What is The Best News I Can Give You?
My husband and my mother spent a great deal of time together after my mother was unable to drive and my husband would take her shopping. As time went on, the two found themselves enjoying their shopping trips more and more until one day, a family friend commented to me that the way my husband and mother got along so well, they gave the impression of being mother and child more than she and I, and I had to agree.
Except for the annual trip to her house to show her the children in their Halloween costumes, I actually have very little contact with my mother-in-law, but the temptation to engage in jokes about one’s mother-in-law is universally addictive. If someone says, I ran into your mother-in-law, I respond, “I hope you were driving at the time.” My assistant enthusiastically bounced into my office one morning holding the mail in her hand and smiling broadly, “What is the best news I can give you?” I fixed the most sincere expression of euphoria I could muster, blurting out, “My mother-in-law got her head caught in a wood chipper!?!” Despite her disappointment at my macabre response, I quickly added, “Keep in mind that anything else will pale in comparison, but please continue.”
I am actually nicer to my mother-in-law than her son is as patience is not one of his virtues. As he wound up doing with my mother when she stopped driving, his mother never learned to drive and, since his father’s death, he has been driving his mother to the store when she needs groceries. Even though he accompanied my mother into the store on her shopping trips, he remains outside waiting for his mother, watching the clock very apprehensively, calling home frequently to ask if daylight savings time is still in effect. I remind him not to yell when she does finally emerge, so he restrains himself, limiting his remarks when she comes out to, “I thought you found a back entrance.”
Raised on a Steady Diet of Sarcasm
I waited until the perfect age to start my family, having my first when I was thirty. Before that, I was too young and selfish to appreciate parenthood, so my twenties were spent entirely on me, fortunately saving my energy for when it was needed.
I was very lucky to have my children when I did, completing my family before becoming entrenched in my forties with all the impatience and crankiness that comes with it, along with new reasons to be selfish.
My daughter used to have a habit of clapping her hands quickly when she was having trouble trying to think of something that escaped her and I'd tease, "Well, if we had a Clapper, the lights would go ballistic, but think of the fairies you'd save.
My son was walking around the house doing a very bad DeNiro, trying to get a reaction from someone asking, “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?”
I took the bait and asked, “Who are you supposed to be?”
To which he, of course, replied, “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?”
“What, you wanna be a gangster? You better think this through first. All the good names and body parts are taken…Lefty the Fist, Pee-Wee the Chin. You’re liable to get stuck with something like Ernie the Elbow.”
When I say something to my daughter that she doesn’t like, she responds with, “Remember, I get to pick the home.”
And I fire back with, “Eh-eh, when I leave home, I’m wearing a body bag. No, I plan to die right here, after I’ve used more diapers than all five of you did combined. You know when you hear elderly people say they want to be surrounded by their children? By then, they can’t hear their kids fight anymore, so of course they want them around…to change their diapers and clean up after them when they get messy, along with lifting them when they fall or need the TV channel changed. The home has already been picked and it is YOUR HOME.”
When requesting assistance or a favor from one of my children, “I’ll give you a million dollars, provided of course, you’ll take a check.”
In response to one of my children asking for milk, I’ll say, “You’d better want it in a glass, cause my milk giving days are over.”
I remember my father, who was 46 when I was born, teaching me how to ride a bike, getting a running start alongside it and then jumping on; or engaging in a snowball fight with me, jumping over the railing on our porch landing smoothly on his feet in the driveway below just in time to pelt me with snowballs I did not expect or was able to dodge. Still in admiration of this man, I envy his apparent enthusiasm for parenthood and wonder where he got his energy.
Delaying parenthood was an excellent opportunity to hone my organizational skills, convincing me that I must have been a general in another life. I’m not sure which one I would have been, but it had to be either Patton, Sherman, or Napoleon.
Fighting The Good Fight
I hear about women who don’t have sex as often as they would like. I used to work for a woman who said she and her husband had not had sex in over ten years. I don’t know about you, but after ten days, I’m a little cranky. After ten weeks, I would need to be restrained. After ten months, I would need sedation. Ten years? I'd be comatose.
Marriage is very hard work…at least if it’s done right. Sometimes, I find myself wondering what I was thinking and say, “I can’t believe I signed that contract.” But arguing can be good and, like any other skill, it should be learned and perfected. Couples who don’t argue are, in my opinion, neither honest, nor as happy as they could be. Don’t be afraid to disagree when you feel strongly about something. That doesn’t mean that you should pick a fight as a form of entertainment. It just means that you shouldn’t give in to the opposition just to avoid the argument because it takes time and effort. Nothing worth having should come without effort. Ideas should be discussed and decisions made as a partnership and that often means disagreement.
Disagreement isn’t automatically a bad thing as it causes one to think and consider both sides of the issue. Sometimes disagreement will bring about hurt feelings, but it can also bring about positive change…or great sex. Don’t be afraid of it. It’s a form of communication and that should never be ignored.
My husband and I were in the family room wrapping presents before one of the kids’ birthdays when we heard an awful racket from the birdcage. It sounded like fighting and singing at the same time. When we looked in, we saw our cockatiels doing the nasty, and while we were grateful none of the kids were around to ask questions, we couldn’t resist having a laugh at the birds’ expense. We had taught the male to say ‘I was framed’, so my husband started saying things like, “I was framed, Baby”, followed closely by “Ooh, frame me, frame me.” And “Do it to me, Polly.” My daughter had mentioned that the birds had been fighting an inordinate amount lately and now I know why.
