The Other I

March 29, 2017

The breath of life

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 8:20 pm

One of the best things about a good marriage, I suspect, is a couple’s differences.  My husband, Peter, and I are good at different things, and by definition close to helpless in others.  Discovering this, of course, does not come without cost.  It means learning to listen to another point of view that often feels like a direct contradiction of our own and taking it seriously.

Peter, for instance, is a born pessimist, I a born optimist.  Once I learned to take his pessimism seriously, I saw the benefit of preparing for possible undesirable outcomes.  I learned, as Peter put it, that the difference between an emergency and an inconvenience is often a back-up.  So we have savings I would not have thought useful.

Or when Peter would come up with a brilliant idea, followed with the inevitable statement it would be impossible for us ever to implement, the optimist in me began to see the possibilities.  So we figured out how to buy a house.

In the kitchen, we both cook, but very differently.  I am practical.  I can put a meal on the table in 30 minutes.  Peter, on the other hand, has taste buds far more sensitive to mine.  He denies this, but he is really a gourmet cook who has never used recipes as rules but merely as suggestions.  And often makes it up after looking to see what’s on the shelves or growing in the garden.  He inevitably announces the result is “a disaster,” but I cannot remember a single time in the last 44 years that it has been inedible.

Many of our skills are a reversal of those that are typically identified with males and females.  I am good at mathematics and have some mechanical skills, albeit untrained.  Peter, on the other hand, has a grasp of literature and social structures, and interestingly, some computer skills, that far outstrip mine.

So we have learned to ask each other for help.

Two days ago, Peter said the lawn mower would not start.  It looked either as if the start button on the mower wasn’t working or that the battery wasn’t recharging and had reached the end of its life.  We decided the best choice was to order a new battery, rather than a new mower.  The battery came yesterday, and after recharging it, he put it into the mower.  It still wouldn’t start.  So he called me, really just to confirm that we were going to have to buy a new mower after all.

I don’t mow the lawn, and I wasn’t familiar with the machine.  But I took out the battery, looked at it, and wondered if the problem was not with the battery after all but with the battery charger.  Before trying to decide if we could figure out if this was the problem, I noticed that a few very small scraps of grass cuttings had slipped into the battery cage.  “Oh,” I said, “I wonder if this is the problem.”  “No,” Peter assured me.  “We’ve had this mower for eight years and that’s never happened.”  “Okay,” I said, blowing at the offending bits of green and displacing them into my face.  “I’m sure you’re right and it won’t work, but let’s give it a try – there’s no-…”

I hadn’t finished stating my expectation of failure when Peter pushed on the starter lever.  The mower started.

“Ah!” said Peter, “you are the breath of life!”

Well, I must confess it was more like a stroke of luck than the breath of life.

But it’s true:  he couldn’t have done it without me.

Love and life are made up of a lot of little things, aren’t they?  even little bits of grass.


September 17, 2011

My People

For the last few days, we watched a mining accident unfold in Wales.  It started on Thursday morning about 9 o’clock when the mine flooded.  Three miners escaped, one of whom is critically ill from swallowing slurry.  Four men were still trapped and we watched almost minute by minute as they tried to rescue them.  But by Friday afternoon, all four remaining miners were found dead.

It was not quite as long-lasting as the Chilean mine disaster, but it was much closer.

What I realized for the first time was how very much these people are my husband’s people.  He grew up in a mining community, his father, his grandfathers, his uncles, the fathers and brothers of his school friends, and eventually those friends themselves worked in the coal mines.  His mother who ran a grocery store would sometimes give change after the wives and mothers  of laid-off miners made a purchase.  Except that the “change” handed back was often twice the cost of the original purchase.

Peter never worked in the mine.  But I saw, as we watched this disaster unfold, that they were his people and although he found it extremely stressful to watch, he also could not walk away.  He knows what it is like when the men are trapped.  It is not just that his grandfather was trapped, and his dad was bombed.  When miners are trapped, something that happens to the whole community.  Nobody goes about their business “as usual.”

As I was watching the rescuers,  I realized that, although I no longer share the doctrine of Christianity and most especially the dogmas of Roman Catholicism, they are still my people the way the mining communities are still Peter’s people.   I understand them in a way I can understand no other people.  Because I am part of them. And I can’t remain indifferent to what is happening within Roman Catholicism simply because I am no longer part of it, anymore than Peter can remain detached from a mining accident.

I think this is related to what Christians mean when they talk about faithfulness (as opposed to faith).

But I think the important thing about the concept of my people and the strength that comes from recognizing it is not to forget that in the most significant way, “my people” includes every other human on the planet.

