Monday, July 30, 2007

Letter for my Husband

Dear Sean-Martin,

You know what I love about you? I love the way your voice changes on the phone when you realize it’s me on the other end. Your whole demeanor changes from a very manly, businesslike, “Hello?” to a much softer, sexier and ever-so-slightly-more-attentive “Hey, babe. What’s up?” I’ve always loved the way you talk to me on the phone, like you’ve been waiting all day just to hear my voice. And for twelve years, it hasn’t changed. You’re always just as anxious to talk to me as you were the first time we ever spoke on the phone.
You know what else? I love the way you let me run our whole lives within the confines of our home most happily, but when we step out into the world, you assume I’m hopelessly helpless. When we walk down the street, you always have me walk next to the buildings, and you walk close to the traffic. Your arm goes around me the second we step into the crosswalk as if I’d never crossed a street by myself and should never be trusted to do so. Some women don’t like that sort of thing, but those women don’t know what they’re missing. Every time you put a protective arm around me, you’re letting me know that no harm will ever come to me as long as you are with me. Every time you open a door for me or pull my chair out, you’re telling me that I’m the most important part of your life. You’re such a gentleman. I love that about you.
I love how you take care of me when we go camping, and I’ve loved every single vacation you’ve taken us on. I would never have seen so many beautiful places without you. And you make me feel that no matter where we are, every sun rises and sets on me. You’ve given me so many wonderful memories to treasure. Remember the Redwoods in that little tent you had? You made it seem like a mansion until we upgraded to the pop-up and then again to the travel trailer. And remember before we got a camper with a bathroom in it how I would ALWAYS have to pee in the middle of the night? You were so sweet whenever I’d be scared to walk out to the bathroom by myself, and you would always take me. You’d never get impatient with me--EVER--no matter how tired you were. I’d wake you up, and you’d just say, “OK, let’s go.” You’d get the flashlight and get my coat and walk me down the trail. So sweet--except for that one time you hid and scared the crap out of me. And how do you come up with such AMAZING meals a gazillion miles from nowhere? Surf and turf and steamed asparagus has never been a problem for you whether we’re cooking at home on the stove or in the woods over an open fire. I’ve never gone hungry, that’s for sure. Well, maybe there was one time through Washington state in the middle of the night. I was hungry AND tired, a dismal combination for you, but you just handled it like a champ in your usual form.
You know what else I love about you? I love how you sneak out of bed on Saturday mornings and go upstairs to watch your fishing shows. You bring me a steaming cup of chai tea and whisper in my ear, “Don’t get up,” because you want your uninterrupted, quality alone time. (Like I WANT to hop out of bed at six o’clock on a Saturday morning.) And when you’re ready for a little... well, I don’t have to put every little detail up on the Internet... Suffice to say, when you’re ready, you come down and wake me up.
I love when, all of a sudden, as if it’s just occurred to you, you say, “I sure love you, baby...” Out of the blue. I’ll just be standing there stirring something on the stove, and you’ll say it. Or I’ll be checking my e-mail or putting on my make-up, and you’ll just come out with it. It’s nice. I like it. I like that I don’t even have to look pretty for you to say it. You’ll just say it whenever the mood strikes. You’ll say it first thing in the morning when I have morning breath and morning hair and left-over-from-last-night morning make-up. While I’m on this subject, I might as well mention you don’t seem to mind the fact that my butt is jiggly or that I have stretch marks from here to Nigeria or that my tummy is far from flat. Your body remains hard and muscular and tan, and what do you have to say about mine? You say you really like that little “scoopy-scoop” that my tummy and hips and butt have created in the small of my back, and I know that you’re telling the truth because you have your hands on it all the time. Way to focus on the positive! God, I love you!
I love the fact that you’ll get out of bed to get me a drink of water in the middle of the night. Mostly. And if I absolutely can’t get you to do it, you’ll cuddle with me and try to convince me that I’m not really thirsty at all, and you’ll rub my face till I fall asleep. That’s nice too.
I love how you try to be grumpy, but you can’t. And when I giggle, you snap out of whatever got your shorts in a twist to begin with. I swear your worst days are better than most people’s best days. You’re just an even-keeled kinda guy. And when I’m grumpy, you’ll say, “Oh, baby, come on...” in your sweet, albeit somewhat patronizing voice. I can’t believe it works every stinkin’ time, but it does! How can that be? I know you’re going to say it, I tell myself not to let you appease me, and then you do it anyway. You’re magic. And I can’t resist you.
I love how you’ll stand in the kitchen and talk to me when it’s my night to cook. You always offer to pour me a glass of wine. Sometimes you’ll turn the music up and dance with me. And I LOVE the fact that you and Geoff get up and clear the table and do the dishes. My goodness, I’m spoiled rotten! I don’t know if I want anyone to read this!
I love when you laugh at my jokes. You seem to do it often. I love that. I love the fact that you make me laugh every day. You’re a very funny guy. Did you know that? You have to know that. Wayne Newton. Hair that doesn’t belong. Bitter beer face. Bridges and birds. You are some entertainment, my man! Never a dull moment with you!
You know what else I love? I love the fact that everyone who meets you likes you instantly. When we leave a party, people do not say, “Yeah, she’s a nice girl, but he’s a real JERK! I wish she’d get a clue!” A good man will be attentive to his wife and obviously so. He will cherish her and love her and protect her, thereby earning respect from respectable people. The last person a woman should need protection from is her husband, for crying out loud! But we’ve both known women who are not cherished or protected from the men who should be doing exactly that. Those husbands are an embarrassment to such women. So, thank you for being a good man. You have earned the respect from all who know you, and I am always proud to be with you.
Our toughest year was ‘04, and you navigated through it with such precision and foresight. We walked through our infertility issues pretty darn bravely, I think. I know there were times when you were haunted by the possibility of making a wrong decision. But looking back, honey, you kept your head about you and we both agreed on what was best for the three of us. I have no regrets, and I would hate it if you didn’t know that. So know that. I love what we have accomplished together, and I’m excited about our future. Raising Geoffrey with you has been the greatest joy of my life. Even HE thinks we did a good job. And even though ‘04 was tough, I feel good about the fact that it was tough due to circumstances beyond our control. What was hard about that year was not because of stupidity or selfishness or neglect on either one of our parts. We’ve only made life better for each other--never harder. And when hard times came around to us, we were ready for it. So, with that being said, I love that you’ve shown such wisdom on our journey. I love that you have a calming and comforting effect on me. I love that you fill our home with laughter. I love that you spoil me. I love that you’re irresistable. I love that you provide and protect. I love that you’re a happy and contented man. I love that you breathe me in. I love that you love me. You completely soothe my soul. I love you. I trust you. I respect you. I enjoy you. I appreciate you. Even though we’ve been together almost twelve years, I feel like I just married you a week ago. And I feel like we’ve always been together.

