I've been wanting to put up a post dealing with all kinds of important matters, but the several of you who still visit are lucky I'm here at all. I should be a dead man. I came into the house the other evening after mowing the yard, all filthy dirty and sweaty and looking forward to the required refreshment. I walked into the living room where the wife's relaxing in a recliner and watching TV. "It's done," I said. "We're the envy of the street."
"Oh, good," she said. "There's something for you out in the guestroom."
"For me?" It's not my birthday so I'm puzzled. "Should I go out there and see what it is?"
She nodded. So I head out to the other building and find a good size, brand new barbecue grill waiting for me, which we've been needing because the bottom's rusting out of the old one. Well, I thought, ain't that sweet? She saved me a trip to Home Depot. On the grill was a card saying "1973-2009. WOW! That's a long time!"
I don't know what's happening to my mind, but for some reason I thought she was congratulating me for keeping the old grill going for so long. It wasn't until I got back inside that the math settled out and it occurred to me that we hadn't owned that grill for 36 years. It was only about 20 years old.
"Well thanks," I said, "is that my Father's Day present?"
She just rocked back and forth in her combo rocking chair-recliner and wearing a half-smile with a sort of bitter twist to it. "Did you see the card?" she asked.
"Yeah, 1973 to 2009...?"
She looked briefly toward the ceiling, then turned that weird smile back on me, which set my mind to racing. My head had been filled lately with the kind of desperation that accompanies the need to think of something for a daughter's birthday, something for my Dad on Father's day, to find time to fix the gutter, repair the chimney, put a new screen on the front door, take a chain saw to the camphor tree, write a blog post, do some reading and finish a painting and so on. So my mind was racing through June trying to figure out what I'd overlooked. Then of course it hit me.
"Is today the 15th?"
She nodded and rocked.
"I forgot our anniversary?" She nodded and...
I put my head in my hands. It wasn't entirely an act. "Can I make excuses?"
She shook her head.
"What are you going to do to me?"
"Do? What can I do that would do any good? You are what you are."
"You do realize I've treasured every moment."
She was back to nodding and rocking.
"Thirty-six years," I said, in a voice filled with awe. "That's a long..." She turned the weird smile upon me.
"Well," I said after a moment, "why have you stuck it out so long? A normal woman would have gotten rid of me."
"Oh, for better for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death..." It sounded like she was reciting the sentence she'd been handed by the judge.
"Hell," I said, "nobody pays attention to that anymore."
"Maybe not some people."
"It's the girls, isn't it? I gave you a couple of good-looking, good-hearted daughters so you thought you'd reward me by hangin' round."
"They haven't hurt any."
I finally wished her happy anniversary. She said, "Thanks, Bill," then went back to watching TV. I dragged my dirty sorry self outside, flopped down in a rubber deck chair and started sucking down the Pauli Girls. I suspect anniversaries are more important than all the other days we celebrate except maybe the religious ones. You can't have fathers' days and mothers' days and grandparents' days and kids' birthdays without them. A marriage has to come first. And I'd forgotten it. Even Valentine's Day points in that direction. Even Christmas and Easter are different when you're married with children. I don't know how much I'd care about them without my marriage. Its anniversary really is more important to me than all the others. And I'd forgotten it. She seems to have moved on, but I don't know what it does to a woman inside, because they're real good at hiding that sort of thing. I ain't dead yet, but I probably oughta be.
I also suspect I better put that grill to good use this weekend. She likes porterhouse, with a subtantial tenderloin attached. Rare. Coming right up.