This conclusion doesn’t require Christianity to see it.  Globalization makes it imperative.  We can’t solve our environmental problems alone, or stimulate our economies alone, or keep ourselves and our children safe alone.

It’s true now in a way it’s never been so before:  the whole world are one people.  We are all in this together.

September 6, 2011

A pessimist in lamb’s clothing

Filed under: Husband,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 3:50 pm

My husband is not a natural optimist.

In fact, I think it would not be a distortion of the facts to say that he is a natural pessimist.

His argument for this stance is that he is surprised and delighted when he is wrong quite as often as  I am surprised and disappointed as a natural optimist when I am wrong.

I can’t argue with the math.

But once in a while he tries to put a sunny spin on developments.

Like this morning.  It is cold and windy and the rain is lashing down.  It feels like the kind of day you’d expect in November, not early September.  But we’ve had a summer like that.

Well, said Peter looking out the window, at least you can’t look at the weather anymore and say “And this is August.

Personally, I think he needs more practice.

But in the meantime, he does make me laugh.

July 26, 2011

Under the table

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 7:27 pm

Peter and I remembered our wedding anniversary this week.  We don’t always, because the day we decided to live together seems like the real beginning.

It certainly was for me.

Since Peter was living in one bedroom and I was in a 3-bedroom apartment, we decided that the obvious place for us to live together was where I already was.  He arrived, as agreed, with most of his essential belongings after we both got home from our various university classes.

We had a celebratory drink together, and then I panicked.

OMG, I thought, what am I doing?  “I think I might have changed my mind,” I said out loud.

Peter stared at me in disbelief.  He’d given up his own room.

“All right,” he said, pouring himself another – stiff – drink.  “I’ll use the couch tonight and leave tomorrow morning.”

I went into the kitchen and sat under the table.  Sitting under the table is not a habit of mine.  In fact, I cannot remember doing it ever before or since.  But I crouched there for perhaps an hour.  Peter was in the meantime renewing his drink(s).

It took me an hour to realize I was being a fool.  This was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  What was I doing?

The first thing I had to do was to convince Peter to stay.  It took a lot of convincing under the circumstances but we decided to go back to Plan A.

Except that something had changed in Plan A.  Instead of being a mere arrangement, it had became a commitment.  Faced with the inevitable discoveries during the coming years that my chosen partner was also subject to various human limitations, I had a lot more room for forgiving.  I had already demonstrated even to myself that I’d been extended a lot of credit.

It was a rather painful discovery of self-knowledge.  But it’s proved seriously useful for all involved.

Tomorrow I hope to explain why we didn’t go out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary yesterday.

It’s not quite as bad a sitting under the table saying I’d changed my mind.

January 23, 2011

One reason why I’m still married

Filed under: Husband — theotheri @ 2:40 pm

An editorial in the London Times yesterday reflected on the heroes who both died and survived the Arizona shooting several weeks ago.  As I read the description of the 75-year-old man who died because he threw himself in front of his wife, I was reminded of a very old experience.

It was close to forty years ago.   Peter and I were camping on Hunting Island, an idyllic barrier island off the coast of South Carolina, and had fallen into a deep — probably wine-assisted – sleep one afternoon in the sweltering heat of our tent.  There is a large military airbase not far from there, and a flight of planes, flying very low, buzzed the island.  I think they might have been practicing bringing the planes out of a dive but it made a rather terrifying racket.

Peter was a child in the north of England during the second world war and he had heard and watched real bombers dropping real bombs and killing real people.

What I remember about that hot summer afternoon in South Carolina was that, only half awake, he threw himself on top of me, the only protection he could give me from the bomb that his unconscious screamed was about to kill me.

That was when I knew that, when it really really counted, I was always going to be able to count on him.

November 24, 2010

In the eye of the beholder

Filed under: Husband,In lieu of Biography: from Start to Now — theotheri @ 8:30 pm

When I told my husband yesterday I was looking like a hag and was having my hair done this afternoon, he said “Do what makes you feel good.  But you are beautiful just the way you are.”

Well, I’m sure he’s meant it all these years when he’s said I was beautiful.

And I’m grateful.

But he must have been talking about inner beauty.

Because, believe me, for the last couple of weeks I have been looking like a tired old hag.

Only a mother…  Or a wonderful husband –

January 11, 2010

Differences of degree

Filed under: Husband,The English — theotheri @ 9:00 pm

Anybody who’s ever been married for more than a week knows that it involves two separate people.  With two separate sets of opinions about how things are done.

Some of these differences are potentially explosive, in which case the marriage might not survive.  Other times they are merely irritating.  And once in a while, they are also fascinating.

One of the differences between my English husband and me belongs in this latter category.  I’ve been noticing it of late as we are passing through what is heralded as a “prolonged cold spell.”

