(My thanks to Robin Rhodes, who hosted a wonderful workshop in tonight’s Kenosha Writer’s Guild meeting that gave me the prompt for the following little tidbit)
Even when we’re not lost, she wants to get the frigging map out. Have I ever gotten us lost? We’ve been married for over thirty years; you’d think she’d understand by now that my internal compass is pretty damned good.
He never stops to ask for directions, and he gets pissed off when I get the map out. He always tells me that in over thirty years, he’s never gotten us lost, and that’s true. But how can I tell him that he’s slipping, he’s not as sharp as he used to be? Just the other day, he couldn’t remember Zach’s name, and all those years he was over here with Nick, all those years he coached their softball and basketball teams, it’s not like him to forget anything, let alone a name like that.
I try to be patient with her. I know she’s been through a lot. But come on – a map? When we’re still on the interstate? What is she afraid of? What’s the worst that can happen? We take a wrong turn? We end up in a bad neighborhood? We’re a couple of minutes late? That didn’t seem to bother her when she had to have her coffee this morning. I always try to tell her, leave room for contingency, it’s better to get there a few minutes early than late. But nothing can break up her morning routine. The world might be on fire, but it’ll have to wait until she’s had her morning coffee.
He’s so damn fragile. I get tired of having to tiptoe around his feelings all the time. I know that he’s in a rough spot. He doesn’t want to admit he’s deteriorating. He tries to hide it. But I see it all the time. Usually I don’t say anything, but it’s there. It’s in the way he walks, the way he’s always crashing into walls and the look on his face when he hopes nobody notices. It’s in his voice, and in the times I have to ask him to repeat himself. It’s in the stuttering, the stammering, it’s in the soft and unintelligible syllables.
She knows how I hate being late.
We’ve been together for over thirty years now. He still makes me laugh. It hurts me to see what is happening to him. But he is still a good man. I still believe in him.
Sometimes I suspect she is writing me off. Like when I say something and it comes out garbled, and she’ll nod her head as if she heard me, as if she could understand me, because she gets tired of asking me to repeat myself. And most of the time, when I get the nod, I’ll silently accept it, even though as a response a nod has no connection with what I was trying to say, and I’ll just let it go, because I know how frustrated she gets having to ask me to repeat myself.
We’ve built a world together, and it’s comfortable, it’s home.
I guess it’s inevitable that she would look for signs of my decline. Hell, I look for them, too. But I think she’s looking a little bit too close. If I trip over the shoes our daughter left in the middle of the living room, in her mind, I’ve lost my balance, and she accepts it as further evidence of my slide.
He can’t ask directions, he gets pissed off when I get the map out, because he doesn’t want to admit that he’s lost. And he doesn’t want to admit he’s lost because he’s never been lost before, and he’s afraid of what that means, of what else he might have to admit. But we’re all going downhill – after all, he is 53 years old.
I look at her, and I see the same eyes, the same face that I’ve known, that I’ve loved, for more than 30 years now. I look in the mirror and I see a bald guy with a big gut staring back. But that bald guy in the mirror is still me, and I still have the same internal compass that all those years ago led me to her.
I don’t want to dwell on things. He knows that no matter how bad things get, I’ll always be by his side. I shouldn’t have to tell him this – the past thirty years speak for themselves.
I guess when you get right down to it, the truth is, the real reason we haven’t gotten lost in all these years is that we’ve navigated the road together. When we started out, neither one of us had any idea where this journey would take us. But here we are, after all the twists and turns, the bumps and detours, still riding together, and as we coast down the darkening highways to our uncharted destination, if she thinks a map will help, who am I to question?