OK, please excuse the Dickensian reference, but he’s my favorite writer and I sit here, again late in the evening, and it’s the first thing that rolled off my fingers as I write. Beside, it was that or I was going to put a Phil Collins reference in there. I love Phil, but I think none of us want to see that in a Blog post.
I use it, though, to set some of the record straight, I guess. I realize I’ve given a pretty rosy picture, an idealized version of things. I actually think it is natural, that the normal tendency is to take what you remember and point only toward the best parts.
So here is where I’ll actually set the record straight.
We didn’t have roses at the dinner table all the time, we didn’t have those amazing smiles and happy lives through every moment of our marriage. It was really a lot harder than I think some of you are getting out of this when you read it.
We almost didn’t make it. I know that sounds like I’d be exaggerating, but there were a few moments, when I worked in Omaha particularly, that we were at the point where it was just going to break into pieces. Andrea had accused me, on more than one occasion, of wanting to spend more time with or even having an affair with (what she thought were) more attractive, younger women I’d worked with. I guess it goes without saying that it was absolutely NOT true!
But I didn’t help matters any, either. These people were my friends. I needed someone to talk to about the issues we were facing and Andrea was hysterical some nights. I needed a calm place, a glass of red wine, hell a shot of tequila and a dark quiet room even. I had friends, I had bandmates and other activities that started taking up time because I just couldn’t take hearing the accusations any more.
You have to understand, those first months, even the first year, were amazing, crazy, intense days where we spent nearly every free minute together. When necessity dictated that those minutes diminished somewhat, it bothered Andrea, like a scab on your arm that you shouldn’t itch but you just keep scratching anyway. She had this intense, horrific fear of being alone and of being abandoned. When you’re that person’s husband, working at a job that requires your absolute concentration and organization, getting phone calls at noon asking if you’ll get home a little early, every day, starts to wear on you.
Worse still, I had no idea until a couple years into our marriage that in college she’d been on a date where the creep took things too far, taking advantage, to the point of date raping her. While she trusted me, even early on, that dark moment grew, intensely, to the point where it started to overwhelm her, even years later. When you try to kiss your wife and she turns away, saying it’s not your fault, you can’t help but wonder. It’s your birthday and she goes to bed early. When the woman who spent every day with you, laying in your arms, kissing you passionately begins to push away from you, it starts to mess with your head. By this point, we had Abbi, Hannah was very little, it was awful. And worse yet, she’d gotten depressed and I could see the bright twinkle when she smiled was going away. I could see it. It was awful, like the sun was starting to lose its brightness and I didn’t have the technology to fix it.
But understand, I didn’t enter marriage lightly. I was in love, and it sounds cheesy, but I was simply made whole by this woman who understood me and actually put up with all my quirks. She tolerated my obsession with Doctor Who. She accepted my playing the guitar whenever the mood suited me. I knew this woman was still in there somewhere, but she was intent on pushing it away. It was one of those friends, bandmates, loved ones who said I either needed to dive in and take marriage head-on, or leave. There really wasn’t another choice. So I took it. It wasn’t easy, I had to fight, and we fought a lot, but we stayed together. I don’t care if people say kids shouldn’t see you argue or hear you yell, the fact of the matter is, no matter how bad it got, no matter how angry I got that I had to leave the house, we ended up coming to some sort of understanding and ended up solving the problem at night’s end. Might be 5am when we finished, but we did it. The kids at least knew that no matter how bad it got, we never left.
I wasn’t perfect, by the way. I mean, take a look at yourself, guys. Wives/girlfriends – how many times do you complain about your husband/boyfriend? Do you say he didn’t get it right? Do you yell at your husband saying he never does anything to help and then refuse to let him change a diaper because you’re sure he’ll get it wrong anyway? I admit it. I got those phone calls at work and rolled my eyes. I complained or commiserated with friends about how she never had her phone or answered it when I really needed her to answer.
Want to know something though? Andrea went to one of those “Mom” groups when we were in Texas. A parenting group, helping understand having this big family. We just had twins and she wanted to have the social interaction. We weren’t bad off, but things weren’t perfect. I knew she was going, and I worried how it would go, but I knew she wanted and needed it. If I could play guitar, she could go to a social group. When I got home, she was at the kitchen table with a big coffee cup, something she always seemed to have with her. I simply asked how the group was. She got up, came over to me, put her arms around me and kissed me like she had when we were first dating – like she hadn’t in SO long.
“I went, thinking they’d help me, but they were all fucking nuts, Dave!” Andrea hated cursing, so for her to say that . . . pretty bad. “They didn’t want to talk, all they wanted to do was bitch about their husbands. They all seem to hate them, they say the husband won’t take care of the kids, but when the husband offers they yell at them saying that they’ll just screw it up anyway. I looked at them all and realized that you were nothing like that. I never worry about you taking care of the kids. I never worry about you taking care of me. I love you.”
She kissed me again, holding me for a very long time.
She basically told them all to get over themselves and left, long before their meeting was over. They likely thought she was nuts, she said, but she went anyway. She said she couldn’t wait to get home, she wanted to be there when I came through the door.
That’s what our marriage was like. It wasn’t perfect, in fact, it was a mess. But it was our mess, and we didn’t ask anyone else to clean it up.
The worst part is that it was all starting to work again. We’d addressed the problems. She’d gotten past her jealousy, I’d gotten past my anger. She’d gotten over the a**h**e who raped her and got away with it. We were coming back to the people we’d been twenty years ago. The twinkle was returning to her smile. What creeps into my head is how I’d get annoyed when she’d ask me to help for the 3rd or 4th time in an hour when she needed a dressing changed or wanted me to drop her at the front door of a store.
So I remember and write about those amazing, intense, lovely times she gave me, because the problems didn’t define us. It was what we did to get past them that did. The worst thing about it is the fact that she’s gone now, for good. We worked so hard, were getting so much closer now than even in the beginning, and she’s gone. The flame went out, the light diminished. Someday I’ll get to feel the warmth again.
For now, though, I remember the Best of Times, even though I know right now it feels like the Worst.