It was the afternoon of Christmas eve. I stretched-out on the couch with Ryan next to me in his chair. Yes, I was looking forward to a nice little nap, knowing Sue was taking care of Ryan. It’s one of the few times when I can get some decent rest, albeit not lengthy. I know Ryan is in excellent hands. Little did I know that a nap would lead to my demise the next day. More on that later in this post, but first I must tell you about that day’s nap.
I’m sure Sue thought I was asleep. Who knows, I might even have drifted off for a bit. Sleep is a relative thing in our home because our antenna are always up, passively listening. Asleep, yes… but always in tune with the environment. I suppose this was no different when something grabbed my attention. It was subtle. To the untrained ear it most certainly would have gone unnoticed. I’m not even sure I heard it in the audible sense and still wonder if I connected to this on a different level.
It was Sue.
She was crying.
As silently as a mouse she did. Perhaps it was only the change in her breathing pattern that made me open an eye — in just a slit — that would be undetectable to her. She didn’t know I saw her. I never told her. Sometimes grieving is a personal thing, and I could feel this was the case. I closed my eye and felt tears roll down my face, thankful that my arm was over my eyes to shield the overhead light. Turns out, we were having a personal time together. Like countless times before, I fell asleep crying and the despair bled into my dreams. The torment never leaves. It just interferes with different levels of consciousness.
The holidays (or any special occasion, for that matter) put our emotions into their rawest form. It all came to a head on Christmas day.
Hell, I should have seen it coming. Sue should have too. Neither of us may be excused for our short-sightedness. We are both to blame. For one, it was Christmas. A holiday jam-packed with tradition. Second, Kari had just left to visit her boyfriend for a few days. We were primed for an emotional breakdown.
What started out as each of us looking out for each other turned into Sue crying again. I wanted her to take some time for herself. Go upstairs and draw a hot bath. Just soak in bubbles and fragrant beads and whatever else you women do in the tub (other than telling us men to quit gawking). She wanted me to nap.
We bickered for five minutes or so. I thought it was in a playful manner as each was trying to persuade the other to get some down time. Until, that is, she turned on me the way only married men know about. Before I knew it I was dealing with a crying wife. Her argument (and I kid you not) was I was only thinking of myself because — wait for it — I never think of myself.
Married men, please tell me you also know this trap all too well! I surely hope I’m not the only man in existence to get suckered into this. I was so screwed and I knew it. The best approach, I’ve found, is a tactical retreat. The trick here is not to pull back too quickly, else a fellow will just meander deeper into what’s an estrogen minefield. So I let her vent…
“You never sleep! You hobble around the house like an old, geezer (I wisely decided to not point out that a geezer is implied as old and, hence, she was being redundant)! All you care about is making sure we’re all taken care of, even if it kills you! Stop! You can’t continue at this pace! This! That! The other thing! Something from two decades ago!”
You must understand, in this house it is a long-standing rule that we never yell. It is presupposed that doing so means losing the argument (as do personal insults). We all agreed, and my children were raised, that yelling means you have nothing more to offer. It’s so engrained in our family’s values that I doubt anyone even thinks to yell. It’s just how it is. It’s not the decibel level that carries one’s position. It’s the substance and logic. That’s not to say that debates (i.e., arguments) are carried out in monotone. Inflection, sarcasm, and gesturing are all fair game that add emphasis and meaning.
What can I say other than Sue was all about “fair game”? She drove her point home with me quite well.
Here’s where my tactical retreat came into play. I apologized by telling her “I’m so sorry. I never meant to upset you. I didn’t appreciate that you were initially upset. I was insensitive.” I meant every word of it too. She scolded me some more, but not as harshly. Hey! You just can’t stay angry at me for long!
I proceeded carefully by putting myself down, blaming my Y chromosome as a genetic fault that I have little control over. Finally, I did what I should have done all along and said, “You are right. I’ll take a nap, but on one condition. You must snuggle with me until I fall asleep.”
She did. Thank goodness, she did. I just wish I could have stayed awake longer to enjoy it. She’s a wonderful woman, mother, and wife. So pristine and pure. If there is such a thing, she every bit a human guardian angel.