I am yours forever,

Friday, July 6, 2007

People You Meet

When you wait tables you meet pretty much everybody. If you do it long enough, in a HALF-way decent place, you’ll eventually even wait on somebody famous. I’ve waited on Kenny Rogers (great tipper), Mike Tyson (stiffed me), and the dude from Def Leppard with the one arm.
Most days I love it. Even the days that bring the crazies provide those snippets of entertainment that I’m so hopelessly addicted to. It doesn’t even phase me when some half-crocked, socially inept, completely hormonal bee-otch with a lunatic bent the size of Milwaukee proper plops herself down in my station and starts raving. You know I go in the back and start talking about her in the kitchen, right?
“Can you redo this sandwich for the gal on table 24 who hasn’t had an orgasm in fifteen years? And send it out with one of those little, buzzing toy-thingies. We’ve got SOMETHING she can use, right? How ‘bout that spatula? Does it vibrate? Can we send it out with some instructions? She’s not too skippy. Who’s got a pen?”
Laughter ensues, and I am lauded by my coworkers. My boss shakes his head and tries to shush me in spite of the fact that he’s trying REALLY hard not to crack a smile, and then nobody balks at having to make a perfectly good sandwich twice in the middle of lunch rush.
I get the guy who brings his wife and kids in and sits at their usual table on Saturdays, and then brings his girlfriend in on the weekdays for a cozy, cuddly lunch. Oh, you don’t think I’m leaving THAT one alone, do you? I make sure to ask how his wife and kids are. Oh, shucks, I’m supposed to wait until hottie-girl goes to the bathroom before I ask about the family, aren’t I? My bad. No tip for me! Worth it, though.
I have the adorably enchanting elderly couple who come in three times a week like clockwork and sit in my station every time because they don’t want to explain to someone new that they need a third cup decaf, a third cup regular, the rest hot water, two creamers and an ice cube. They split the fish and chips, update me on the grandkids, and leave a buck-thirty-five every time. Then one day he comes in alone and sits by himself... just... anywhere... It doesn’t really matter where that much anymore. The whole place becomes a vacuum that steals everyone’s breath away, and he is lost and lifeless without her. He realizes he can’t eat a whole fish and chips by himself, and he doesn’t come back again.
And so it goes. People you meet. Those who breeze in and out of your life like wind through the leaves on a tree, brushing past you and through you. You’d barely notice if you didn’t pay attention. But they do ripple through you, and you through them, in a continual hum that you kinda have to listen for.
On some days, like today, cool people will come in. I like when they come in toward the end of my shift. Then I can sit down at the table with them. Kick back. Shoot that breeze. On the clock. I don’t know how many times my boss has had to come looking for me to get my cashout for the day. He rolls his eyes in exasperation and lifts his hands toward Heaven when he finally finds me sitting down at a table with my guests, blending right in.
“Can I get you anything, Daisy? A soda? A milkshake? A burger maybe?”
Everybody’s a comedian in the restaurant business.
Today, Jeff and Skylar breezed in and breezed out after a nice lunch and about ten limeades. OK. Maybe not ten, but they were thirsty boys. After their world travels, you can bet they were thirsty. And good for them. Their Spanish was amazing for a coupla’ North Pacific white boys. I’m sure all that flyfishing they did on the Patagonia in Argentina and Chile did wonders.
Skylar seemed eager to finish up his college degrees at U of I (yes, degrees with an “S”--that’s plural, folks) so he could hop back down to South America, and Jeff seemed to be contemplating jumping clean out of his lucrative, successful life to join him. Wait a minute... didn’t somebody else do that? Oh yeah, I did that! Except it was a little less lucrative, and my travels are still ahead. These boys half my age have done twice as much. They absolutely inspired me to stay my present course of burgers and beer, for now anyway, believing that the best is yet to come.
I’m happy. And you know what else? I have the gift of time and flexibility. My family is loving it, and so am I. I’m unstuck. I have freedom. You know what I told Jeff and Skylar today? That there are people in this world whose job it is to take other people snorkeling every day. You know where they live? Hawaii! Let’s go be those guys. Or let’s live up here in the mountains during the summer and Mexico or Argentina or Chile on the beach during the winter and take people flyfishing.
Think I’m crazy?
Did you ever hear about the guy that walked across a tightrope stretched out over Niagara Falls with a wheelbarrow in front of him? He asked if anyone believed he could cross over from one side to the other. Everyone cheered and screamed that they knew he could do it. He invited anyone who believed in him to get in the wheelbarrow and be pushed across the falls. No one got in.
Perhaps I should mention here that I’ve had two job offers to return to teaching. If I wanted to, I could go back this fall to that secure paycheck--such that it was. Insurance. Stability. Security.
I say bugger that. I’ll get in that freakin’ wheelbarrow because life is precious, and life is short. And I’m not going to waste any more time being stuck. I’m not wasting any more time thinking about the money I’ve lost or the money I didn’t earn or all that money I spent on all those pieces of paper with the names of colleges on them that I attended. I’m not going to waste one more minute of my life second-guessing the choices I’ve made or the path I’ve carved out for my life. If I’ve screwed up, that was so five minutes ago. Who can be bothered with yesterday? But if I’ve lived my life courageously and freely, then that is forever. I hear a lot of people cheering, and plenty of people say they believe in me. But I don’t see too many people jumping into wheelbarrows. And maybe that’s because it’s completely insane. But you know what? I like the fact that I’ll always be the chick who jumped in.
And it was nice to talk to a couple of guys who get it.
Thank you, gentlemen.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Love Story

