Category Archives: Transitional Couple

A Father’s Day Gift for this Mother

The best gift of all this Father's Day was the gift my husband gave to me. (Image courtesy of Microsoft Office)
The best gift of all this Father’s Day was the gift my husband gave to me.
(Image courtesy of Microsoft Office)

A few nights ago, in advance of the “holiday” around the corner, I asked my husband what he wanted for Father’s Day. Without skipping a beat, he told me about the CD he wanted. I sat in awe and surprise. I didn’t even have paper and pen nearby to note the name of the Chinese classical guitarist he had discovered via his morning commute and was entirely unprepared for a quick, honest answer. And, in his answer came a really valuable gift for me.

Invariably, when Mother’s Day, my birthday, Christmas, or anniversary rolls around, my husband asks, “What do you want  for (said occasion) ?” to which I usually reply, “Nothing, I can’t think of anything I need.”  Secretly, I keep a list of things I want and still, I say “Nothing.” I’m not sure why. I don’t want to appear greedy? There’s another bill due? Maybe, but in all honestly, I want him to know me so well he doesn’t need to ask. I want romance. I want the soap opera, fairy tale, romance novel element of surprise.

Big mistake. Big.

In the absence of honesty one birthday, I received a small, self-defense, switch-blade styled knife, which I did happen to love for the sentiment he wanted to keep me safe while working in the wild jungle of San Francisco, but certainly didn’t swoon me.  Am I alone in the receipt of annual Christmas socks? (Though lacking romance, are thoughtful because my feet are always cold.) And while many of you may be jealous over the (last-minute) Mother’s Day card that accompanied nothing (because I said I wanted nothing!), try not to covet.

Certainly, I’m not the only one who’s received a gift that raised an eyebrow, caused the slamming of a door, or perhaps yielded muffled tears in the darkness of the night. Anyone? Anyone?

Many years ago, while bemoaning my husband’s latest expression of love, I remember my mom telling me that I shouldn’t expect, or rather I should stop expecting, my husband to be a mind reader. It wasn’t fair to him or to our marriage. In fact, she explained, it was a set-up and any disappointment I felt when the “special day” arrived was not his fault but entirely my own if I hadn’t been honest.

She had first-hand experience and had learned from the error of her ways.

She and my father had one of those storybook romances of 50 years. He always shopped carefully to find the perfect “something special” and was always spot-on with the gifts he offered. Well, almost always. Looking back, I can recall some of my mom’s expressions I had clearly misread at the time. Far from loving every gift but masterfully veiled by her love for him, I now know there were gifts that made her privately question WTF was he thinking! Those, she confessed to me, usually came when she said she wanted “Nothing” for (fill in the blank) holiday.

Together, my husband and I have celebrated more than half my birthdays and  Christmases, close to 3 decades of anniversaries, and 2 decades worth of Mother’s Days. And, despite my mother’s wisdom, in the last 28 years, I can probably count on two hands the times I’ve boldly said, “I want ________ for _________.”  To my fault and my fault alone, however, I can’t count the times I’ve felt secretly disappointed when he missed the obscure gift mark, despite his best mind-reading efforts. In all fairness to him, there have been several times he knocked it out of the park and surprised me to tears with his loving thoughtfulness: a bouquet of wildflowers he picked while on a hike, a necklace he noticed caught my eye in a jewelry store window, a leather-bound journal with a supply of extra fat pens because the thin pens are too hard on my finger joints. He may not be suave like a soap opera character, but I know he loves me deeply, and he deserves honesty, always.

I’ve  thought a lot about his bold and quick response to my Father’s Day inquiry. He clearly thought about what he wanted; there was no hesitation nor tool, new wallet, or other “practical” gift suggestion for me. I was both impressed and grateful for his specific request. It certainly makes my job easier because I’m confident that’s what he wants; there’s no hidden agenda or secret wish list.

Guys are like that. They’re straight forward. Sometimes to a fault, but that’s for another post. They don’t make you guess about what they’re thinking or what they want for any occasion. They tell you. You buy it. They’re happy. Win-win. End of story.

Except it’s not the end. The end of this story is the next time my husband asks what I want, I will be honest and tell him, whether it’s where I want to go for dinner or the new purse I saw at the mall. Because, my husband is no more a mind reader than I am, and when you’ve shared 3 decades together you should be able to eat the entire dessert, by yourself, in front of him, and say honestly what you want for your birthday.

How about you…do you say what you want, or do you make him/her guess?

 

 

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We’re froggin’ it, Mom.

Please read the back story about this watch at the end of my post.

