Friday, May 7, 2010

A Run Now and Again

Every woman who thinks her husband doesn't understand her should have a sister-in-law like mine, Joanie. My brother is a typical Midwestern guy, a toolhead, asks for a circular saw for Christmas, a sports fan with an insatiable need for jerseys, a guy who feels he conquers the world on his riding mower. But he loves his wife. He just doesn't have clue what she's on about. She says, "Go get Ben from day care," and he gets up to do it, is halfway to his car when she shouts after him, "Wait, don't forget his stuff--his sweatshirt, his lunchbox--listen!" He comes halfway back to hear her instructions and then, foolishly believing the instructions are finished, starts heading out again. She calls after him, "Listen--listen," and he comes back into the living room from the kitchen, "last time I didn't gather up all his stuff, it was gone the next day. I asked them where it all was and they said look in the lost and found, and that's where I found his winter boots . . . " By this time, my brother has given up the idea of forward progress or of pleasing her, because he knows very well what's coming next. Here it comes: he waits until she's done talking and then for three more beats and she says, "Well, what are you waiting for? Go get Ben!" and he just shrugs and chuckles to himself in the car on the way over, no way to win, is there?
He does everything he can for her, he tries to listen, but he can't read her mind. He always guesses wrong--is going to get Ben first or is listening? Which? She wishes he would just do what she tells him to do, and he's trying. He wishes she could see how this feels to him, like being chained up in the yard. But he loves her, like a dog he loves her, and he accepts being chained up in the yard. He just needs to be taken out for a run now and again.

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