Over the course of a very, very, very long marriage, behaviors are deeply etched in the domestic clay – and fired. Some are sweet: In the morning when the sun comes up, he brings her coffee in her favorite cup.
Some – actually quite a few – are annoying: She never shuts a cupboard door. There’s snoring, his and hers; making the salad too big; making the salad too small; telling a person which magazine articles to read or not to read. As my friend Suze once remarked of husbands: so much to criticize, so little time.
Some of a marriage’s customs are tender and private. Some are endearing and visible to all: He always opens the car door for her; she makes sure he doesn’t get lost at a party. Others are practical: One manages money, the other tracks the news.
Some behaviors we take for granted. I did till a recent Monday morning. Here’s what happened.
It is not too cold, but cold enough to warm the car up before taking off and cold enough for icy patches to abide on our driveway. Jim and I take our 10-month-old puppy and leave the house – two for the morning paper, one for water aerobics. “Bye!” I cry through the open car window – big mistake.
Off I go just as Jim has untangled the leash from a lilac bush. The pup decides to go swimming with me. She charges. She brings Jim down. He shouts, but I am gone. After a time, the puppy – can she feel remorse? I don’t think so – comes back to Jim and lavishes sloppy kisses on his face. Together they make their way back into the house.
“Hi!” I cry an hour and a half later. “Ooofff,” Jim responds. Puppy back and forth between us. Jim has a broken humerus, left arm. We know because the good ER folk at Rumford Hospital told us so and displayed the X-ray.
Into an immobilizer sling goes Jim’s left arm. Into McKennel’s goes the puppy. On with the painkillers.
Farewell to Jim bringing in stove wood, to Jim emptying the ashes. Jim getting the paper. Like former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate Mike Dukakis, Jim really likes to vacuum. He never moves the furniture – see annoying habits, above – but he really likes to vacuum.
And as I don’t … Farewell to Jim’s warming up the car for me, making the coffee for us, taking the garbage and the recyclable down: walking the dog (“She’s home again!”).
It isn’t New Year’s Eve, but I’m resolving to be more appreciative of all the chores my husband does. I may backslide: Old habits die hard.
Linda Farr Macgregor lives with her husband, Jim, in Rumford. She is a freelance writer and author of “Rumford Stories.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org