Make Him Dance, Damn It

Tonight my husband, Alex, and I took our youngest son, Sandor, who is handsome and sixteen and his girlfriend, Haley, downtown for Halloween.

Alex and I hung out in the lobby of a grand old hotel, The Arlington, while they explored our historic district. The Arlington was built in the 1920s and is extravagant, tacky, magnificent, beautiful and historic. Everything about the Arlington screams “Great Gatsby,”. I love this place.

There was a redneck looking guy (seriously wearing overalls and camo) with a guitar on the stage. He really didn’t match the soaring ceilings and exquisite architecture. But he was good, especially when singing Bob Seager.

When Haley and Sandor showed back up and sat down at our table, we talked about the history of the Arlington and watched the trick or treaters who wandered in and out, in costume.

Then redneck dude on stage played Stand By Me. Haley and Sandor immediately moved to the dance floor. He’s tall and she’s short and they looked adorable slow dancing. She clung to his purple and gray letterman jacket and they both had love sick expressions. It was beautiful and silly.

I grabbed Alex’s hand, “Come on, we’re dancing.”

“No, I don’t want to dance.”

“I Don’t care Alex, come on sweetie. Please?”

“Fine,” he mumbled but he was obviously miserable and half pissed.

For two or three minutes Alex and I clung to one another. He almost smiled. I was truly happy. Then the song ended.

The truth is, I’m worried about my husband. I don’t know if he feels joy anymore and I don’t know if he enjoys living. But I want him to stay here with me, for a while anyway. Because I love him. And we’ve been together for more than 25 years.

I’m terrified, but I’m going to keep dragging him into weird situations and forcing him to slow dance with me….because I don’t want to be alone, in this world, without him. And he’s a really good dancer.

I have a theory. If you want to be happy, no matter how old you are, you have to actively take part in life. Choose to dance. Make a decision to stop watching this world and the people in it, then dance….jump in…and try to be a part of the magic swirling around us all. It’s the only chance we have.

Figuring Out Marriage, Slowly

Twenty one years ago, when our youngest daughter was born, Alex and I were in no way comfortable leaving her with a baby sitter.  We decided we’d be poor for a few years and I would stay home with her full time.

Alex was working fifty or sixty hours a week as a chef and I was at home with the kiddos. At first it was kind of cool but then it seemed the walls were closing in on me. I was expected to stay home, cook, clean and try to fix up our perpetually falling apart five acre red neck ranch, while he made fancy food and talking to cute waitresses.

When he came home, they kids were usually already asleep and he was too exhausted to actually talk to me. Or, if he did talk it seemed like all he talked about were the hostesses and waitresses. At least that’s what I heard, and it killed me.

I felt left behind, lonesome for adult conversation, unappreciated and abandoned.  Alex got to talk to grown ups, hot grown ups and eat nice food, take a cigarette break and catch up on the news, while I was at home feeding kids,  painting the living room and trying to clean goo out of the microwave.

Now Alex is retired. I work full time in radio and we are still trying to save our redneck ranch.

Twenty two years latter, and our situation is exactly the same, except we’re not crazy poor anymore. Two or three times a week clients and co-workers ask me to go out for a beer after work, but I remember what it was like, waiting and waiting for Alex to come home, years ago. If he was an hour and a half late, I was so sad. He’d been with people all day, why didn’t he want to come hang out with me?

So, I’ve made a rule for myself. I can accept these invitation once every two weeks, because seeing Alex is more important to me, our relationship and marriage are more important to me. I have to remind myself, he’s been home alone all day, he’s is waiting to talk to me, probably has dinner ready. Hanging out with friends would just be a bitchy , selfish move. Hanging out with friends or clients after work means I’m building a little life that he’s not a part of. It means I’m leaving the man I love and married behind.

The other issue I struggle with is having the energy to be a good partner when I get home. Yes, I talked to boat loads of clients, ran around like a mad woman trying to keep clients happy, wrote copy and made sales but the stuff he does at home, for us, is just as important.  I have to GET OVER MYSELF !  The things I do are not more important that the work he does at home. I can easily convince my stuck up self my work is “important” but it’s no more important or essential than what he accomplishes every day at home.

And we have a never ending list of projects to get done. WE. I shouldn’t expect him to do them alone.  I need to get my ass in gear and help him accomplish the stuff we set out to do. Even if it’s at a slower pace.

After twenty five or twenty six years I’m still trying to figure out how to be a good wife and partner. It takes a while to catch on. But I have learned this. The team is more important, because those clients and friends come and go. The team is more important, because the team means love and strength and together we can get so much more accomplished. And the team keeps me from being alone. And the team has my back when nobody else does.

Along time ago someone told me, “Marriage isn’t about being happy. Marriage is about making sure your spouse is happy.  If both sides focus on that goal, it works….beautifully.”

Love Changed My Daughter

My oldest daughter, Mary, was a spectacular kid. But when she was young she was…..well….really really greedy. She laughs about it now, we all do, but when she was six, eight, ten, I was a little concerned.

Mary always wanted more. She idolized, adored her older brother Jack. She literally worshiped him.  Jack was her everything, he even tried to fail first grade so he could be held back a year. He thought he should to stay in Mary’s grad and then he could take care and protect her. Still, Mary would steal Jack’s stuff all day long, even if she didn’t really want it.

Every Easter, for at least seven years, Mary woke up early, studied the baskets the Easter Bunny left, then she put all the good stuff, including chocolate, in her basket. And she filled Jack’s with the cheap candy, do-dads and toys she didn’t want.

She did the same thing with the Christmas stocking. Then she’d shrug and say something like, “I don’t know why Santa likes me better.”

Mary was a beautiful, wonderful, selfish, greedy little kid.

But a few years ago, something changed in Mary’s heart. She met Andy and fell in love…. as she’d never fallen before.

The week after Thanksgiving the texts, emails and facebook messages began. She sent me links to things Andy would love for Christmas. There was a pair of brown Aldo loafers she desperately wanted him to have, but couldn’t afford. A week later she called her dad, to tell him about a saw that would make him so happy.

The “suggestions” went on and on. The girl who stole all the chocolate Easter bunnies’ literally didn’t care what she got for Christmas. She only wanted Andy, the man she loves, to be happy.

Mary told me over and over, “don’t worry about me this year, Andy deserves everything.”

Was this my Mary on the phone? Had some kind of a ”body snatchers” thing happened while she was in the basement?

“Big Love”, the kind of love that makes you forget about yourself, is rare. Lots of folks get married and live together for years and years and years but they never stop thinking about themselves.

Mary has crossed that line and grown into a more beautiful person. She loves Andy so much she places his needs above mine, above the families’, above everything. And she fiercely protective.  Now she chooses Andy, her husband and her love. And that’s the way true love and a marriage are supposed to be. I believe God has given both Mary and Andy a higher job order.  Now, they are supposed to take care of each other. That’s the first requirement and these guys have it right.

I love and admire this new woman she has become. And Andy Stanley is a lucky man.