I stood at the counter of the pharmacy, the cards I picked out for the kids teachers in front of me. I had to borrow his pen. As I wrote, he hovered, asking me questions. I looked up from my writing to study his face.
“My husbands waiting for me in the car”, I said.
The man behind the counter continued with the questions, and then he started telling me about his marriage. Just offered up all the broken pieces and nudged them toward me as if I had the glue to put them back.
I put the pen down.
“She’s more interested in the kids than in me”
"How many kids do you have?"
"Maybe she’s tired. That’s a lot of kids!"
"Most of them are grown"
And then he dropped this word down on the counter and I knew I had to pick it up.
"Bored. I’m bored."
And then, somewhere inside of me, a stirring. A prayer. A rant. A rising.
"I believe in fighting for marriage. My parents have been together for 50 years."
"The same woman?"
"Ah. But a girlfriend on the side?"
"Being bored isn't a bad thing. It’s good. Essential even. When you go looking for excitement, you invite chaos in. Chaos can mess with your family. It can hurt them."
(and then I’m saying the words I’ve heard a thousand times on Dr. Laura’s satellite radio show)
"Go home and treat your wife like she’s your girlfriend. Bring her flowers. Look at her like she’s your girlfriend."
"She tells me we are too old for intimacy. I don’t feel too old. But she says we are."
At that moment, I will my husband to bust though the door to see why I’m taking half an hour to write “thank you for being a good teacher”
It doesn’t work. This isn’t homeland security.
I want to tell him that my mother is terminally ill.
That her eyes are going but that my father sees her heart all the more.
That she can barely walk, but that my dad holds her up. Holds her tighter. Closer.
That her speech has slowed down, but that my dad has never listened to her more intently.
That her sparkle is fading, but that my dad is more in love with her than ever.
But I don’t say any of these things. Because their marriage is sacred. It’s theirs. And I don’t want to offer it to a man who hasn’t earned the right to hear their story.
"I’m sorry I have to finish these cards, but I wish you the best with your family. All I know is I’ve been married 16 years. Family is everything to me. It’s not perfect. Its hard sometimes, but it’s worth holding onto."
"Wow, he says. Most people I meet, they marry 2-3 years and then they move on to someone else. There is a restlessness here."
"It’s everywhere," I tell him.
"I don’t know why I tell you all these things in my heart, he says. I just see your kind face and Its all coming out."
I give him back all the broken pieces of the puzzle he's nudged to me.
"I’m sorry. I don’t have answers for you. Your wife does. It’s in her eyes. In her walk. In her words. In her beauty. In the routines she keeps with you. I hope you’ll notice these things and hold on to them before it’s too late."
I grab my cards and go to the car, where my husband is listening to the radio.
"What should we have for dinner tonight?" I ask him.
"I don’t know what do you feel like?"
"I don’t know."
I put my hand on his and feel his warmth. The pharmacy fading behind us.
-For my father who when I told him I thought he was a great man, replied: "No. Not great. Just a man."
Well then dad, the world needs more men. Real men. Just like you.