Another Anniversary


From a certain point of view, I haven’t much actual marriage experience. In fact, I am still years away from having spent more of my adult life paired than single. So in some ways, my basis for comparison and analysis is short on actual “seat time” and what I know as “normal” can’t necessarily be taken as gospel. There are those who have spent more time in the so-called trenches than I have, but I have to say, I have yet to find marriage trench-like.

Is it typical to still lust after your husband five years on? I found myself wondering that for the umpteenth time the other evening.

“There is an awful lot of gropage that goes on around this house,” Rob remarked as we exchanged send-off affections at the back door this morning.

Rarely to if ever do we arrive or depart solo without excessive lip servicing and declarations of love and perhaps this is normal for the time frame. Having never made it past a sixth anniversary, I wouldn’t know personally. But I don’t see this in other couples and wonder if perhaps it is just me. Or just our circumstances? Or maybe evidence that too many people in the world take far too much for granted and no wonder there are as many failed marriages as there are successes.

Five years ago, Rob and I stood on the banks of the Athabasca River and exchanged vows, rings and kisses. Papers were signed. Pictures were taken. Food and drink was consumed. It seems like yesterday and history at the same time.

The card I left next to his steaming tea-cup this morning broke cardinal rules of relationship comparison and favoritism, but it brought a smile to his face and kisses and hugs to me, so who cares? Now is what counts because it’s the basis for tomorrow.

We will celebrate with lunch at the elementary school because it’s the last week of school and they always hold a family picnic, and then follow-up this evening with attendance at the last game of the outdoor soccer season. With our latest babysitter having outgrown the job, we couldn’t have scheduled a date even if the schedule was cleared anyway.

Rob bought me a new watch, a stylish but comfy pair of leather sandals and a couple of summer outfits I found at MEC this last weekend. I gave him a kick-ass miter saw. I am pretty sure that year five is marked with accessories and tools.

The search terms here have been lit up again with sad queries concerning widowed love or the lack of it. Despite my limited experience, the advice I have remains the same: disregard the dead spouse thing. It’s not central to the issue. Someone loves you and is interested in building a life with you or they simply aren’t. Why is beside the main point. If you don’t feel loved, do yourself the giant favor of taking steps to make yourself available for someone who is ready, willing and able to love.

Yesterday as I drove back to The Fort from yoga class, I noted that the fields are yellowing. Solstice has passed. Canada Day looms. The bonus months between school ending and starting up again, which as a former teacher is really the only way I know of marking time, awaits.

And it’s our anniversary. Not officially a stat day, but nearly enough.

What Not to Wear: The Skunk Hunting Edition


Striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis

Striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I am already snuggled up in bed, heating pad on my low back and ice pack around my neck. It’s been a tough week of Yoga Challenge and semi-ear infections. Suddenly, I hear Rob on the main floor,

“Annie! mumble, muffle, completely unintelligible!”

Responding to the urgency of his tone, I call back,

“What?”

What? I was in bed! Covered, comfy, wrapped in heat and ice. His call wasn’t followed by a thud, so I could reasonably assume he hadn’t collapsed and it was highly unlikely that any of the mainly septuagenarian crowd at the hamlet’s annual chicken supper had gone wild and stormed our back porch in an ice tea induced frenzy.

However, he didn’t reply, so I uncomfied myself, put on my robe and headed downstairs where I found him with his toothbrush in his mouth (which explained the muffle), peering out the bathroom window into our backyard.

“What’s wrong?” I inquired, thinking that this had better be earth shattering enough to have pulled me out of bed.

“I saw the skunk,” he said. “It was walking toward the shed but disappeared as it got close to the retaining wall.”

Okay, this was news.

Our neighbors discovered a skunk den under their shed, which borders our property, last spring. Mama Skunk and a half-dozen wee ones. They filled the hole and attempted to block it off with plywood and concrete blocks. We all thought the matter resolved. However, one of the skunks returned when the rains came this year and dug out the old den. Last weekend, Rob and I woke in the middle of the night to find our entire house awash in eau de skunk.

All the windows were open and the malodorous creature had gone off either in our back yard or the side yard under our bedroom window.

