The dogs are mad because I haven’t taken them for a run. They ran ten mountainous miles yesterday, and I say that that should cover for today too. They disagree. Like everyone, dogs develop expectations, and my dogs expect a four-mile run everyday. “Just let me have today off, please?” I ask. “Feckless bastard,” Bonnie answers. “Pusillanimous son of a bitch,” intones Baxter. (I’ll never get used to the way modern dogs talk to their masters.)
“What do the two of you know about my mother? She was dead years before you were born, but if you had known her, you would have loved her. She would have accused me of never feeding you, and would have given you treats until you were as bloated as wood ticks. ‘Mother,’ I would have said. ‘They act hungry because they are DOGS, and dogs are GLUTTONS. They no longer have waists, for god’s sakes. Can’t you see that?’” No, she couldn’t have.
The partially remodeled den is a mess. Sheetrock dust everywhere. The house is beyond needing to be cleaned, but there’s no point in cleaning it until I’m done making dust. If I could devote full time to the den, it wouldn’t be so bad, but I had a Masonic meeting today and an IOOF one tomorrow, and then there was yesterday’s bike ride in the mountains. It’s 10:00 p.m., and I’m tired. I just want to relax and write a little before I eat a late supper and bike home with Peggy when she gets off at midnight. That’s why I don’t want to take the dogs for a run. Besides, I have a rash down below, right where groin hits bike seat. Something fungal maybe. Peggy suggested herpes. “You would know,” I retorted, as I wondered where the hell she thought I would have picked up herpes. She advised that I put toothpaste on the rash. Peggy is a big believer in toothpaste. “Will I grow teeth down there?” I asked. “Only if I grow teeth on my nose,” she said, and I wondered why she had toothpaste on her nose. Like the comment about herpes, a lot doesn’t get addressed in a marriage. Sometimes, the conversation moves too quickly; other times, the potential querier simply doesn’t want to know.
Peggy’s speculation that I might have herpes wouldn’t seem to fit either of these categories, but what might I have said: “Dear, do you think I’m fooling around on you?” Well, yes, I might have said that, and she would have probably said that the thought had crossed her mind, me having done exactly that kind of thing a couple of dozen times by now. Then I would have been obliged to assure her that she was wrong. But I did assure her that she was wrong with my “you would know” remark and my look of surprise. I wisely cut out the rest, the tedium of a discussion about a non-existent liaison.
We did discuss her coming trip to France. I am opposed to it, but what would be the good of insisting that she stay home; of insisting that she avoid plane crashes, crazy motorists, Arab terrorists, scam artists, transcontinental germs, an outrageous financial expenditure, the silliness of attending an opera and touring Mozart’s house when she has never been to Eugene’s opera or listened to Mozart on her own stereo? Maybe she would stay home, but I would have become the poop of her party, the rain on her parade, the despoiler of a “special once-in-a-lifetime trip” with her sister and Francophile niece.
Marriage is terribly limiting, terribly restrictive, so there’s no point in making it worse than need be. Therefore and wheretofore, I have to give her space to go to France. “It won’t break us,” as she’s fond of saying, and I know that, in all likelihood, she will survive—and maybe even avoid the flu, and maybe even have a good time. After all, it’s France. Not the Middle East. Not some bacteria-riddled dump in the tropics. It’s France. They’re civilized and sanitary over there. Maybe even more than we are here. I wouldn’t know. I’m unlikely to ever see France. I’m content with Oregon. I love that which is at hand simply because it is at hand.
Do I have no curiosity then about the history, culture, and natural aspects of a faraway place? Am I THAT provincial? Well, if I won a trip to France, I would probably go (that is if I couldn’t sell the trip to someone else), but otherwise, it wouldn’t occur to me. Peggy doesn’t like it that I am this way, but the secret of a happy marriage is not so much in shared preferences but in accepting—if not delighting in—your partner’s differences.
Right now, her desire to go to France is a difference that I am finding hard to accept. She will be halfway around the world, and what if she needs me, or I need her, or what if some catastrophe should make it impossible for her to come home. I won’t rest easy until next she’s back.