I’m at Wit’s End and I was going to work on posting pictures of felting failures plus my new fall sweater I just finished but I was thinking about the shape of the weekend thus far and wanted to get that down.
Rich traveled all week and that followed the demise of Ed and then he was gone before Abby moved a thousand miles away to college on Tuesday so he missed that emotional low/high watermark; he was somewhere in Pedukah, KY talking to college coaches about football. I’ve gotten used to his travel; in the now 3 and a half years we’ve know each other its routine. And since we were each on our own, raising children and living life prior to that, it works out okay. We both have strong personalities and an independent streak so the time apart is actually not much of a hardship except that I really miss him. I don’t need him to keep things together; I just miss him.
Rich, one of four sons in five years, in a Lutheran German family, doesn’t spend a lot of time using the vernacular of feelings so he sometimes has difficulty staying connected to what he feels and, for my part, I often just shut down on feelings related to separation and longing; I know that’s a throw back to early times.
So we had been disconnected, literally and figuratively and this long weekend was our chance to get back together. And we both make a conscious and sincere effort to do this because we are recharged and made stronger, happier and better by being connected to one another.
The plan was to go see Broken Flowers with Bill Murray early Friday afternoon and then head out to Wit’s End, where we essentially do not much of anything except be in the presence of the other. Rich will fish a bit, I’ll knit, we’ll read and go chat with the bubbas next door. We sleep close in a standard double bed as opposed to the king size bed at home. And we gently and slowly knit back together.
We headed out for the movie theater and half way there I called Bud and Jan. In retrospect, it’s possible I did this at that moment because Rich was there and it gave me a little more emotional oomph that was lacking after the loss of Ed and the departure of Abby. Whatever the reason, I chose then to make my semi-weekly call and the timing was bad. The AC noise in the car was distracting and Bud can’t hear well and there was a lot of "What?", "Huh?" and "How’s that?" but the gist of the phone conversation was that they had just returned from the Affordable Funerals business in town and my mother and the two neighbors (apparently this was a group project) had made their final arrangements. Bud was explaining to me that if my mother was cremated within 48 hours her body didn’t need to be processed and my mother was piping up in the background that that meant that she could get the whole thing for 1,000.00 even. Then Bud said, "Here! Talk to your mother! I’m burning the soup." and handed the phone to her. She was breathless, as usual (I’m starting to fully appreciate the priceless commodity of air more and more) and slightly hysterical in an upbeat and triumphant way as she announced that she was "all taken care of" but she was mad at Bud because he wasn’t making any plans and this was very upsetting to her.I had been responding, either absently or numbly, "uh-huh" but now I said, "I thought he had the permit for the private cemetery and was looking at plans for a crypt?""
(This notion started out as a family joke, but apparently Bud was serious all along and he actually has a permit from the state to turn the back piece of the wilderness parcel into a private cemetery. And now he has plans to really build a personal mausoleum there but he needs help. Because he always stays in the upbeat, "denial" mode of all this business for my mother, he just blows her off with the reassurance that there’s nothing to worry about. While he prays desperately that he will outlast her since he knows she can’t live without him but thinks he might be able to try, through sheer force of will, to live without her.)
Anyway, at this point in the car I’m listening to my mom and Rich starts to shush me when I say something about Bud’s plans. I flashed him an annoyed look, disengaged from the phone conversation and snarled, "What’s your problem?"
Rich said that Bud had spoken with him and my brother when they were up there and he was wanting help with his plans but also not wanting to bother my mother with thoughts about it and he (Rich) was looking into it. This statement was the ignition switch for a terrible, sad and painful fight between the two of us.
It triggered in me all of my aggravation that Rich is the prince of helpfulness, the seer of rational thought, the builder of dreams- when he is present. Which he often is not, because of the demands of his work. Which he does incredibly well and with great dedication, largely with an eye towards securing our future and the children’s. Work that generates enough income to pay for things that I couldn’t alone such as a thousand dollars a month for snow removal from Bud and Jan’s property and airline tickets there and the best running shoes for Dan and educational support for the girls- mine and his.
So he’s gone a lot. And when he’s gone the other players don’t have to rise up out of admiration or mutual respect and cooperation. They whine to me. They whine about lost keys and shoes and problems with relationships and dirty laundry and gigs that went poorly. And whereas Rich’s straightforward and problem solving approach elicits that in return, my emotional intensity gives everyone else permission to crash and burn.
And so we fought. I yelled at him that it was so easy for him to act like the king of fix-it and then disappear and he yelled at me that he was doing the best he could and then, because I had more sorrow over my parents than anger at him I just gave in to that heaving, broken, sobbing but Rich managed to maintain some distance through anger a bit longer and yelled some more. Then we sat in the car outside the movie theater and I loathed him in silence as he wolfed down his Wendy’s Chicken Club while I felt too sick to eat. Then, when I would have preferred to sit quietly in the dark distracted by a movie, he turned on the car and drove home and went to the driving range or something while I cried myself to sleep.
Since we’re not so dumb anymore and because we love each other so much and especially because we realize that life affords only so many blessings, the anger dribbled out of the evening but by then it was too late to go to Wit’s End. Rich apologized, which is not common, but I didn’t even need it because I saw the fight for what it was and that didn’t have much to do with anything either of us was doing wrong.
Yesterday, we started over. We went to see the movie. Rich liked it a lot and I was so-so but partly because I had cried so much Friday that my eyes were swollen and blurry and I was warding off a potential migraine. Then we drove out here and my nausea really escalated so I just stayed in the car at my favorite stop, Dinkleville Melons, where we get the best corn and tomatoes and honey dew melons on earth.
Here at Wit’s End, as usual, everything has slowed down and repaired itself. It’s all very simple. We didn’t plan food so we’ve just been eating corn, melons, tomatoes and some stale Mrs. Buttermilk mixed pancakes. We chatted with Patrick, our neighbor. He put up 21 dozen ziplock baggies of fresh corn to freeze from Dinkleville’s yesterday so I had corn on the cob for dinner and then his corn for a late snack. We had a lovely bottle of Rioja white wine left from company; I’m drinking that with Mrs. Buttermilk’s pancakes for breakfast.
Patrick said, as the only non-dog house, the feral cat moved under our porch and she has three kittens. Although we heard them we haven’t seen them. I put out old cat food from Sophie but Lover, Patrick’s beautiful chocolate Lab, came racing down and gobbled it up. It’s breezy and clear and the water is very blue and rippled. Lots of birds; the Sand Hill cranes are getting noisy.
More here than in town I sense the change of season coming. The tent caterpillars are in evidence here and there, corn stalks are just starting to brown and the garden is slowing down. Birds are more active. It feels as though things are changing with my children and my parents and it makes me want to cling more tightly to Rich, even in the face of conflict. And all of that, of course, is, the conflict. There is no real fight between us but only the insecurity of change.