You know how strong odors eventually fatigue your sense of smell, so even though the smell remains your sense of it collapses under the strain and it seems as though the scent is gone? That doesn’t happen with skunk. Just when you think your poor nose is about to give up, and you are darn grateful for Mother Nature’s thoughtful gift of olfactory fatigue – it ramps up again. And again. And again. It’s like a skunk is right there next to you, stiff-tailed and spraying.

Ever since, we’ve been on the look out because Pepe LePew is not keeping to the neighbor’s yard.

As I am peering out the window, I realize that Rob has disappeared, followed by the sound of the back door opening and closing and footfall on the deck.

I hustled up the stairs to the landing window and observed my brave skunk hunter, armed with a pellet gun, stealthily stalking his prey through our back yard, clad only in a bath towel and runners.

No, it’s okay. The neighbors have seen him in a towel before and given the fact that even though it’s 9:30 our quite northern exposure means that the sun won’t be setting for at least another hour. Excellent light for skunk spying and getting a great view of your neighbor, brandishing what looks like an actual gun, wearing a towel and exposing a titillating amount of thigh.

I must say that I admire my husband’s casual attitude and the feline ease with which he hunts. If I hadn’t been so intent on spotting the smelly intruder, I might have had presence of mind to grab my phone and record the event. It’s not something you see everyday … in most neighborhoods.

Rob slowly covered ground. The garden. The driveway. The shed area. He even got up on tip-toe and checked out the neighbor’s yard. As he did this, I kept an eye out for Monsieur Skunk. I had no idea where I find tomato juice at this time of the night and didn’t want the creature to sneak up on Rob.

Later, when I told Rob my sole concern was what I would do if he got sprayed, he replied,

“Do you think I don’t know what signs to look for before a skunk sprays?”

It was the tone of a Mountain Man aggrieved.

“And thanks for being concerned about my actual safety,” he said. “Skunks can carry rabies, you know.”

I didn’t know that, and now I have that extra tidbit to make me paranoid about allowing Dee to play unattended in our back yard until the skunk is caught and relocated.

It will have to be trapped and removed. Rabies. Stink. The prospect of a summer of tomato juice baths. I am shuddering already. Back in Canada’s lawless un-gun-controlled days, a man would simply take aim and fire. End of skunk issue. Today the county brings traps and comes back to pick them up when said nuisance wanders into one. I can’t even begin to imagine how foul an experience for the neighborhood that will be.

Better that, however, than my semi-naked husband losing his terry loin cloth in a spray of stench. The neighborhood might recover from that less quickly.

Your Wife is so Lucky


A yoga class.

Image via Wikipedia

I teach yoga two evenings a week at the local community center. Class size varies from one session to the next but there is a small core who sign up every time. One of them is an older lady who lives down the street and for 76, having never done any yoga prior to starting classes with me a year ago, she is incredible spry and limber. It’s amazing to see her progress and to know how much she enjoys and values the instruction. Introducing people to yoga and watching them find themselves in the practice is even more joyful than teaching grammar was back in my public school teacher days of yore.

During the winter months, Rob usually walks me over to the hall where classes are held. It’s not even a two-minute jaunt. Just out the back door, down the drive, up the alley and across the street. But it’s dark, icy and made more precarious by the bags I schlep with me. He carries my equipment and I point the flashlight, and the process repeats in reverse an hour later when class in complete.

Last night, Rob ran into our sweet elderly neighbor as he was hustling up the alley to walk me home from class. Greetings were exchanged, but Rob stopped to chat because she had halted in her tracks and he had a feeling she wanted to tell him something.

“Your wife is so lucky,” she said.

He didn’t reply and she continued,

“You carry her things and walk her to class and then come back to help her get home. That’s just so nice.”

“Just doing my part,” he replied.

He told me the story later and I concurred,

“I am lucky and I know it,” I said. “I read so much about men who have no idea that it’s the little things day in and out that matter the most, and here I have you. I never have to ask you to pay attention, help out, or for much of anything really. You just do.”

Kind of reminds me of the lyrics to a song I shared not long ago,

There’s no way to describe what you do to me
You just do to me, what you do

Except it’s more than what’s done to me but what is done for me.

He would argue, correctly, that this is a mutual thing, which is as it should be.

