Sunday, July 10, 2011

What I Did For Love

Wow, it seems my vacay from blogging never was, it's so easy to come back to this. But I needed a break, just some time to attend to things, like shredding twenty-five years of old tax receipts, returns.  That was fun, bringing those boxes out of the attic.  I approached it like I do everything else, with a broom.

While I was away I did an Anniversary Post. Not a blogging anniversary post, but a Marital Union Anniversary Post. What you will get out of it are prime examples of conflict avoidance. Or do you prefer: Synchrony of Emotion. Empathy. All depends upon what color glasses you're wearing.  We prefer something in pastel.

June 22, 2011

FD and I have been married for 36 years.

You should know that the number 36 is considered a lucky number, because it is twice 18, and 18 is a lucky number. If you're Jewish you understand that multiplying things has tremendous psychological power. The number 18 is lucky because it is the numeric equivalent of chai (hard "ch", rhymes with fly), the Hebrew word for life.

How does a word become a number? Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet is associated with a number. Add up the numbers that correspond to the letters of a word, and you get numbers with feeling.  You can imagine the speeches at the Bar Mitzvahs.

What we do to celebrate our life together is regress, stick it to the whole idea that we're getting older and crankier. Meaning, we take off and do what we used to do when it wasn't as hard to do it, with less intensity.  We cancel our appointments, sign out, give over coverage and run away for a day and a half, never too far away.  The Midwest is a lot prettier than people think.  We met in the cornfields of Illinois, two and a half hours southwest of the city of Chicago, in school.

FD does most of the work as I put together a cooler of fish salad and fruit.  He somehow gets our bicycles to stay on the back of the car using an ancient bike carrier. I make a big deal about making the salad while I talk on the phone. It does take forever, right, to make a decent lunch?

We drive away.   This particular anniversary morning follows a night of severe storms all across the western suburbs.  We have reserved a  bed and breakfast in the western suburbs not far from Fermilabs.  FD has discovered that there are extensive bike trails near the nuclear reactor.  Finding the trails is easy, choosing the B & B is hard.  My job.

Do we go to Marcia's Bed and Breakfast in Ottawa?  When I ask Marcia how much, she asks if we're bringing our horses.  I like her right away.

If not Marcia's then perhaps Oscar Swan's in Geneva, where the service is said to be iffy, but we might catch a wedding.

To be honest, Marcia's is a little too far away for a day trip, and frankly, I don't travel well anymore.  So I tell her another day, and we book at the Oscar Swan.  Then FD gets sick, and there is no going anywhere.

But being a doctor, he gets well!  How he does this, I'll never know, but he goes from looking like death warmed over to, "HEY!  Let's go someplace!  I haven't had fever in two hours* and the antibiotics are working, and it's our anniversary!"

I'm saying, "Dude, we should totally stay home, and if we're adventurous, measure the kitchen floor. We take the money we save at Oscar Swan (significant!) and apply it to the new floor."

He goes, "Yeah, but it's our anniversary." He says it with a certain nostalgia.  Or is that a whine.

We settle on a show.  Yes!  Let's go see a show!  We live in a big city, Chicago.  There are many of these.  I suggest Chinglish, a comedy set for Broadway, soon.  He's good with this, but we can't get cheap tickets.  He finds The Outgoing Tide, a play about Alzheimer's with John Mahoney.  John Mahoney is best known as Frazier's father.  He's an older television star.

"Fine, dear. We'll see a play about something depressing.  That's cool.  I'm good.  Truly."

I cancel our reservation at the Oscar Swan.  I have already discussed our issues with Marcia in Ottawa, the proprietor who asked about our horses.  She knows we'll be back one day, probably with grandchildren.  We have a relationship.   We spend more money than we should at the Northlight Theater, thinking that if the weather is good and he still feels good, we can get out during the day and ride somewhere and still make it back to get dressed up for the show.  I love getting dressed up for a show, although this is a passing trend, at least at the Northlight.

The night before, as we've already indicated, the storms are fierce, make religious animals out of Chippy and Dale  and everyone else who doesn't live in our attic.**  We wake up to find that our neighborhood quite possibly has the best weather within a hundred miles.  The sun is shining.  The skies are blue, and the weatherman is telling us otherwise for all of Chicagoland.

But we can't stay here. We have to go someplace we haven't been before, somewhere only we know, as the song goes.  I watch the Weather Channel with great interest.  "If we're going to ride, it seems to me that Antioch might stay clear for awhile."

This is Chain of Lakes in Illinois, where he takes the grandkids fishing sometimes. Before we blink the food is ready to go, and the bikes are hanging low on the Nissan; this is an old drill.  "Drive slowly," he warns.  "The bikes are hanging low." Noticed that, between us, didn't say a word.

And it is, as it always is, just fantastic.  We find the park, get out and air out.  There are three hiking/riding trails within seven miles and check them all out via pedals.  He complains that I ride too slow.  I tell him that I have to stop to take pictures.  It's an addiction, remembering.  We lose that ability all too soon.

It is lovely, we're having a good time.  Neither of us cares much who is trying to reach us when we miss those calls.

It is all good until we hit what feels to me is a highway.  At this point FD tells me that we have to ride on the shoulder of this Route, whichever it is.  The traffic is whizzing by.

