Mama is pretty sure she’s won the son-in-law lottery. She outright says so all the time, but last night, she called needing help with one of her poems-in-progress and asked me to list the qualities that make me describe my husband as the best person I know. I’m not very good at the lists (and let me assure you, this is not the first such request that I’ve received from her over the years), and so I did a lot of hem-ing and haw-ing and stammering around the edges of the subject with no idea in what direction I should go first.
Why is my new husband the best person I know? Basically, she was asking what I loved about him, and anyone who’s ever been asked that question knows that it’s not so easy to answer, particularly without sounding like you’re running for reelection as the mayor of Shmaltztown. Obviously, that’s never been me. I’m also not the girl who oohs and aahs over romantic dinners or flowers on special occasions: In other words, it takes a different kind of man–and a different kind of relationship–to get my attention in the first place, let alone keep it.
I have to admit that it helps that I’ve known the man since he wasn’t a man at all. When I met him, he was a too-tall 12-year-old with Tim Curry lips, an unfailing respect for his mother, and a kindness that is truly unheard of in a kid. Despite a first marriage that began before his teenage years ended, three kids in six years, a given up dream for a job in the medical field, a medical discharge from his second dream job in the Air Force, and disappointment of every sort at every turn, by the time I saw him again in 2013, he was still the person I remembered–how does anyone manage to stay so decent after all that shit? We smiled at one another constantly, and I felt totally at ease with him in a way that I never had with any other person to whom I was attracted. Almost from the start, I wondered how we’d managed to get and stay so far away from one another for almost all of our adult lives.
Our absence from one another’s lives seems particularly farfetched when you consider the following: His sister is my best friend to such a degree that I stopped calling her my friend and started calling her my sister years ago. When I moved back to Illinois from North Carolina at the end of 2014, I moved into his mom and sister’s house. All of this ready-made closeness to his family (even independent of my relationship to him) made us getting together a total no-brainer, especially for me; I had just come from a 14 year relationship wherein I was kept as far outside the family circle of the person I was with as it’s possible to be. In his/our family, I couldn’t possibly feel any more included and loved than I do. Admittedly, he got a little something from the deal as well: he had a ready-made family in need of a mother figure, and I was a mother who had only ever wanted a family to care for. He got someone to take care of him and to help him hold his life together in a real, consistent, and sustainable way, and I got someone who looks at me as though he can’t wait to keep looking at me until (and after) the wrinkles on my face will comfortably hold a ten day rain.
We are quiet together. We read many of the same books and enjoy most of the same music and television shows. We are accomplished car singers with widely varied repertoires. We both detest the president (and liars in general) and want more than anything to run off to a secluded cabin in the woods where we will have so few visitors that whoever finally discovers our bodies will likely only find the bones. We take pointless day trips in the car just so we can share space only with one another. (Sometimes, he takes me cruising through the really bad parts of St. Louis so he can show me how good our life together really is…ha!) He dyes my hair every month without fail, and there’s never so much a hint of griping about it. He amuses me. I mean really. Most of the days we spend together end with me lying in bed massaging the area around my cheekbones, knowing that I’ve once again over-exercised my facial muscles, and I’m going to have to think real hard before I smile the next day, assess whether or not it’s worth the pain.
Mostly, I just can’t believe my luck. How does a person who has made the mistakes I have end up with a man like this? He works hard. He loves consistently and well, without any games or pretense. He is generous and kind, smart and funny, and he’s secure enough to let me be all of the great (and not-so-great) things I am, too. He might be younger than me, but there is sometimes an emotional maturity about him that humbles me right down to the soles of my spoiled rotten feet.
In short, I have no idea how I got him (or really what the heck he sees in me), but I’m keeping him as long as I possibly can.
But I didn’t say nearly all of that to Mom because a) it would’ve made me cry, and b) her poem is for little kids and definitely not that long.