But, I am very lucky. I don’t take that lightly or for granted.

Today is Five Years


rob and i the night before our wedding

Five years ago today I was home from work with yet another sinus infection, checking my work email and taking care of a bit of business virtually when I received an email from Rob proposing that we take our friendship in another direction, a romantic one.

He confessed that the thing uppermost on his mind anymore was me, and though it took him by surprise, and couldn’t have been less timely, he saw no reason to let a good opportunity pass him by. Oh, and by the way, did I feel the same? He kind of thought I did, but if I didn’t, please don’t be creeped out.

In typical Virgo fashion, he went on to outline a plan for us to virtually date and eventually meet up over my Spring Break to take a trip together to the West Coast. What did I think?

I was stunned. I had to call my BFF, who simply said, “I told you so.”

She had been convinced weeks earlier that Rob saw me as more than a friend. In fact, she’d spent a good deal of our lunch date the day before extolling his virtues and trying to convince me to overcome my hesitancy and simply pursue him, which was something I wouldn’t do because Rob was quite vocal about wanting to wait until after the first anniversary of Shelley’s death before dating again. He also frowned vigorously at the behind (and not so behind) the scenes meat market on Ye Olde Widda board. Some of his disgust was just the hypocrisy. Dating was routinely trashed and daters harshly hung up for public flaming, but the reality is that it was more common than the board matrons cared to acknowledge. And partly, it was due to the fact that he’d been a victim of widda stalking and he shied away from being seen in that light himself.

His closing line included a bit about not been able to breathe properly until he’d received my reply, so I wrote “breathe” and “yes”.

And that’s not quite all there was to that but it was the beginning of what is now.

Hollywood marriages are measured in dog years, so at five together ourselves, Rob and I are particularly old married folk. Sometimes it seems as though I have known Rob forever and in a spiritual sense, I think that is true, but it catches me by surprise a bit remembering that I have not known him always.

He’s had his desktop screen saver off for some time but switched it on again this past weekend, and all these old photos popped up. Pictures of Mick and Edie when they were small. Family pictures of long ago. One picture of Shelley came up from their time in San Diego. It was an impromptu goofy shot with her in her pajamas and Rob blushed to his toes, looked sheepish and said, “I didn’t know that was on there.”

All roads lead to where you are standing right now, don’t they? A good thing to remember.

Happier anniversaries are a better place to put one’s energy. Today is certainly in my top five and probably the most fortunate day of this life of mine.

Calling All Women Married to Widowers


Just-married

Just Married

Abel Keogh’s working on a follow-up to his Dating A Widower book and is looking for women who have actually married widowers and are willing to share their experiences. You can find out more information about the book and the criteria for the essays by following this link.

Rob follows Abel’s Wednesday Widower posts although mostly to read my comments and when he saw the call for submissions, he asked me if I planned to write an essay.

“I don’t think I have anything to add,” I said. “If I have anything to say about you and I, or how we ended up married or even how it went that first year, I should probably write my own book, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” he said. “Are you going to write that book – ever?”

Probably. But I am still working on the angle. Frankly, I think the whole “widowed find love again” thing is played to death despite the fact that when stories turn up in the media they elicit a great deal of cooing from the general public, which in my opinion treats the stories like freakish there but for the grace of God go I cautionary fairy tales.

I’ve been reading George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and have been totally taken with his POV chapters. I wonder if I could write our story in a similar style? But, that would mean soliciting Edie, Mick and various other friends and relatives. Would I really want to hear their take on that first year? It’s better sometimes not to know what people were really thinking behind their party manners game faces. It’s an intriguing idea nevertheless. Or maybe it’s the dwarf.

At any rate, widowed stories are a dime a dozen and let’s face it, it’s only widowers who are “hot”. They are like unicorns below a certain age and capture the fancy and tug at heartstrings more than widows, who just another breed of single mom for the most part.*

I am still not convinced that Rob and I did anything particularly amazing despite feeling that we are amazing. My feelings are biased and they are the basis for a book anyone would read. I’ve read … tried to at any rate … other books by widowed. Mostly they focused on the first year and selling the idea that somehow grief is like learning to walk again on tree stumps. Something a person has to just learn to be okay with like any other permanent disability – only while being really brave and semi-cheerful so as not to frighten the non-grieving folk. I don’t think I could write a similar tale because being widowed is just a “shit happens” thing and moving on is what a rational person should want to do badly enough to actually choose to do it. Remarrying or not is another choice that is based partly on you, partly on luck and partly on someone else seeing things as you do.