No, dear.

He tells me there is no other way to get to where we want to go, and I still insist, Not Me.  Now We.

We look at one another.  Stalemate.  We both want to go.  We want to keep exploring the area.  We rarely ride on the busy streets, but occasionally are forced into it and there is this thing they call a shoulder.  To turn back is white bread, there is no fiber to this trip yet.  We're not white bread people.  Our eyes turn, once again, to the highway.

All of a sudden there is NO traffic.  Of one mind we hightail it across and in moments are comfortably riding west on the shoulder, not a care in the world.  It will be a mile and a half to the next official trail.

The traffic, of course, catches up with us, but we're within three feet of the nearest flying automobile, and we've been here before.  We have faith.  We'll be fine.

Except for the flash flood.  We should have seen it coming.  The sky had changed.

We feel the moisture, we can tell that the water on our skin is rain, we just aren't prepared for a flash flood in the middle of nowhere while riding on the shoulder of a highway as trucks kick what have become rivers onto the shoulder. 

We get off our bikes, rapidly hunt for our parkas, soon a little more protected.  Except that it is pouring and we're in the middle of nowhere and a parka is only good from the waist up.

"What now?" I ask, hoping he knows what he's doing.

"We find a shelter and have a picnic, of course."

Of course.

"We're not riding to this shelter," I inform him.

"No, we can walk there."

And the rain keeps pouring down.

There is no shelter.  But by the time we get to the park, five minutes away, really, the rain is quite finished.  The sun is out, and we're drying off.  It helps to ride standing up, and who can't do that?

I'm wary of another storm, keep my parka on, but FD stops to tell me that this is slowing me down.  He hates that I ride so slowly.  I give in, take it off, hoping that this really is the end of the bad weather.  We have vacationed for thirty-six years in all kinds of weather, weathered all kinds of storms.  A little drop of rain can hardly hurt me now.

At some point we're lost.  My Iphone has a compass that tells me we're heading south and I know we need to go northeast.  FD tells me that my compass is wrong, that we're heading east, which is fine.  "How can a compass be wrong," I ask, suspicious.

"I don't know, but it's wrong."

This inspires confidence, obviously.  I am tired, and a little hungry, and not totally dry, although the sun is doing what it is supposed to do, and there is a lamb on a farm that is basically saying, Come take my picture.  But by the time I get to doing that, he disappears.

Seeing a lamb makes me happy.  We reach the car and FD begins the process of loading the bikes on the car carrier.  It is beginning to rain.  I get in the car, hope he doesn't get too wet, and he doesn't.  We pass the home grown fruit stand, stop to buy some berries, and of course, nothing is home grown, but you have to love that, too.  Home grown bananas.  Right.


*Actually, FD came down with this ridiculous illness the day before and started treating it immediately. Loathe to use unnecessary antibiotics, we know he wasn't faking.

** The Is it a raccoon?  Or  Is it a squirrel? story is priceless, but not for today.


lynette said...

happy anniversary! what a beautiful and real story. what a beautiful and real marriage.

thank you for sharing, therapydoc. i wish i had met and married the kind of guy, like yours, who was made for the long haul.

therapydoc said...

Oh, I make it look easy, Lynette. But living with me ain't no walk in the park :)

Have Myelin said...

Sweet! Made me smile. =)

tuesday@11 said...

Happy anniversary! So, living with you is no walk in the park. More like a bike ride in the park in the pouring rain. Sounds like FD and you have weathered many storms together. May the sun shine upon ya'll!

Mound Builder said...

I have read this post a couple of times, was curious since you say at the outset that there are examples of conflict avoidance, therapydoc. And I've done enough general reading about therapy, relationships, etc. to gather that conflict avoidance is generally thought to be a Bad Thing. But I read your post, as I said, a couple of times, maybe even three and I didn't see anything that seemed like an example of the dreaded Conflict Avoidance. Maybe there's a difference between conflict avoidance and conflict prevention. Not everything needs to be about a conflict, surely. Some conflicts are best avoided; some are likely to be impossible to resolve in the instance of certain kinds of personalities so maybe the best thing is not to get involved in the energy suck, thus you prevent a conflict by not participating in some conflicts with some people. And sometimes there are things that just aren't worth a conflict because they aren't important things, really.

porcini66 said...

Happy Anniversary! I hope that my husband and I will be as contented with each other as you and FD sound. Today, I think it's very possible....

Sidney said...

Mazel! And again, I'm glad you're back in the blogosphere, MD.

therapydoc said...

Thanks Mound Builder. When I go along as a "good sport" I see that as conflict avoidance, but it's really quid pro quo. We'll go see a depressing play, but I'll put that in my pocket. The next one ...

Cheryl said...

i LOVE horses! Check out my blog and you'll see what I mean. Finally back to blogging again soon after a several month absence...

As far as riding in the shoulder, people get so worked up when I roll in the shoulder, even though it's less then 1/2mi, non-rush hour, broad daylight, and only a 2 lane street. I mean, even with my reflector stickies, I still wouldn't do it in the dark, most of my chair is black. I'm not stupid. Don't understand what their deal is...