I have three almost finished posts from a month ago taunting me from the dashboard of this blog. I should finish them instead of writing this. At least, that is if Seth Godin is onto anything in his book Linchpin. He says, “…while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship.” I read a chapter or so to my husband on our 10 hour journey to NYC last week. As if that didn’t smack me in the face enough, Godin finishes his thought with, “Shipping means hitting the publish button on your blog… “ etc etc.
Ugh. No wonder my husband keeps leaving the book around the kitchen, with instructions on the pages he thinks I’d be “interested in” (aka, the stuff I need to read). I suppose that’s what I get for recommending he buy the book for himself at good ole Barnes and Noble.
“Ready for some Fake Life?” I said as David slipped into bed. It had been an hour since I laid the kids down for bed and I had been desperately trying not to fall asleep until my husband made it upstairs to join me. That’s a harder task than you might imagine. Most nights I do a better job of making myself sleepy during our nighttime routine than the two little monkeys who sleep across the hall.
David chuckled. “Fake Life? Yes, please.” I snuggled up next to him, which sounds romantic up until the point where I mention he opened the laptop sitting on his chest. Hulu knows us all too well. Downton Abbey is first listed under “shows you watch” thanks to my sister who texted me just to tell me I must start watching it a few weeks ago.
Forgetting the pressures and heaviness of the evening, all snuggled up together, we slipped into a world very unlike our own. A world with maids, lordships and ladyships, and valets (does it drive anyone else crazy that they say “val-et” hooked on phonics style instead of “val-A”? or is it just me?). We cringed, we laughed out loud at the polite but snide remarks made by Mr. Banks, we protested when Mary yet again didn’t give a voice to her love for Matthew.
And then Fake Life was over. The computer was closed. And we were together still all snuggled up, but in the darkness of our room with the sometimes harsh truths of Real Life.
The truth that a little boy we know is now in the middle of a tug of war between his grandparents because his dad is going to prison and his mom is dead. The truth that a couple of hours away, David’s grandma was slipping into the last hours of her life.
So we laid there with tears and questions and each other.
Earlier in the day I’d commented on a friends post, polling whether or not people believe in the idea of a “soul mate”. I don’t. But I do believe that marriage is about pairing and baring souls. Its an acquired taste; a hard fought skill, and it comes with a steep learning curve. That’s the fancy way of saying it doesn’t come naturally to me. My husband is vulnerable and available in ways that I crave and yet that are unfamiliar and frightening. When it comes to emotions, he’s like the singer who effortlessly runs the scales without making any odd faces trying to reach that one ridiculously high note others can only dream about reaching. And I’m like the one who takes the stage with a smile and then chokes out a shaky voice that just screams NERVES.
I’m learning though. And last night lying in our room, facing Real Life together, steeped in all of its weightiness and fraught with all of its trouble, I felt our souls lining up in a way that I too often resist.
This morning we woke up with the news that David’s grandma, Esther, had passed away in the early hours of the morning. As he was readying himself to face a days of meetings and an early morning class, I was packing his lunch and pouring his coffee, reminded of a conversation we had months before we met up again in 2010.
We were discussing our families, catching each other up on the eight or so years of each others lives we’d missed out on. David told me about Grandma Esther and her slow, but thankfully sweet, journey into Alzheimer’s disease. He told me about how his mom had cared for her until she had gone looking for the cat she didn’t own one too many times and the realization hit that she needed more care than they could provide. He told me how for awhile pictures helped her connect faces to her scant memories and how it didn’t anymore. Her memories had faded away completely, thankfully leaving her with her own kind demeanor. He had been to visit her at the local nursing home and I inquired about how that had gone. “Oh, fine. She doesn’t know who we are anymore, but it was nice to visit her just the same. Even if she doesn’t know it, its an honor to love her in this season of her life and to give back some of what she gave us all those years.”
He was thinking about how she taught him to tie his shoes and how she had written letters back and forth with him in college and all the autumns he’d spent after school with her while his mom worked at the grain elevator during harvest.
I was, both then and this morning in my thoughts, struck by the impeccable character that is the fabric of David Paul Andre. He wasn’t trying to impress me that day on the phone. I’d soon learn that this is who he is; this is the way he really sees and lives his life. But whatever he was or was not trying to do, I was impressed by the wholesome goodness and honor of the man. That is to say, it left a mark on me.
It is easy in marriage (especially with kids) to go through the motions. Wake up. Shower. Breakfast. Kids. Work. Dishes. Dinner. Bath time. Family Time. Bedtime Stories. Prayers. Fake Life. Sleep. Rinse. Repeat.
I’ll have moments during the week when I’m truly struck by David. Him holding a boy on either hip after they’ve joyously attacked him for just coming through the door. Or how the sound of his heavy, purposeful steps on an evening stroll remind me of late nights on the phone listening to his steps as he walked through Westerville and had me hanging on his every word. Or how sometimes I’ll catch his silhouette in the wee hours of the morning, our room only dimly lit by the bathroom light at the end of our tiny hall and think incredulously he’s really my husband.
Fake Life, with its period costumes and antiquated lifestyles, is a nice pause at the end of a long day. But, I’m finding that real life, my real life –quirks and imperfections and tragedies included– has a beauty and depth I often miss when I let one of those “struck” moments pass by without any real acknowledgment. And I’m finding that marriage, real marriage, my real marriage to my very real, very wonderful husband has the kind of heart rending intimacy that makes it an acceptable type of Christ and His Church.
My short “break” is coming to a close and the dinner hour is looming in front of me with no preparations yet made. But here’s to Esther and her legacy of kindness and connectedness and love of education that she leaves behind. And here’s to my husband who is helping me to tackle that steep learning curve. Here’s to real life, bumps and scrapes and bruises and all.