But Rob says I am too practical a person to really see the wonder in it all, which might be true. I know I am too practical to view it as magic or destiny (outside the idea that we all have a destiny which needs are active participation to be realized here and there).

Anyway, if you are married to a widower and have words of wisdom or caution to share with other women considering or preparing to marry a widower, here’s your chance. Follow the link.

 

*No I haven’t forgotten that some widows are childless, but they seem to be an ever smaller sub-set of an already tiny percentage of the population and like single mom’s, they don’t inspire much enthusiasm in the general population. Everyone knows a single woman just like everyone knows a single mom. The whole extra x dooms us to known-ness and renders us uninteresting at best and stereotypical at worst.

A Canadian Christmas


Once upon a time, I was like most Americans in believing that Canadians were whiter, more northern and slightly more redneck versions of us. All I officially learned in school was that we fought Canada, indirectly, in the War of 1812, which my history teachers seemed to think we won although ask a Canadian and he/she will gleefully regale you with the bum kicking they gave us.  Everything else I knew, I learned from Bob and Doug McKenzie.

“Did you even know what a toque was?” Rob asked.

“No,” I said, “and I didn’t know what back bacon was either.  I thought it might be bacon from the back of the pig somewhere and, therefore, not really all that desirable a foodstuff.”

“Americans call it ‘Canadian’ bacon,” he says that with the disdain he reserves for the habit my countrymen have of laying broad claim to the term “American”.

When I was in high school, some of my classmates fixated a bit on Bob and Doug and the whole “Great White North” thing, peppering their speech with “take off”, “hoser”, “g’day” and “eh”.  I found the whole thing only mildly amusing because the parody seemed a bit far-fetched in an “Ernest Goes to Quebec” sort of way, and not really in keeping with the only other bit of Canadian culture knowledge I had, which was a book I read as a grade schooler that was set in Toronto. The author, it turns out, is a well-known Canadian writer and as a 9-year-old, I found her description of the city on the lake compelling enough to make me want to go there someday, which is something I’ve still not done.

“Do you know what a two-four is?” Rob asked me.

One of the lines in the song refers to a 6 packs of two-four.  Like most non-Ontarians, I had no idea.

“It’s a 24 case of beer,” he said. “When we bought beer, we’d ask for two-fours.”

“Well,” because now I was confused, “you were only 15 when you left Ontario. What would you know about a two-four?”

Chagrined, he admitted that perhaps his personal knowledge dated back a bit earlier than most.

It’s funny to me that Canadian English can vary as much as it does. At the grocery earlier this week, I was in the butter and cheese aisle where you can also find bacon and breakfast sausage and in less than five minutes no fewer than 3 different women queried the woman stocking the shelves as to the location of back bacon.

My most recent run in with language peculiarities was actually on Facebook. My friend Jade updated her status with a request for the number of a good plumber. When asked why she needed one, she replied that her garborator had vomited all over her basement. When I told Rob that she was having issues with something called a “garborator”, he replied,

“Well you had one of those in your old house.”

“I did?”

“Sure, in the kitchen sink. You scraped food into it to be chopped before rinsing it away.”

“You mean a garbage disposal?”

“Yeah, a garborator. You call them garbage disposals?”

“Uh huh because if you look at the name written on it,” I explained, “that’s what it says.”

You say garborator; I say garbage disposal. You say toque; I say winter hat. You say back bacon: well, okay, so do I … now. But we all still, mostly, say “Merry Christmas” unless we are really Brit-fluenced and then we say “Happy Christmas”.

So  merry eve and tomorrow morn to all and to all a good day.

Five Years and a Bit


English: A simple illustration of a cake with ...

Image via Wikipedia

My birthday present from Rob arrived just today. It came from Arkansas, which is fitting, by way of Florida, which is just odd. He’s been obsessively keeping tabs on it via the tracking number for  over a week, quizzing me daily on the contents of the mail.

