Captain ,My Captain
My husband is celebrating his 48th birthday. He is in denial. He will tell you he is 38. He will tell you I am older. He likes to tell tales. He will also tell you I stalked him until he caved in and asked me to marry him. He will also tell you how lucky I am to have him. I will tell you the truth.
We have a friend who nicknamed my husband "Captain" because my husband loves to boat and fish and if I am going to be honest I will tell you he is fabulous at both. He started fishing as a very young boy. He fished with his uncle and father and with his brother when the two of them spent a couple weeks with their grandmother down on the shoreline in the summer. He has wonderful memories of those visits and he learned the ins and outs of tides and fishing in Long Island Sound. He is most comfortable in a boat and on the water. It is a true extension of who is he.
It does, however, remain a slight mystery to me that our friend dubbed him "Captain" since they always seem to run into some crazy mishap every time they head out to the Sound. One summer a fellow fisherman hooked his finger with the lure and a group of men found themselves hanging out in the emergency room instead of catching some fluke. This past summer they got caught in terrible wind, with our friend's father-in-law on board, and had to slip the boat and take an Uber to the boat launch to retrieve the trailer. But still each year when the weather warms, out they travel. I think in part because my husband is so easy going that even when things aren't working out he has a sense of humor and this uncanny ability to stay positive, to not worry and to find the fun in just about every moment. It's a gift. And one, I am sorry to admit, took me awhile to realize he gives generously.
I have known my husband for over 30 years. We went to middle school and high school together. We were in a few classes together and he was always being funny. He was the cute boy with the huge smile. His friends were, at least to me, hilarious. Through out high school I gravitated to them like a bee to honey. In the summers toward the end of high school we would go out on his father's boat and swim in the Connecticut River, which back in the 80's was more or less taking your life in your hands. Especially considering we would anchor by the Yankee plant because the water was "warmer".
After college we lost touch for awhile and this is where our stories diverge. My husband will tell you I stalked him and found him and that is just not the truth. One of those wonderful friends from our high school days saw me at a party while I was home for the holidays and then saw my husband several months later. It was after that visit that my parents received a phone call that led to a birthday card arriving in my mailbox ,even though it was April and my birthday is in February. It led to a date when I came home for a visit and eventually led to me coming home and somehow turned into 17 years and three children.
I would like to tell you know how easy it has all been but that wouldn't be the truth. I could also take the spin that I have been a perfect wife but that wouldn't be the truth either. I could also try to tell you that my husband has been perfect but again I wouldn't be telling you a truth. I would be perpetuating a myth that we seem to tell young people when they are in love and embark on a journey together. So I won't fill your heads with silly nonsense. Relationships are hard. If they were easy we would learn nothing from them. We would not grow, mature, evolve. And we are meant to do all those things.
In the early years of our relationship when my husband would set about doing a project and tell me I could just "sit there and look pretty". I took it literally. I would do my best to sit and look pretty while he painted, hammered, tiled. He, in reality, meant, "You look pretty but get up and help me." We miscommunicated quite a bit. And sometimes we just didn't communicate at all. It seemed that going from dating to being married had put a damper on things. I lost sight of what had attracted me to him in the first place. His sense of humor seemed to put me off. The challenge of keeping a house, raising kids and being a real adult at times just seemed over whelming for me. And the more cheerful and carefree he became the more worried and stressed I became. There was no yin and yang.
Several years ago, while I working at a little fair my church does each winter, my husband arrived with our kids. I was serving in the little café and my family was seated at my table. I walked over and my husband shot me a warm smile and said "Yeah mommy's here!" to our kids. I smiled back and thought nothing of the exchange. A week later my minister told me she saw that exchange and was moved by the way my husband reacted when he saw me. That was one of those moments, an Oprah "a-ha" moment, that made me stop and survey what I had.
What I have is relationship that needs work, daily work. A relationship that has evolved and changed. In some ways my husband and I have morphed into one person and in others we have switched places. It hasn't exactly been a seamless morphing but we have weathered the changes. I have returned to the place where I appreciate what brought me to love him in the first place. His ability to find the good in all things. He sense of responsibility and loyalty. The way he can talk to anyone about almost anything and make people feel comfortable in his presence. The way he can take a simple topic and move it from political. "Do you think if worms could vote they would have voted for Trump?" To the environmental," Do you think when worms see a huge leaf pile they think they have reached nirvana?" To religious," If God really made everything, what exactly was he thinking when he made the worm?" These Seinfeld like conversations used to draw some ire because really how can we have these ridiculous conversations when we have kids to raise and bills to pay?
We hike every weekend with our dog and we have these ridiculous conversations. We don't talk about anything serious. We appreciate where we are and how we got here. That is exactly why we have those conversations. I have learned to follow my husbands lead. He is a good Captain, and although he follows his own compass somehow get always manages to get us wherever we need to go. He keeps us from getting mired down in the mundane. He adds levity to paying bills and fixing leaking toilets and raising kids.
If I could write a letter to my young newly-wed self, I would tell her to not lose sight of what she has. I would remind her that anything worth something in this life takes work. That being with someone who is good and kind and full of humor is the best anyone can ask for. I would tell her to watch for the smile, as long as that stays when she enters the room nothing else really matters.