When I was growing up in Ohio, we installed storm windows each fall which made it impossible to open the inner windows until they were removed in the spring.   I also learned to close the door behind me when I came in from the cold.  It wasn’t very original, but my mother’s repeated, and eventually effective, command was “Close the door;  money doesn’t grow on trees and it’s cold outside.”

The English have a completely different ethic.  In their view, houses in which windows and doors are not opened daily to air the house are positively unhealthy.  I look out our window at the cars skidding on the ice and snow outside, and to the houses beyond.  The bedroom and bathroom windows are ajar.  Not just cracked.  Open by at least four inches.

I can tell when a door is open three rooms away, and yet here are people with not only a window cracked but sleeping and bathing in a blast of what I would categorize as arctic wind.

I read once that adults who as babies lived in centrally heated houses were more sensitive to the cold than children who grew up with merely a stove in one room and a hot water bottle in bed.

My husband and I have learned to compromise.  But after more than 35 years, I’ve accepted that the differences between us on this question are permanent.

November 11, 2009

A racy question

Filed under: Husband,Two sides of the question,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 5:36 pm

I have – most uncharacteristically – been watching every episode of the tv series “In Treatment.”  Among other things, the (very good-looking) therapist finds himself in love with one of his patients who reciprocates his feelings, and at the same time, furious beyond words to discover that his wife has just had an affair.  He says he is acquainted with couples who have overcome the difficulty brought about by a partner’s affair, but he himself cannot imagine where the capacity might come from in himself.

I find it an interesting dilemma – although personally academic at this stage in my life.  I was twice madly attracted to someone  else after I was married.  I did not act on it, primarily because I knew it would break my husband’s heart.  But I also reached the conclusion that a monogamous marriage was qualitatively different from one in which there were other sexual partners involved.  And that there was a price to be paid to make a partnership that was mutually fulfilling, and not merely one that met all the paper demands of a marriage that appears to work but doesn’t.

But there were several occasions when I felt I could not be the kind of wife my husband wanted.  And then I would gladly have supported his having an affair with someone who could.  I knew he never would, but I felt it would not have destroyed our relationship.  I’m not so sure now I was right about that, since in the event, it was a possibility that was never tested.

But I am among those who can understand marriages that survive “infidelity.”

I wonder what it is that makes the difference?

August 1, 2009

Seriously married

Filed under: Husband — theotheri @ 8:59 pm

Conversation over coffee this morning:

Me:  Was yesterday the 31st or the 24th?

Husband:  The 31st.  The 24th was a week ago.

Me:  Then today is the first of August.

Husband:  Yes.

So what’s so mind-boggling about this inane exchange?

Well, one hour later I remembered the 24th of July was our wedding anniversary.  Not only had both of us completely forgotten it.  We didn’t even recognize the date when we talked about it.

We do make a half-hearted attempt to remember.  But the date we really celebrate is February 14th because that’s the day we started to live together.

That was the day I decided I was making a serious commitment.

I did, I must admit, make something of a drama of it.  P arrived at my apartment from the hotel where he’d been staying with all his belongings stuffed into two suitcases.  We had a celebratory drink or two together, and then I began to get scared.  “I’m not sure you should stay,” I said.

P poured himself another drink and said he would sleep on the couch and leave in the morning.  I went into the kitchen and sat under the table.  Sitting under the table is not something I’d ever done, and why I crawled under there that night I can only speculate.

I guess I sat there for about half an hour.  I don’t remember much of what I was thinking, but at the end I’d decided that Peter was the only man I’d ever met I could contemplate being married to, and I would be a fool to run away now.

So in the end, it was I who had to persuade Peter to stay rather than to leave.

I realized today that I’d been living with him for more than half my life.

So I really did mean it when I said he should stay.

July 23, 2009

Ringing endorsements

Filed under: Growing Up,Husband — theotheri @ 2:38 pm

Several years ago I walked into the trash room in the apartment block where we were living.  The floor was wet and slippery and I  fell on the bag of glass bottles I was carrying gashing the fingers of my left hand.

I got my wedding ring off before my hand became too swollen, but my ring finger never did return to the size it was when my husband bought it for me more than 35 years ago.  I was able to get it off recently only with great effort and a generous slathering of soap, but forcing it back on after I’d finished tarring our gutters didn’t seem very sensible.  If I need to get it off again, my finger might have to go with it.

So my husband wants to buy me another ring.  I’m not sure I want him to.  I don’t need another wedding ring.  My marriage is quite secure without it.