“The package you’ve been waiting for showed up today,” I told him when I called his office after lunch.

“It’s your package,” he said.

“Should I open it now or wait for you?”

“Can you wait?” he asked, which was silly because of course I can, but I know he can’t.

“Okay,” I reply.

“Oh go ahead and open it,” he said, “and check to make sure that it hasn’t been tampered with. Remember what happened to Unbearable.”

Our virtual friend, Unbearable, lost a rare book in a tragic postal heist.

“I paid to have it gift wrapped too,” he added.

It was.  Both in the package and gift-wrapped.  And I pried the gift box open.  It was quite tiny and I couldn’t begin to imagine what I needed – or wanted – that would be housed in such a shiny red box.

Inside was an even tinier satchel of red and when I tipped it upside down, a silver chain and pendant dropped into my hand.

When he asked me weeks ago what I wanted for my birthday, I initially couldn’t think of a thing. I have everything I need and nearly anything it occurs to me to want. It’s a rare and privileged person who can say this, so I don’t do so lightly, but as far as the material goes – I am blessed, if there is such a thing. But when pressed, I did come up with a small list which included: an om sign for my yoga room door and a Buddha for the corner.

“They are incredibly hard to find,” he told me days later, “but I think the alternatives will suit you.”

Dee gave me a set of figurines made in Haiti that they discovered at The Ten Thousand Villages website. Each figure is performing an asana.

And from some vendor in Arkansas, a very special place in our personal lore, he found the pendant and chain.

If either of us believed in coincidence, we’d note the timing of his gift. The anniversary of him sending me a private message back on Ye Olde Widda Board was this last weekend. Neither of us believe in coincidence. Just timing, which has always been quite convenient where we are concerned.

Five years. While mostly it feels as though I have known Rob forever, and he me, the truth is that it’s just five years, which isn’t even forever in dog years. It only brings one to the brink of middle-age.

“It’s beautiful, ” I told him. “Thank you, Baby.”

“Well,” he replied, “It’s been five years and I thought you were due another piece of jewelry.”

The first piece of jewelry Rob gave me was a  gold double heart pendant with a small diamond in the crook of the uppermost heart. The occasion was our very first face to face meeting in Idaho Falls, the anniversary of which is a mere two months away. We’d been “dating” virtually, at his suggestions, for just a month when we met up. With only the rarest of exceptions, I have worn that necklace every day since.

His second gift of bling was my engagement ring barely a month later, which was joined by the wedding band three months after that. To say we moved quickly is overstating because I know couples who’ve moved at twice our speed, but I won’t be surprised if you clucked your tongue back then or if you marvel now. Both responses are within the realm of appropriate.

I am not a jewelry person though I have tried to acquire the habit on and off out of a sense that it is something women do, but aside from wedding rings, the occasional necklace and the odd navel piercing – it’s never took. Rob thinks I should just wear one of the other necklace or else,

“You will look like an old white lady rapper wanna-be,” he said.

I am loathe to give up my hearts but the om is quite becoming and I have already worn out one clasp on the heart necklace, so perhaps it deserves a break.

And I am a bit surprised to be surprised by a gift. Often, when pressed, I end up shopping for myself and letting Rob and Dee choose from my selections, wrap it and present it to me gift fashion. It’s not as unromantic or thoughtless as it sounds. I always get what I need this way and I learned it from my Dad, who used to assign each of us gifts to buy him at Christmas time.  Inevitably he would call me the week before Christmas and say something like,

“I need a new pair of jeans. Waist 34 and inseam 30. Don’t spend too much. Go to Target or J.C. Penney’s. Make sure the pockets are plain. I don’t want any of that damn fancy stitching.” I could hear his eyes roll across the miles as he uttered the last sentence.  He had a low opinion of men who had fancy stitching on their jeans … or wore them prison bitch style.

He was, perhaps, a bit more Virgo than most Virgo’s I know, but he also never had to return things the day after the holiday either.

Surprise isn’t necessary to enhance a gift’s awesome factor when it is from my husband or children, but it is sweet and wonderful and it is another reminder of how, truly, I have everything.