Steve and I have reached that sturdy place in life where I have been with him longer than I was without him.
Our marriage has reached the tipping point where he has been sober longer than he was sodden.
It is a remarkable comfort to me, to say nothing of an odds defying achievement. I hung in, and I have been married to two men in the same body. Nice.
We have never been a Valentine’s couple, except for a brief span in the kid- saturated years when we would get a baby sitter for an overnight and escape to a hotel for …well, you know- a return to freedom, albeit brief. It must be noted that one of those salacious overnights ended up as a Fawlty Towers marathon. You can take the parents out of their setting, but old habits die hard.
At any rate, we are so durable these days that we spend much of the winter in separate places without catastrophe.
It helps that he resides in a condo where my extended family drifts in and out of my late Dad’s condo. (spies) It helps that the average resident is a generation older than Steve. (No bikinis) It helps that Steve is an introvert, and I know the solitary life suits him. (No Janter)
It helps that I have dogs,kids, friends and grandkids to fill my extroverted days. It helps that between listening to his podcast, Face Time and phone calls, we have about as much verbal contact as we would have in residence.
A sad Winter Steve is far more challenging than an absent, sun infused Steve.
But today, all of that shifts. I am descending upon South Florida. Valentine’s Day!
Sounds like a perfect week, right?
AH…there are challenges looming under the surface.
Steve has his systems, his food, his timing all pre-ordained. And then I, the Chaos Queen,will move his stuff, change his rituals, and alter his dining choices. I will want to sit on his chair. Take up space in the closet. Make noise while he podcasts. Look cross-eyed when he wears the same clothes every day. He will ignore that my clothing, long parked in the closet there, has the style embraced in the 90’s. Or 80’s. He will pretend to be working so I will not bombard him with a stream of questions or facts. The first day is a recalibration of sorts. It is a microcosm of the art of marriage. (I’ll opine on that after we have survived it.)
When we choose to blend, we delude ourselves if we think all of our quirks are charming. We are idiots if we think that love will always save the day. A marriage is a growing organism, full of retrofitting, calculated amnesia and concession. The trick is to give enough without turning to vapor or resentment. The gift is to get enough that you realize the tandem you are riding is superior to any other conveyance. The life long challenge is to keep it in that condition.
Steve and I will give and get for the next 24 hours, obliging each other’s habits and ignoring the loss of autonomy. Really, that’s the biggest one. For four weeks we have done what we wanted, ate what we wanted, went to bed when we wanted, watched the programs we wanted. We both loved our realities.
But we are wise enough to remind each other that in general, life is best shared. So tonight Steve will slurp ice cream as he watches Jon Stewart and Colbert. I will ignore the sounds effects and the loss of the evening news. I will pull on a musty, Florida- parked nightshirt and fall asleep immediately. He will ignore that.
The good news is that after 35 years, there is enough overlap to build on. And there’s ..you know…. sex after four weeks away. That’ll help. I’m pretty sure, despite Papal decrees to the contrary, that God gave it a little joy buzzer for a reason.
Steve has been touting Peepshow, his latest British comedy obsession. Maybe there will be a marathon.
Just like Valentine’s days of old.