Just think about this for a second. Our entire existences are based in part on the decisions made by others. Some of us would not even BE here but for the decision on the part of one of our parents to perhaps do something as simple (or as terrifying) as respond to another’s flirtatious glance across a crowded, smoke-filled room. In another country. Far from home. Where no one speaks a word of English.

Let me back up.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away (Copenhagen, Denmark to be exact) there lived a beautiful princess. She didn’t live in a castle. Her parents didn’t lock her in a tower. Her family was not one of privilege. But she was a princess, no less. Her father was a bricklayer; her mother a hat maker. And, as all children should be, she was lavished upon with magical love. Her name was Greta Birgit Lind.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the earth (Rapid City, South Dakota to be exact) there lived a prince of a man, a self-made man of the strongest American stock from the greatest generation of men. Sadly, his own childhood was not as enchanted. His sweet mother died of a sudden illness when he was only six. His father died just ten years later, leaving him to make his own way in this world. That way included college at South Dakota State University and two years service in the army where he was stationed in Germany. Of course, as destiny would have it, Todd traveled on furlough with a buddy to Denmark and visited a local pub. Thus, said flirtatious glance across a crowded, smoke-filled room occurred and destiny was sealed. His name was Eugene Todd Martin.

No one can tell me what they talked about on that first date. She did not speak one word of English, and he certainly did not speak Danish. But somehow, this 17 and 23 year old were able to communicate one thing: they were crazy about each other. The remainder of Todd’s commitment to the army was spent writing letters and speaking occasionally to Birgit over the phone. Luckily, Birgit’s mother spoke a little English, and she was able to translate, for the most part, the affections of her daughter’s suitor. Think about that one. He saw her two more times before his commission ended, but his service for the army came to its inevitable end. He packed everything but his heart, which he left in Copenhagen, and flew home to the states. He took a job as a pharmacist in his hometown of Rapid.

It took no time at all for him to make that long distance phone call. A staticy connection from America with a very anxious, very nervous young man on the other end brought the proposal for marriage to Birgit through her mother who translated. Birgit told her mom to tell her boyfriend that she said yes. He flew back to Denmark and on June 29th, 1957, Todd Martin married Birgit Lind in a ceremony he didn’t understand a word of. God only knows what they made him promise her. He’d only seen her three times before he put a beautiful diamond ring on her finger--the same diamond that his own father had given his mother years before. It was the same diamond that his son placed on my hand years later. It is the same diamond our son will give his bride when destiny brings them together.

Fifty years, two children, three grandchildren, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, several pets, houses and vacations later, they still epitomize the love and devotion we all dream of. They had each other. They built a life. They’ve made the most of the first fifty years and eagerly anticiplate the next fifty. I can’t explain how they did it. Or how Sean-Martin and I are doing it. Or how my sister-and-brother-in-law are doing it. Or how we’re showing our children to do it. All I know is that with each morning that comes, love remains.

Click on their video. You might want to grab a kleenex.