My father was in his forties when a routine check up at the doctor’s office made him aware of an illness he hadn’t realized he had, and it scared him quite a bit as he had heard very negative things from people who suffered from or were the relatives of those who had it. The doctor had told my father he had “a touch of emphysema”, as I heard him quote many, many times over the years, as he proudly described how he crumpled his pack of cigarettes right then and there in the doctor’s office, throwing them away on his way out, never to light up again. Perhaps that is why he died peacefully in his sleep over forty years later.
I caught a very bad cold in my early twenties when I still smoked, making it very uncomfortable to do so, depriving me of any enjoyment from it while I was sick. The cold, complete with laryngitis, lasted longer than any cold I had ever had, giving me the opportunity to give up smoking for good, quite easily. Despite my good fortune, I do appreciate how difficult it must be to give up smoking without a similar incentive, so when my husband decided to quit smoking, I gave him all the support I could…at first.
He attended a cessation meeting while I waited in the car. The meeting was held at a local hotel, along with other meetings for a variety of purposes. After quite a while, I saw a group of people exit the building, getting in their cars and driving away. To my disappointment, my husband was not among them. A short time later, another group walked from the building to the parking lot in much the same fashion, again watching them hopefully that this would be the smoking cessation group. It was not. Within minutes, a group of running individuals left the hotel at such speed, I thought for a moment it was on fire. The only fire was at the end of each match immediately lit as each individual got into his or her car, breathing a sigh of contentment before opening the window to release the smoke and looking as though a new pope had been selected before driving away. Finally, my husband who was one of the few who had thought to bring their cigarettes with them, lit up before completely clearing the building, walking slowly to the car for the drive home.
He had been told to pick a date in the very near future on which to quit smoking and that is what he did. After three pleasant smelling, smoke-free, albeit agonizing, days without cigarettes, having our heads bit off by the bear with whom we suddenly found ourselves living, the children and I were saddened to learn that my husband had fallen off of the wagon, lighting up a cigarette, saying, “They said this might happen and I shouldn’t beat myself up for it, but to set another date and try again.”
I was a supportive wife, disappointed, but not discouraged, saying, “Well, you’ve been smoking a long time and you knew it was gonna be hard to give it up, but if you can go without smoking for three days, you can give it up for good if you make up your mind to quit.” He set another date and remained smoke free for only two days before lighting up. Again, I was disappointed, but supportive and a third date to kick the habit was chosen. This attempt lasted only 24 hours before he began smoking again and I was less supportive than I had been during the first two tries, and a great deal louder, “Every time you decide to quit, you act like you’re the only one effected and you spend the next day or so screaming at me and the kids like it’s ALL OUR FAULT. It’s not. They told you at that meeting not to be too hard on yourself if you don’t succeed and that’s all you seem to remember. Apparently, they failed to tell you not to be too hard on everyone around you during the process. You don’t want to quit? Well, I do. I quit! You? Either quit or don’t. I don’t even give a shit anymore. Just leave us out of it.” All my support had done was give him an excuse to smoke, because as soon as he saw he had exhausted my support for his failed attempts, he succeeded and has been smoke free for several years.
Knowing my father had just quit smoking; my mother would blow her cigarette smoke across the table at him after dinner, just to be spiteful. When my husband was quitting, every time he craved a cigarette, there was blowing of a different sort involved, but it was done to help him quit and that pretty much clearly illustrates the difference between my mother’s and my approach to marriage.
My five favorite words in the English language when spoken together are, "I agree with you, Jody". These are five words I’ve never heard my husband utter together, but he is quite easily my best friend, running the gamut daily from hero to asshole and back again.
The unfortunate early result of my union with this man became the name issue. After several very loud discussions regarding the name change, our differing opinions still existed. I didn’t want to and originally, I wasn’t going to change my name at all, but he whined so much, I decided that I would consider it, despite my dislike of that particular tradition. Why need a woman give up the name she has had since birth? It shows possession, much like branding cattle. I asked him. “You’re not planning to burn your initials on my ass, are you?”
Hyphenating my name was an unnecessary addition of syllables, so I finally decided to just keep my name, appeasing my husband by agreeing to take his after my father’s death. I never liked the constant mispronunciation of my name and the frequent need to spell it for people, emphasizing how each letter was pronounced, had been with me all my life. My husband has a nice, short, five-letter, two syllable name that is very easy to pronounce and at the beginning of the alphabet for, as I thought at the time, our eventual children to use to get sent to the bathroom first when they turn school age. Yes, it was tempting. The temptation, however, lasted a very short time, as the pronunciation of this easy name wasn’t easy for anyone who saw it in print before hearing how it sounds. To them, I was just a piece of fruit and one woman actually argued with me about the pronunciation when I corrected her as though she knew my name better than I did. I remember my first grade teacher showing me how to spell the word by which they were calling me and it was spelled differently. I was sure of it. I wanted more syllables in my last name as much as I wanted a simultaneous root canal, tax audit, and ice water enema, but I decided hyphenating might be the way to go.
Yes, it was long, but while my “unpronounceable” maiden name slowed the idiots down, I could get my husband’s name spelled and sounded out before they had a chance to peel and core it. Besides, the mispronunciation had begun to make me feel too much like one of the fruit-of-the-loom gang.
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