October 11, 2012
Today is my wife’s 60th birthday, and it’s quite possible she’ll kill me just for spreading that news. But since it is such a momentous occasion, I thought I’d dedicate today’s blog to her.
Why I Hate My Wife
I realize this sounds like a horrible title for a blog post, especially when I have extolled the virtues of my wife in other posts, and not so long ago. But there comes a time when you just have to speak up, voice an opinion.
How Did it Start
This hating didn’t happen overnight. Like a fine wine, or prized balsamic vinegar, it took many, many years. A recent event kicked it off, but to fully understand the story you have to go back to the beginning.
Reason Number One—Dancing
I was thirteen when I first met my wife. I was the new kid in school and at the Friday-night dances, she was the star. I stood on the sidelines, pretending to be cool, but what I really wanted, what I would have killed for, was to be out on the floor with her—dancing. Despite my impossibly bad rhythm, she succumbed to my charms and married me a few years later. That, more than anything, started the almost 45-year run that leads us to this day.
Not For Lack of Trying
I’m not a man who gives up easily. But after countless weddings, parties, family celebrations, and occasional nights out, I realized there would be no overtaking my wife on the dance floor. No keeping up with her. Nothing except full-fledged embarrassment if I ventured onto the dance floor with my wife. I accepted that, and finally admitted that I had a difficult time even tuning in the radio, let alone swaying to rhythms.
Reason Number Two—Drawing
If dancing was my first dream, drawing was my second. My family was never very talented when it came to the arts. We could recite math formulas from a young age, name the capitals of all the states and most of the countries of the world. We could tell you who sang what song or starred in what movie (yes, useless trivia) and we all were blessed with excellent memories…but ask us to draw anything, even stick men, and …good God, you wouldn’t want to see it. That was fine, though. We were all so bad, that none of us realized it. And we had nothing to compare it to at school because we went to Catholic school, which at that time, had no art classes.
Then along comes my wife. She was hanging around as my girlfriend for about a year or so, when my little brother asked her to draw something—a frog if I recall. She sat down and within minutes produced a masterpiece. My wife’s maiden name was Michele D’Angelo; after seeing what she drew we all called her Michelangelo. We never suspected she had superpowers. Laugh if you want, but that’s what it seemed like to us.
So there you have reason two; she ruined all my hopes of becoming an artist. I knew I’d never be that good.
Reason Number Three—Emergencies
I can handle almost any kind of crisis, be it financial, health, natural disaster, car breaking down, you name it, but when it comes to emergencies involving pets, kids, people in general, I’m not so good. It’s not that I panic—I don’t—but I get a little…lost. I take too much time making decisions and second-guessing the decisions I do make. In general, I screw up. If I were a doctor in an emergency room, patients would die.
Not Mikki. When our son got his first new bike, he was riding down the block as fast as he could, and the whole time, staring at his speedometer instead of where he was going. He ran smack into a mailbox and split his head open just above the eye. Mikki knew what to do and stayed calm. Within minutes we were on our way to the hospital, and she had him laughing, convinced that all the blood was nothing to worry about. Over the course of raising three kids, and sometimes their friends, we saw our fair share of accidents. In each case, though, Mikki responded like a pro.
Reason Number Four—Handling Grief
I guess everyone handles funerals and personal tragedy differently. Maybe it’s a learned trait, or maybe it’s genetic. It’s more than likely a combination of both. Whatever the explanation, mine stinks. I try to handle grief the same way I handle everything—with humor. And when I think about it, so does the rest of my family. That worked fine for a lot of years, because at most of the funerals I attended we were the “second tier” support. We were the ones relied on to cheer family up, tell a funny story about the deceased—make people laugh, and help ease the grief. But if it came to offering real consolation we were lost. Beyond a few very sincere “I’m so sorry,” attempts, we had little to offer.
Once again, my wife took the cake. She showed me how it was supposed to be done. It didn’t matter if she knew the deceased that well, she somehow managed to find just the right words to comfort a surviving spouse, and other close family. And she never stopped there. Her true magic showed in the days that followed. She would be the first at the house to help clean, make food, and, perhaps most importantly, keep that person busy, keep them from thinking of what they lost.
She showed me how special a talent that was when my father died. And then my two brothers. And once again, more recently with my mother. Only special people have those powers, and Mikki is one of them. Damn her.
Reason Number Five—A Caregiver
Earlier this year my wife had surgery and it was up to me to take care of her for a short while, and to take care of the animals on our sanctuary for a longer while. I tackled it with zeal, determined to do a great job and make her feel like she didn’t need to “hurry and get better.”
It was while I was trying to take care of her that I realized she was far better at this than me. As I struggled to get things right, and make sure she was comfortable, I recalled the times she took care of others. When our son was sick and she tended to him day and night; when my brother was ill, and she made sure he was taken care of; when I had my heart attack and she was there for me, night and day, strong as an old oak tree.
And most of all, I’ve seen her with the animals. For more than fifteen years, she has been there to care for the animals when they were sick, but even more importantly she’s been there to help them make the transition to their new life in the next world.
This realization was both comforting and upsetting. I felt great knowing that if, or when, I got sick I would have the best care possible, and someone to keep me company. But it upset me to know that if something happened to her, my caregiving wouldn’t hold up.
When I think about the five reasons I hate my wife, it’s really why I love her—she fills the voids in my own life.
This was for you, babe. Ti amo con tutto il mio cuore.
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