, you'll find me top down, windows up, heat on. It's a luxury. The salesman told me it would be just like sitting in a hot tub. It's not. Either he doesn't own a convertible, or he doesn't have a hot tub. But there is an indulgent bite to it. And maybe that's the whole point of a convertible: just a small touch of indulgence gets added to an otherwise ordinary day.