long distance relationships

Plane taking off

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Rob’s been in Texas since Sunday. I didn’t blog or Facebook about it because that’s like inviting serial killers to your house for tea.

“My husband’s out-of-town on business. Why don’t you stop by in the middle of the night and murder us in our sleep?”

When I spoke with him last night, he mentioned that trips to Texas might become a habit, which reminded me – again – that our house is not up to “Dad’s away on business” standards. There are no blinds or window coverings of any kind in areas that make it too easy for even the most casual observer to notice that it’s just Dee and I. With the absence of daylight becoming more pronounced, I feel quite exposed in the evening with all the lights on. That needs some immediate action.*

I am actually able to sleep now when Rob is away. Without leaving lights on even. But it’s not restful. I sleep lightly most of the time anyway, and his absence just attunes me that much more to the creaks and groans of the house, sounds outside that penetrate the windowpanes and to Dee’s restlessness across the hall.

Dee hates her dad being away. She almost takes it personally.

“It will be better when Dad is back,” she remarked.

“Aren’t I doing a good job?” I asked.

“It’s just better when Dad is here,” she is tactful with her dismissal of my ability to manage.

I reminded her that once upon a time it was just she and I, and I managed everything without any major mishaps.

“Yes,” she agreed, “but with Dad, it’s better.”

And there you have it. Dads are better, and I kind of have to agree. Single parenting is not a choice I would ever purposely make.

The threat of a traveling for business husband has got me thinking that the house needs to become a bit more ship-shape, and in a hurry. The kitchen is all but done. Just a few things left and the living room is nearly painted which paves the way for fireplace, flooring and light fixtures that aren’t hanging  loosely from the ceiling. The old kitchen, however, is nowhere close to its future as a dining room, and it needs to be because Christmas is now 25 days off.

With his mother’s impending divorce, we will have at least her for the holidays. Edie, Mick and the future sons-in-law haven’t nailed down their holiday itinerary, as far as I know, but Rob’s youngest sister is making noises about a visit. CB even threatened to drop by if he could sneak across the border, but I have doubts about that. So Rob’s traveling couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. Between the days away and the days he will need to catch up on his rest, this week is a wash, and the weekend is given over to the company’s children’s Christmas party and children sleeping over. The next weekend is my birthday, and I had designs on it that will probably need to be sacrificed for the greater good. It’s a good thing I will be 48 and not 8 or this might sit poorly with me.

The Texas thing has a stinky disruptive feel to it. We had thought that travel, and the specter of relocation was off the table, but its shadow is casting a pall again, and at a time when we were settling in and rooting deep too with the house on the cusp of being livable and practically perfect in all ways that matter. Isn’t that always the way of it?

Relocation would be better than Rob traveling or Rob having to be on some insane schedule like those husbands who work up in Fort Mac on or around the tar sands. I have a yoga teacher friend whose husband works three weeks, comes home for a four-day weekend and then heads back to work again. One of Dee’s little soccer mates has a father who is away for as long as a month at a time.  If we were young, the awesome of good money might off-set the sucky of separation for a  few years, but we are not young.

Rob and I worked the heck out of the LDR thing before we married. I daresay we were as good at it as a couple could hope to be, utilizing email, IM, and the phone to maximum advantage, but even with the addition of smartphones and Skype, maintaining an intimate relationships via technological aids is difficult. It’s like having another full-time job (if I had a job that is) and not really as good as being in physical proximity. But what is?

Dee is correct in her appraisal of the situation. It’s better when Daddy is home. Home is missing a vital component when he is not around. In a lot of ways, he is home itself.

Life is good regardless but it’s practically perfect in every way when my husband is here, and selfishly, I prefer the latter.

*And I also need to locate my big baseball bat like stick and find the hatchet that we keep in the bedroom of the holiday trailer for when we are camping in remote areas. Seriously, a nice sturdy axe does wonders for a person’s peace of mind.

Devil's Den State Park

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Skimming back through the spring of 2007, I realized that I never really wrote about Rob proposing to me over Spring Break that year. If I have written about it, I don’t recall or perhaps the references were in passing from one idea to another in a blog entry that was likely totally unrelated to the event.

We spent the March vacation together in Arkansas mostly at Devil’s Den State Park though the week began with us taking Dee to my parents’ home in Dubuque.

Actually, the week began on a Thursday with Rob meeting Dee.

I’d stayed home sick from work. It was just conferences and being one of the drop out prevention teachers, I expected no one in particular to show up. I left a sign up sheet for anyone who did on my desk, asking for name, number or email with the promise to get in touch right after the holiday. I think there were two names – parents I was already in regular contact with anyway.

But I was exhausted and worried about Dad, who had just discovered a tumor in his lower intestinal tract and had yet learned if it was cancer or not (it wasn’t that time) and Rob was due to arrive that afternoon.

And I wasn’t packed.

I am never packed.

The Dubuque leg of the journey went smoothly. My parents and sisters were highly suspicious of this long distance, too quick for their liking romance but were keeping their stronger opinions to themselves. Partly because I had made it clear that I wasn’t polling the audience for input and also because my history with dating was such that they knew I brought no one home to meet the family unless I was sure. Case in point? They’d only ever met one boyfriend – Will.

I was not worried about them meeting Rob and he was completely zen.

St. Patrick’s Day was on a Friday. We drove back to Des Moines in the late morning and spent the afternoon “catching up” before getting ready for a dinner date with BFF and her husband.

The dinner was another meet and greet for Rob. He knew BFF because they emailed too.* Her husband was a high school buddy of Will’s, one of the very few friends who bothered to visit Will when he was ill, at home or in the nursing home. He made an effort to be helpful after and was good to Dee – the only one of Will’s friends who bothered about her at all.

But he liked Rob, in spite of himself I think. I would imagine it difficult to see your friend’s wife in love and happy with someone else, but he rose to the occasion with grace and a smile.

After dinner and a show at the local comedy club, it was home rather early because we still had to grocery shop and pack the truck for our drive on Saturday.

We were crawling into bed when the subject of the future came up and Rob wanted me to know that his intentions were serious and life-long. He rummaged through his suitcase and pulled out a ring box.

As he took out the ring he said, “I can’t say the words yet but I want you to wear this.”

I tried to assure him I didn’t need the ring until he was ready because I knew we would get married, but he insisted.

“It’s stupid that I can’t just say it,” he said, “but I will ask formally. Please wear it.”

So I did.

It was Sunday night when he asked. We were in bed again. So many important moments in my life have found me supine.

“Remember what I said when I gave you the ring?” he asked. “Will you marry me?”

And now its four years later. No time at all really and yet at this point with Will, he was dying and absent from our relationship in every way that really counts.

Not a Hallmark moment. More Judd Apatow rom-com perhaps. But outcomes are what make up bottom lines and the sum total of ours is healthy and in the black.

*She had wanted to check him out a bit, so he began including her in some of the notes he sent me when he had a funny vid or joke to share.

Front cover of the book Love Letters of Great ...

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Rob courted me with the assistance of Yahoo and Google. 600 and some emails later we were married.

In the wee hours of yesterday morning, some douchebag hacked the older of the two accounts, which exists only as a storage box for old correspondence/love letters between Rob and I. It’s derelict otherwise.

The culprit changed the password but forget to change the settings, so it wasn’t difficult to get back in and lock it up. But what to do about the history before junking the account?

The server cleverly prohibits exporting old files en masse. For that service, one must “upgrade”.

“I don’t think so,” Rob said.

And he sat down and within an hour managed to jumpstart the process of moving all my precious mail intact and to another location.

I’ll close that account now. But it deserves this final eulogy for the part it played in something awesome, love.