Monday, February 13, 2012

Love Letter

Dear Brian,

You turned forty recently.  And I am in this habit of writing letters to sweet boys on their birthdays, so I want you to know up front that part of this is written out of sheer muscle memory.  I am not sure exactly which muscle (fingers?  brain? heart?), but still: I can’t be exactly certain of what my motives are.  So I want to disclose that up front. 

And that’s about the best preface I can come up with.

This is a weird sort of love letter.  But – then again – ours is a weird sort of love.  I decided to marry you when I was about 23.  Three years before a person’s brain fully matures and stops developing.  Four years before we had our first child.  Twelve years ago total.

I remember the first time I laid eyes on you.  I have never told you this, but at the time I wondered if you were a cancer patient … so bald was your head.  Then I noticed your eyebrows and consoled myself.  That was in Houston, Texas at the Teach for America Institute – a place I have come to view in retrospect as a mini Abu Ghraib – filled with the paradoxical forces of absurd idealism and torture.

After that, we went to a place that – for me – was just as horrific.  There was a lot of beauty there … but I could not see it at the time.  Two years we spent there as friends, then more.  We got married there but have never been back.  You loved it there.  I despised everything except maybe the fried catfish. 

And so I am writing you this letter to tell you something that most wives are not likely to tell their husbands on their 40th Birthdays or Valentine's Day or Ever.  I am writing to tell you this:

I can and often do imagine a life without you.  I imagine a life of different choices, different outcomes, different everything. 

In fact, I have this very clear picture of a different life, where I am partnered with someone who -- from the get-go -- has babied me, spoiled me, and treated me like a princess.  I envision a relationship in which I get away with a selfish, childish, greedy existence.  A life in which there may be a lot to see and do, but little to feel.

This is the life that I fashioned for myself and then ran from.  In the process of fleeing, I bumped into you: a person who tolerates no self-pity, -centeredness, or –aggrandizement.  Someone who fretted for the entirety of our wedding reception about one guest who had maybe not shown up because he had gotten lost in the maze of Leland, Mississippi and that creek and those straight, flat roads.  At the time, I was infuriated by your distraction, for I wanted all of your attention to be on something else (me!).  How fitting that our wedding was an example of how your awareness is so often focused on some greater good.

Lawdy how that “greater good” characteristic is simultaneously endearing and infuriating.  It is what draws us close and tears us apart.  If ever I am feeling like you don’t understand me, I remind myself that I am not, was never, and should not be the central point; you have a capacity for love (and minimalism) that extends way beyond me.

For an only child, that is hard to manage.  But also, it is hard to reject.

I feel that somehow I knew you were my only path to growing up.  I needed someone who would not put up with my tantrums, demands, or unsupported opinions.  That kind of love is reserved for parents, not partners.

Now it seems that in these 12 years I've known you, we have grown so far beyond the little plot of dirt we started in.  We have fed our love with that good organic fertilizer that is 10-30-60:  perseverance, humor, forgiveness.  And now, somehow, it has come full circle ... because try as you may to hide it ...

I think you are starting to adore me. 

There are times when you literally rave about me -- you say it to me, our parents, the boys.  It's so fun!  Especially after I've just murdered some Roberta Flack song at karaoke or set off all the smoke detectors in the entire neighborhood.  This belated adoration is much sweeter than the kind which isn't earned.

And it's the un-earned kind that is the leitmotif of my imaginary life without you. 


See, the problem with starting out a marriage with someone who blindly worships you is that eventually they figure out that you ain't all that. You may whine a lot, for example, and that may start to annoy them.  Or you may meticulously crack each of your 20 finger knuckles before bedtime in such a way that drives them to the bring of insanity.  Or you may joke too much, not enough, or about the wrong things.  Or perhaps you have a double standard about spousal farting.  No matter the impetus, when you fall off the Pedestal of Blind Adoration, there is no trampoline below you, just the hard ground of reality, where you sit alone with your incessant whining, cracked knuckles, bad jokes, and stinky gas.


When you EARN adoration ex post facto ... oh, now that is a horse of a different color.

And lately, BB, you have made me feel like that is MY horse.  Thanks, love.  I always wanted a horse.

Your best frâu,

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