Saturday, February 10, 2007

"We got no money but we got love."

Two paragraphs and one example of what it's like for me to stumble completely into a book where I see myself on every page. Rob Sheffield's Love is a Mix Tape may as well be the book written specifically to answer my questions about love, marriage, and a love for music bordering on abnormal (at least for a non-musician).

Sitting by myself today at a Subway restaurant table for two, I was killing time before I went into work with a club sandwich and my current favorite book. Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero" was playing from the speakers above and I was reading about Rob Sheffield's wife and how she was taking guitar lessons from a guy in a Phish cover band that was called David Bowie. Just more irony and bittersweet talk about his wife Renee...and then he got right to the heart of my world:
The big crisis that summer came when the power went out for two weeks. We came back from a road trip and found the upstairs neighbors had skipped out on the Virginia Power Bill. The phone was dead and most of the food in the fridge was spoiled. We had no hot water. We didn't have the cash to settle the bill and turn the lights back on, ansd we didn't know when we would have the cash. There was no way I could have seen it coming, yet the fact that I couldn't protect Renee from it drove me crazy. How could something like this just happen? Why couldn't I do anything about it? I had felt helpless many times, as an adult even, but feeling helpless as a husband was different from anything I'd ever felt in my life. This was just a temporary snag, but it made me realize how many more of these there were going to be. I was going to have to get used to feeling helpless if I was going to remain a husband. And being a husband made me helpless, because I had somebody to protect (somebody a little high-strung, who had a tough time emotionally with things like the lights going out indefinitely). Man, I thought it was tough being broke when I was single, but being broke as a husband is not even in the same category.

For two weeks, I lay awake at night and said Hail Marys over and over to stop my heart from beating too fast. I suddenly realized how much being a husband was about fear: fear of not being able to keep somebody safe, of not being able to protect somebody from all the bad stuff you want to protect them from. Knowing they have more tears in them than you will be able to keep them from crying. I realized that Renee had seen me fail, and that she was the person I was going to be failing in front of for the rest of my life. It was just a little failure, but it promised bigger failures to come. Additional ones, anyway. But that's who your wife is, the person you fail in front of. Love is so confusing; there's no peace of mind.
He pegged me there. And he was describing a scene without children added to the mix. Dependent cherubs in a home where the utilities could be cut off after any given tough month? I pray to only ever imagine that feeling. Life is good for us. We remain broke but healthy and happy. Things are paid on time and we keep the fridge full. But we also know that it doesn't take much of a setback to fall far back these days. I'm lucky to have the right people in my corner. They know me as a bit weird - quiet and eclectic, wound a bit too tight at times and slow to act on a good idea - but the love is the kind that humbles me all day long. If my wife gets to be the person to see me when I fail, then she deserves to see me when I succeed, too. It's only fair.


Lynnster said...

I am so glad you have shared about this book, I read your two posts over the weekend with huge interest but was too sick to hang around and comment. I am definitely going to make a point of reading it soon and going to make sure Edge does too, I think he will love it as well. As you posted on my blog, I'm pretty sure I will really get into it and am looking forward to it, tho even what little you have posted made me cry. ;)

Have you ever read Douglas Coupland's "Girlfriend in a Coma"? Not exactly the same experience but that's one that really resonated with him and me as well and was really moving.

Anyway thanks again for the tip, I know I'm going to love it. I was a little thrown at first at Amazon when I saw it's still in hardcover (it only came out a little over a month ago) but fortunately, unlike most hardbacks, it's a very affordable around $15 at Amazon right now, so I'm going to order it soon.

CHEZ BEZ said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I've got "Girlfriend" on request at the library now. It looks interesting.

Lynnster said...

I think you'll like it.

Another good one is "The Second Greatest Story Ever Told" by Gorman Bechard (sometimes hard to find, it was out of print for a while). A little bit different experience from the other two (and a little more humorous) but it's another excellent read along similar lines.

I ordered the Sheffield book last night, will report back when it's arrived and I've had a chance to read it...