I began checking my watch around 6 on Sunday evening. I knew the drive should take about 5.5 hours without stops, add in the bladder needs of 6 teen girls and 1 adult female and I figured anytime between 6 and 6:30 the phone should ring. Roughly 7 hours earlier I had waved goodbye to both C and A as they headed north to help repair homes and work with children at a Native American reservation. It was the first time both girls would be gone for more than a night…at the same time…giving my husband and I exactly 5 nights and 6 days to test out the “empty nest.” And, we had plans to enjoy every minute alone. We just needed that “got there safely” call to come through to let out our breath and turn our focus to each other.

“They should be there anytime,” I told my husband at about 20 minutes past 6. I tried to conceal my pacing and busied myself in the kitchen. I was beginning to feel anxious, which does not help in the romance department. I double checked the voicemail. No message. I paced some more. Ring, phone, ring! And then, almost in direct answer to prayer, the phone rang.

I dove across the table  casually answered the phone with a “Hello, honey!” only to have my eardrums pierced by the high pitched squeals of 6 teen girls confined in a van while amped up on the entire double batch of chocolate chip cookies I had sent along for the journey. My daughter was rambling at lightening speed and in a tone that I’m pretty sure only dogs could hear.

“Whoa…what? Slow down. You’re where?”

More screeching and garbled giggles and cryptic noises that sounded like words but in an unfamiliar language.

“C, slow down,” I implored.

“Mom, we’re feeling froggy. We got lost and we’re still about 2 hours away. We ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere and there was a gas station but it was closed so we had to pull over and ask a farmer and his wife if they had some gas and they did so it’s all good. We just wanted to let you know we won’t be there for about another 2 hours and not to worry.”

In the background, one of the other girls screeched, “OMG, it’s a dead deer!” which created  a shrill so loud I’m surprised the windows didn’t blow out.

Now, the only way to get the full impact of the first 2 minutes of this call is to gather together with 5 friends, suck on some helium, and record the passage verbatim. Then, play it back on double speed.  However, in the interest of your hearing, I don’t recommend it.

But, I digress…

Once I began to peel away the facts; lost, middle of nowhere, out of gas, ALL the cookies, I began to suspect I was being punk’d. I casually went along…”Uh-huh, middle of nowhere. You missed a turn. It’ll take another 2 hours before you get there. Farmer gave you enough gas to get to a station. Okaaaay…. Can I talk to A?” (My younger and very serious daughter who would never pull a prank like this.)

A gets on the phone and restated everything her sister had squealed. My stomach dropped. They had genuinely gotten lost and were now driving through the middle of nowhere. They had honestly run out of gas. And, they were really not going to get there until almost sunset. From somewhere in the background I hear, “Thank you for the cookies! They saved me!”  I think it was the young girl who had just gotten her braces off and had laser surgery on her gums only 2 days earlier. I immediately wondered if they shouldn’t begin rationing the remainder of their food and drinks– just in case they get lost again before finding the reservation set somewhere on 2.2 million acres of Wyoming wilderness. I ask to speak to C again.

“Are you all OK?” I ask, even though they’re obviously more than OK–they’re on a sugar high of epic proportions.

“Ya, Mom. We feeling froggy. Ya know. We’re froggin’ it.”

I thought back to the previous Sunday’s sermon. On the large screen behind the pulpit was a picture of a frog. Our interim pastor, in her slight Louisiana drawl, asked the congregation “Do we know what it means to FROG?” (Little did she know that the answer was plainly and prematurely displayed behind her.) Collectively, we snickered before she went on to explain that the acronym comes from St. Jude’s Hospital, where the little patients are given t-shirts with a frog on them and reminded to FROG: Fully Rely On God.

Slowly, I begin to let out the breath I didn’t even realize I’d been holding. My daughter again reassured me they were all “feelin’ froggy”, which is really all I could ask for of my girls and myself at that point. Immediately, I could see the blessings in the unplanned adventures of their day; the extra time for the girls to bond, the farmer and his wife who happened to be sitting outside as they drove by and just happened to have some spare gas, the laughter and the squeals of youth, and the chance to FROG.

C promised to call again when they safely arrived. I thanked her for calling and hung up the phone. “This is a test. This is only a test,” I thought. This is what life will be like far more often than not from here on out. Situations I can’t control as they move further and further from our nest. I promised myself that I would learn to FROG better, just as they are during their week away.

I served our dinner plates and turned my attention to my husband. With soft music playing and the lights dimmed, we raised our wine glasses and toasted each other and our two awesome girls. We were feeling pretty froggy, too.

How about you, are you feelin’ froggy today? 

About the watch: Knowing that I am a long time Kermit fan, my sister gave me that watch last month before my husband, girls, and I all headed out to California to take care of some family estate business. She thought it would bring me a smile if/when things got tense, and smiles it did bring me. Often. I mean, it’s Kermit, who is always “foot loose and fancy free.” How could I not smile when I looked at his little green face? Little did I know Kermit would come to offer me an important daily reminder, for which I am so grateful.