Archive for the ‘I'm a Bad Husband’ Category

Rachel came home last night, ending my three days of bachelorhood.  The boys had winter break and she took them Up North.  Alani was with her mom. 

She upacked while I lay on the bed.

“I vacuumed,” I said.

“You vacuumed what?” she asked. 

“The living room” I said.   I must have been hoping for a pat on the back.  I didn’t get it.

“Really?” Rachel said. 

She was right to be skeptical.  I actually only vacuumed a one-yard square patch of the living room, by the couch.  I’d spilled a beer, and when I stuck a wet dishtowel into a couch crevass to sop up the spilled Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, I pulled out a shower of couch-debris onto the floor: lint, candy wrappers, coins, pencils, string, lint-covered hard candy.   It was disgusting, even to me, so I got out the vacuum for a surgical strike.

I admitted to Rachel that I just vacuumed that one spot.   She didn’t comment.  She continued to unpack.

“I cleaned off the coffee table,” I said. 

 “… most of it,” I qualified.

Again, no pat on the back.

“What am I supposed to say?”  Rachel asks, folding clothes into a drawer.  “Thank you?  Good job?”

I’ve been married long enough to know when a conversation with my wife is heading down a dark alley.  I picked up a book from the bedstand and busied myself inside it.

The reason for Rachel’s testiness was that, despite having a demanding, full time job,  she does most of the straightening up in the house.  But, contrary to conventional feminine wisdom, the reason I seldom  pick up stuff is not because I expect my wife to do it:  It’s because clutter is invisible to me. Women have the equivalent of night-vision goggles. They see things men can’t, like pants (mine) that have been draped over the bannister for two weeks.  (In fact, the longer clutter sits, the more invisible it gets.)


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onions 001Rachel wants some of my onions, which irritates me.  We’re standing in my sister’s kitchen.  I just chopped two big white onions for the enchilada sauce I’m making.  I need four more. I tripled the recipe to feed us and my sister and brother’s families, thirteen in all.   

Rachel stands on the other side of the counter.  She’s making a rice dish for the dinner.  She needs a cup of chopped onion, she says.  Just a cup.

This request exasperates me.  Weren’t we just at the grocery store? Hadn’t I explained that I needed six large onions to make the enchilada sauce?  Rachel told me in the store that she’d brought four from home, so I only bought two more – the big white ones.  Back at my sister’s house, I get the onions Rachel brought out of the bag and discover that they are the smaller, brown-skinned ones.  The recipe says six large onions.  And now she wants a cup of my onions?

My wife’s eye’s tear up, either from my nastiness or the fumes from the pile of chopped onions. Or both.

My Dad died two weeks ago.  I am making the enchilada sauce at my sister’s house to assure myself that my brothers and sisters are still a family.  My mom and dad had been our sun, holding us steady in their gravitational pull.  But what happens when the sun goes away?  I worried that we would drift apart, that our family would disintegrate.  I called my sister last week and asked if we could come for a visit Saturday.  I called my brother from Chicago and invited him and his kids, too.  My sister lives halfway between us.

I told them Rachel and I would cook dinner.  A really good enchilada dish with sauteed onion, garlic, and fresh cilantro, I hoped, would hold us all together.

My Dad died on the Fourth of July weekend, in South Bend, Indiana.  For over a year, we’d planned a family reunion in South Bend for that very weekend.  Everyone arrived the Thursday night before the Fourth of July, from Florida, California, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan – fifty or sixty cousins,  grandchildren, uncles and aunts.  Some came to the hospital.  My dad, who had been ill and struggling for a year, died the next morning.

The gathering became half reunion, half wake.  We played volleyball, kickball, and spud, drank beer, smoked fat cigars, joked, laughed. Some of us burst into tears unexpectedly.  Some of us sat silently, saying nothing. 

On Sunday afternoon of the Fourth of July weekend, Rachel and I got in the car to leave South Bend for home.  The funeral would be Tuesday.  I needed to get my black suit.  Most of the family was leaving.  The reunion was over.  Some would return to South Bend in two days for the funeral.  We’d just said goodbye to my brother Tim and his wife. 

As I headed the car out of the parking lot, my chest tightened and tears rushed to my eyes.  I tried to talk, but my throat closed.    Finally, I told my wife, “I feel like as long as we’re all together, Dad’s not dead.”  She reached across the seat and put her arms around me. 

At my sister’s house two weeks later, Rachel and I rise early the morning after the enchilada dinner.  We go for a run.  It rained the night before, and the bushes and trees are dripping.  We walk the last mile.  Rachel stops to show me some blackberries growing by the sidewalk.

“I”m so sorry about the onions,” I tell her.  She smiles and presses her lips to mine.

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notsurprise 001“I’m not surprised you’re divorced,” Rachel says. She’s looking at me over the rim of her glass of chardonnay. This comment, a contrast from her usual “I’m-so-lucky-to-have-found-you,” marks the official end of our fifteen-month honeymoon period.

“You always think you’re right,” she says.

But doesn’t everybody? If you think your opinions are wrong, you’d change them, wouldn’t you? This is what I think in my head after Rachel’s comment, but I have sense enough not to say it out loud. The appraisal in her gaze has me a little nervous.

I know I have a problem. Over the years, I’ve noticed that while I’m talking to my sisters, they will frequently roll their eyes and walk away. Oddly, this often happens when I’m in the middle of explaining something they really need to understand. This weekend my sister asked me if I liked Reeses peanut butter cups. Instead of just saying, “no,” I said, “No. Mixing chocolate and peanut butter is wrong.” Apply this personality trait to opinions about politics, the stock market, and how Rachel ought to raise her children, and you get the idea.

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