Jamie and I were friends – good friends – for two years before we became "more than friends". Some say that familiarity breeds contempt, but I would say our friendship is what's carried us through, needless to say, trying times. when you know someone's flaws and have seen them at their worst, you have choices on how to respond – choices I would place on a "Reaction Spectrum". You can choose to deny and argue against those flaws; accept them (Not to be confused with "forgive"); tolerate them (a word I hate, since it inherently implies disgust at its root); or you can learn (as I think we mostly have) to appreciate each other's peccadilloes (I honestly don't know that's the right word but it's hilarious and I want to use it regardless):
- One of us habitually scratches her foot on the coffee table while watching TV.
- One of us almost compulsively picks his nose.
- Both of us have significant gastrointestinal distress which manifests itself in sulfurous form.
- One of us prefers to solve problems through force of will, grumbling, and/or physically overpowering (what I refer to as "Goyim Style")
- One of us snores, at least until he was put on CPAP.
- One of us had a stroke
- Both of us have unpleasant-looking feet
- One of us has an insatiable need to have her back scratched and gives running, point-by-point instructions on location, direction, and pressure.
- One of us can't remember the names of people or things (including our children) and simply refers to them as, "Ya know" or "Whose-its", expecting everyone to know exactly what she's talking about. She also loses stuff and blames it on her poor eyesight.
- One of us can't stop talking or stop himself from starting conversations in the middle and sees this behavior as part of his unique charm and a gift of insight into the inner workings of his scattered mind.
- One of us is a very messy teeth brusher and looks like a rabid dog when he's finished.
Before Jamie and I started dating, I remember once describing our dynamic as that of an old married couple (or at least my imagined stereotype of an old married couple). Jamie has always found herself unusually attracted to Jewish men (a Gefilte Fetish?), so maybe she's always wanted to be part of a bickering Jewish couple. A friend of ours once called our relationship "adversarial". It probably was that somewhat contentious nature of our friendship that ultimately drew us together, as much of a struggle as it's been at times. When we began, I was the "responsible, stable" one (had a steady, white-collar job that paid decently, owned a car, and lived alone); whereas she was the "slacker" (lived paycheck-to-paycheck painting houses, didn't have a driver's license, and shared an apartment with a rotation of women). This at times placed me in a paternal role, which I admit was often condescending and led to "arguments" about things like locking doors. Ironically, since the stroke, one of our biggest struggles has been her maternal role as my caregiver. Return to independence being a key goal of my recovery, we have often butted heads over her drive for exercise-induced improvement (my nickname for her during this period was "Chop-Chop"), versus my general lack of energy for exercise.
I am glad to say that a think we're moving beyond our defined obligatory roles and back into the partnership which is a cornerstone of both a good marriage and friendship.
The bottom line has always been that we're in this together, as exemplified by our anniversary gifts to each other this year: over the past 11 years, I've periodically given Jamie pairs of doll-house Adirondack chairs (symbolizing our sitting side by side into the sunset) but this year went the full-size route of an Adirondack loveseat.
She gave me the priceless gift of one-on-one time, arranging for friends to take the kids overnight (Thanks, Tess and Doug).
These are all just things and gestures in the end, meaningful as they may be; but the bottom line for me has been that familiarity bred comfort. When I woke up in the Neuro ICU at Mass General, there was no better medicine than seeing Jamie at my bedside. And when I unexpectedly awoke in the ER last August, wearing glow-in-the-dark, heart-covered "Love Factory" pajama pants and saw her face, I knew everything was going to be okay. We are a pain in each others asses, but that pain is a constant reminder that knowing exactly how to make someone laugh and who "whose-its" is is worth more than all the broken brains and ropes in the world. For once, that is not a reference to a movie or TV show but rather to an event which took place during our 2002 honeymoon in St. John, though it also reminds me that my patented response to Jamie's at-times-regular question, "Does it hurt?" is a bad line by a good writer of a so-so movie:"Just looking at you hurts more." Her pain is my greatest pain.
Anyway, the broken rope: We went on a tandem parasailing ride (see picture below)and got way more than we bargained for – at the height of our flight, the rope tethering us to the boat suddenly snapped. Jamie started chanting, "Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God..." And I – mostly I think in reaction to the surrealism of the experience – repeated the mantra, "We're just floating. We're just floating." If that's not a metaphor for our marriage or marriage in general, I don't know what is.Cue music. And, when they gave us our money back, we put it toward a non-catastrophic "Sunset Sail" (pictures also below). Also a good lesson to take what you're given and run with it.
|Before the rope broke.|
|Probably one of the best pictures ever taken of me (Certainly the most swarthy).|
|After the parasail; on board the Sunset sailboat. Jamie still hates that I saw a sea turtle and she missed it.|