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.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.
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.