Himself gets screwed with Father's Day, his birthday and our anniversary occurring within a week. This is his 19th Father's Day as a father and his 4th being fatherless. The birthday is the 51st so the shocking AARP membership card arrived last year and even the most lenient senior discounts won't hit until 55. Last year's big 20th anniversary and 50th birthday were celebrated quietly. This year's festivities will also be understated as Himself has always preferred. It's the 21st anniversary so perhaps a card game is in order.
I hosted a surprise celebration for Himself upon the completion of his PhD. He was miffed that I'd sprung for paid parking and was carping at me when we walked into the restaurant. Not learning my lesson, I planned an elaborate surprise birthday shindig for his 40th birthday at the Museum of Death. I forget what we were screaming at each other about when the guests appeared and yelled “Surprise!”
It is disgraceful how long it took me to put two and two together. I realized finally that Himself was not being an asshole. As an introvert, he prefers to eat at home. The anticipation of a large social event is absolutely excruciating for him. Whenever I refer to Himself's affliction he posts a link to an excellent article that sheds light on introversion. I admit that my reading of this piece has improved our marriage. So, when he inevitably posts the link it would be a good idea to read the essay because there are probably people who you think are assholes but are just introverts. Of course, there are genuine assholes too but I know of no particularly pertinent literature that would shed light on this topic.
We'd typically build up to a froth of toxicity as I prepared for a party. We'd snap out of it when the guests arrived. I can't remember having a gathering that I haven't enjoyed. Himself too has never not risen to the occasion but often voices had been raised and doors slammed minutes before the arrival of guests. It took me nearly two decades to hone a survival strategy. I plan mostly smaller events these days. I let Himself know I'm having company about five days before the event, even though I often issue invites up to 6 weeks in advance. It isn't really lying but I guess it's ethically in the gray area. This is a tolerable amount of time to endure him moping around in the anticipation of people arriving at the house. If I wait any longer to drop the bomb, there is the chance of a big freakout, hence the five day strategy.
With regard to party preparations, I ask him only to assist in the capacity of unloading groceries. He does this anyway, along with emptying the wastebaskets, feeding the dogs, and taking out the trash cans. Sometimes he sweeps, unbidden. There is a heavier than usual shopping load when we entertain. Normal weeks he is often testy about schlepping in provisions so the price of hosting a party is having to endure even more of his muttering. The day of the event he is assertively banished to the bedroom and provided with reading material. I proceed with cooking, arranging flowers and setting the table. We are both in our happy place. During the party Himself is outgoing and charming but he is taxed. He clears dishes and busies himself with little tasks that give him momentary breaks from human interaction. I love having parties and he doesn't. It's taken a long time to forge a plan of compromise and to accept that our opposite inclinations have no bearing on our love for each other.
I am fussy and hate the way he makes a bed, folds a towel or sets the table. He is always certain that wherever we go there will be no parking. We have an infinite capacity to annoy each other but we have been together so long I can barely remember my day to day existence before we met. Even the early years of our relationship have become a blur. What endures are memories of reading out loud to each other and road trips to Northern California listening to Mogwai. On a very early date, twenty five years ago, I was watching from the window of my hilltop cottage and spotted Himself below, heading up to my tiny walk. He took the bus in those days. He was carrying a bunch of flowers. When I saw him there was a rush of the sweetest sensation I had ever felt. We are gray now and I have lost track of all the birthdays and anniversaries. This year we will celebrate quietly in the little cabin we love in the heart of the redwoods. Memories and hair have faded but when I hear his car on the drive I still feel the same burst of pure love that startled me so many years before.
Shabbat Shalom and happy birthday and anniversary to JLM.