It’s midweek, it’s early morning. I’m in that twilight sleep state. Cozy warm, on the verge of waking. I am halted awake by the sound of intermittent grunting. To my right, my husband. His hospital bed next to my twin bed, a loan from my neighbor. We sleep downstairs in the family room in front of the TV since my husband’s been in and out of the Kaiser Sheraton with cancer. Grunt….holding breath….grunt….holding breath….Me – What are you doing? Him – Making sure I can go to the bathroom if need to. Me – Do you need to? Him – No. Me – Why do you need to prepare yourself? Him – To make sure everything works when I need it to. Then the cat chimes in. howling at the top of the stairs. 20 lb. black cat doesn’t want to wait to be fed. meow….grunt….meow….grunt..meow..grunt….Criminy, did I mention it’s 5 a.m.?
This is not what I expected life to be like at 36 years old. Whenever asked what I wanted to be when grown up, my answer was almost always impractical. In third grade I confounded my teacher when I told her I wanted to be a stripper. I frustrated my parents because I “brought” a Solid Gold dance routine to show and tell. “When I grow up,” I swore to myself, “I’m going to wear tight jeans and clear high heel sandals with the wooden heel and a gold charm ankle bracelet, even if they aren’t in style.” I was obsessed with long fingernails and high hair, even though I sported an Annie perm and bit my fingernails to the quick. Of course, when I got to high school, things weren’t as expected. I wasn’t popular. I was too goofy and wanted too badly to be in the in crowd. The in-crowd sensed my eagerness like a dog sniffs fear, and of course, they would never let me in. I was never cool, and not geeky enough to belong to the geek group. I was an outlier. Always have been. But my teenage dreams settled on hoping to be a country western singer or rock star. I moved to the big city after graduation in pursuit of that dream, by going to junior college to major in music. Of course, that didn’t work out because I didn’t read music and couldn’t pass theory. I also didn’t like to practice every day. My Plan B was to run a home for wayward misunderstood teenagers like myself and have a large piece of land somewhere that I could adopt all of the world’s stray dogs. And somewhere along the way, I imagined I would get married and be a mother.
None of that panned out. I didn’t really have a plan. I sort of went from one major to the next and after a year and a half of JC (not Jesus Christ, but Junior College), I met my husband in a JC music class. He had long hair and played bass guitar. He wooed me with Crazy Train. That was twenty years ago and we are still married. What’s interesting, is that I am not even “happily” married. Don’t get me wrong. I love my husband, but it’s a love that has evolved over 20 years and doesn’t really fit neatly into any of the “checked” boxes one would expect. That’s what happens when you grow up together. From heavy metal marijuana weekends to middle-aged sober Netflix nights, we could not be more “cleaved together as one flesh.” The “happily” part is irrelevant and doesn’t reflect in my opinion, what a real long term relationship, married or not, gay or straight, truly is. Sometimes I am happy, sometimes I am not, and for the most part, it rarely has to do with him. I suspect that he feels the same.
Susan Sarandon summed it up best in the movie Shall We Dance. Why do people get married? “We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”1
My husband is my witness, and I am his. And that particular morning at 5 a.m. 4 years ago, it was my job to witness his grunting and him holding his breath. It was my job to witness his efforts at rehearsal to make sure his pipes would work when called upon to do so. And like I stated before, this is so not what I expected, especially at 5 a.m.
1 http://letsgotothemovies7.com/2009/09/08/shall-we-dance-2004-review/ retrieved April 5, 2012