Dave’s full-time, every single week San Francisco commute is wearing thin on all of us. We are away more than together. The intimacy and nuance my best friend and I share becomes increasingly clumsy each time Dave takes flight. In an effort to keep us connected I have declared (awesome wife award) that we must have “mommy and daddy time” (wink wink) every time Dave is home, and in truth, we need to have “mommy and daddy time” at least twice while he is here. Dave and I get it. We got it last weekend.
We know that when he is gone, we reconfigure. We talk all the time. We text. We Skype. We connect. We work on being a family. Dave knows how the boys are doing in school. He knows Kyle loves Art, his friends, and is struggling to communicate his teenage boys plans. Dave nearly missed Monday’s outbound flight. He was delayed making Eli’s Halloween Costume Accessory, a (fake plastic) crow bar. Eli was a Zombie Apocalypse Survivor. And like the owner of Thai Lotus Salt Lake City responded when asking what Eli was for Halloween, “Oh, he is Brad Pitt. Brad Pitt in World War Z.” Exactly.
We didn’t make it to the store. We never went out on a date, and there I sat. Heaving sobs, I was heaving sobs. I choked. I coughed, and as the tears flooded my eyes, I could not catch my breath. It was cold, dark, and with each earned tear, the windows fogged thicker and thicker. My heart feeling fractured as my head leaned toward the steering wheel. I was lost, and from the passenger seat Dave reached over, gently putting his warm hand on my shoulder. Quietly, he listened.
A beating heart, his beating heart, sitting next to me is what I needed. Dave understood. I know. I know it sounds so Nicholas-Sparks-The-Notebook; a story of tragedy turned to triumph, a tale of a husband sitting quietly listening to his wife, all the while understanding exactly what she is saying, yes, understanding every single word. Dave must be perfect. Our marriage must be painless. What Dave’s weekly commute has made so clear is that marriage is not for the faint at heart. It’s not easy, and our marriage is no different. Distance confounds. When we chose to check out, when we coast, when we put our love on autopilot, or when we point a finger away from our own responsibility, we struggle, we fade, and we always have to fight hard to get it back.
Our love is a house with additions, renovations, and remodels. Like we are doing now, we dig deeper during those times when we need to pull it back to the place where we are a home.
Thank you Nicholas Sparks. I admit it. Your movies, even as low as they rate on Rotten Tomatoes, get me each and every time. I cried when what’s-her-name, you know, that one actress, leapt into the incredibly handsome Ryan Gosling’s strong, manly, gorgeous, and most loving arms. If only that was us. Please know I am only kidding. In truth, what we are something that is not conveniently wrapped up and tied together in a two hour Romantic-Drama. What we are is a song. Dave and I have always been a song. We are a tenacious, well-worn, and heartfelt melody. If you want to know, our groovy kind of love has always been songs like say the get-you-in-the-mood, college-student-classic, “A Case of You,” track nine of, Joni Mitchell’s, “Blue,” or Dave may say and I would have to agree that Crowded House’s, “Better Be Home Soon,” is a pretty good fit. In this very moment I would say we are Mumford and Sons, “Not With Haste.” Maybe it is our song, because it happens to be the song that is playing now. The lyrics are good and I am easy like that.
As I often do, I digress, and the more I think about it, once I introduce this what-is-the-song-of-us song dilemma to him, I know he, like me, will take pause, think, then we will together dissect and peel apart every single lyric we know from the beginning of time up until now. I know we will. Eventually landing on, because that is where I touched down today, the Smiths, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” and knowing us, I am sure you would agree (even if you have never heard it before) that this Morrissey-sung-classic fits us like a glove:
“And if a double-decker bus
Crashes into us
To die by your side
Is such a heavenly way to die
And if a ten ton truck
Kills the both of us
To die by your side
Well the pleasure, the privilege is mine…”
As we stood next to the waterfall after climbing down all of those steps, those steep, wet, steps, Dave grabbed me close, wrapping his arms around me tight like we were already there, like we were already what we would become, married, and in love. I think we both knew then that we would find a way to be each other’s one and only. I was crazy flattered that he understood and found my sense of humor delightful. “You are funny.” He would smile and say, as we hiked back, to which I would respond, “You mean funny looking.” Back and forth we would laugh and tease, “No, not funny looking, funny.” I knew Dave would be the man who would hold my heart.
Years later and I think I have mentioned this before, well, years later when Kyle was a toddler, and Eli was in my tummy, we went back to that place, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Lower Waterfall. We were visiting Yellowstone with Dave’s parents, sister, brother and their spouses. I think Dave and I were the only ones with kid (not kids) and that kid was Kyle. As much as we love Dave’s family and as awesome as it is to ponder, deconstruct and gaze at the intricate architectural details of the Old Faithful Lodge, when we needed a break, (and yes, we needed a break), using our love story in the very best of ways, Dave asked his Mom, “this is the place where we fell in love, would you mind if we take the day to ourselves,” and off we went.
Never voicing those feelings out loud, I took him at this word, or better, was grateful Dave devised a great excuse for us to take a break. We didn’t even make it down those wet steps. It was not until the summer of 2012 when we made it back. Kyle was too sick to walk down the stairs so Eli raced his friends Collin and Miles, and then raced them back up. Their father, Doug, spoke German to some Germans, and took our photo as Dave held me there. I like going there. I like being reminded. I like the re-set this spot seems to offer.
In this year of commutes and being a part I remember these moments. I think of the times Dave holds me close. I know he gets me. I know he feels my heart. I think of the hospital. I think of our terribly ill son. Kyle had been in the hospital for a few days already. Dave had been out of town on business. It was hard to have him gone. He walked into Kyle’s dark, quiet, and scared hospital room. When I saw his face, my heart lifted. He pulled a chair up to Kyle’s bedside. We sat together, Dave’s hand on my thigh. Silently and together our tears fell. Kyle was disfigured and in so much pain. We were in over our heads and completely confused. At that point we were not sure Kyle would live. Years before we had been in a bad car accident. Our car was two months old. We were broadside. I was hurt. I was lying there in the ER and strapped to a board. Before they took x-rays a nurse asked me if I was pregnant. “Of course not.” I said. They insisted and oh Thank God they did. When the doctor came in and announced, “guess what? You are having a baby!” We looked at each other and both burst into tears. “How on Earth?” And just like he did then, Dave sat by my side and held my hand as my fertility doctor teared up, pointing at the ultrasound monitor, and said, “there is no heartbeat.” Each time I lost a baby. Each time I gave birth. Every time I am sad or broken hearted, Dave reaches out his hand. He is always there.
That is what I love about Dave. In these quiet, desperate moments his warm strength is loud, his tears are strong and he always, always reaches out. I am not alone. And maybe that is what is hardest about having him gone. As often as I can see his face, or call him on the phone, I cannot hold his hand.
Last weekend when Dave was here, like I mentioned I cried. Sitting in the car together, I cried a lot. We are both tired, both stretched. This is the world most of us seem to be living in. Last weekend, with our familiarity rusty we jumped to unnecessary conclusion after unnecessary conclusion. I was not mad. I was frustrated, yet there was something about having his hand on my shoulder. We were in this moment together, and he cried too.