Today I read a story about a couple celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary.  When he first asked her to marry him, she accepted his ring, but later changed her mind and gave it back to him.  Being a pragmatic Yorkshireman, he sold the ring and bought a suit.  Later, when she changed her mind again, he didn’t buy her another ring.

As their 60th anniversary was approaching he said “come on, let’s go out and buy you a ring.”  So they went shopping together, but when they saw the cost of diamond rings, decided that they would rather spend the money on something else.

I understand.  My husband, however, wants to buy me another ring.  Okay.  Just as long as it’s not called an eternity ring, which seems to be a new fad for couples celebrating their wedding anniversaries.  I said yes the first time, and I still mean it.

Really, I’d like my old ring back.  But I don’t think it can be stretched.  And I’m pretty sure my finger can’t be returned to its original size.

I guess life is a series of unending compromises.

April 16, 2009

The Wozniak Syndrome

Filed under: Family,Husband,The Economy: a Neophyte's View — theotheri @ 9:23 pm

I have a friend who now lives in upstate New York, but who spent most of her teenage years in a Displaced Persons camp in Europe.  She suggested I might like to read “Wild Place,” by Kathryn Hulme, who was one of the people helping to run a DP campfor displaced Poles after WWII .  I am reading a chapter a day, totally mesmerized.

Last night I read about the week the DPs were told that Polish officers were coming to the camp to register them as Polish nationals, and that they would be required to present some kind of evidence attesting to their identity.  The idea was, they were told, that this would facilitate their return to their homes in Poland from which they had been evicted, chased, or bombed so many years before.

At this point, Polish elections were planned within the next several months, which the DP camp supervisors believed would be free and democratic.  The DPs, however, had already heard via the grapevine that it was not going to be free, that the Communists were going to take over, and that those who were already in Poland were not going to get out.  The DPs had no intention of being sent back into the cage.

At the camp meeting during which they were told what to bring in order the register, the DPs sat silent, and after the meeting, filed out without further comment.

The registrations were due to begin early in the morning, and the Polish officers arrived, dressed in their long coats and black boots and shiny insignia.  Nobody came to register.  Nobody responded to the officials who came to the living quarters to remind them.  But a group of men gathered.  They escorted the Polish officers back into their car, picked it up, and threw it down the hill and out the camp gate.

Several weeks later the Poles held their “free election.”  In the end, the Iron Curtain came down, and they didn’t get out.  Not until the Berlin Wall finally fell in 1989.

I am half Polish.  And when I read that story, I knew I was reading about my relatives.  I recognize that look that says “No.”  It says “No.  I don’t care what your logic is.  I don’t care what your evidence is.  I don’t care what your power is.  I don’t care if you know I am wrong and you are right.  I’m not doing it.”

My Dad used to call it “The Wozniak Syndrome,” after my mother whose maiden name was Wozniak.  I think their marriage survived because most of the time my mother gave into my father.  But when he saw that “Wozniak look,” he learned not even to argue.  He wasn’t going to win.

I’ve developed a sneaking admiration for that Wozniak Syndrome.  I see the Yorkshire version occasionally in the face of my husband, whose family grew up – literally – at the coal face during the War.  I’ve seen it in the face of an Irish friend who may keep smiling when she disagrees but who is not going to change her mind whatever you might offer.

It’s a survival mechanism that goes beyond reason.  Beyond logic.  Beyond the empirical evidence.  

Would to God a few of our bankers had shown a little more of it during the last twenty years.

I looked  “Wild Place” up on Amazon.  There was a paperback copy for $25.  The hard back is on offer for $146.  I’m reading my friend’s copy for free.  But it is, in truth, priceless.

April 5, 2009

And now for some light relief

Filed under: Growing Old,Husband — theotheri @ 3:48 pm

Before yesterday, the last time I had my wedding ring off was in the emergency room of our local hospital in the Lake District, where I repaired after falling onto a bag full of glass.  I took it off again last night because it was irritating a blister I’d brought up raking moss from the lawn.

It took several applications of soap and grim determination to get it off.  Even after the blister is healed, I doubt I can get it on again.

So Peter is going to buy me a new one.

After 35 years, the fact that we are in agreement about this seems like a good sign.  I’d rather have the old one, though.  I’m going to ask the jeweller if it can be stretched, but I’m not hopeful.

April 2, 2009

The old kitchen table

Filed under: Family,Growing Old,Husband — theotheri @ 3:44 pm

There was a table in Peter’s parents’ house in the north of England.  It was dark oak, and has been in the family for generations.  The marks of what it has witnessed are on its face.

 It was there during the Depression, when coal miners were often out of work, and Peter’s grandfather helped make ends meet by serving hot tea to workers on their way to the mines before day break.

The table was there during all of World War II as the bombs dropped over the coal mines where Peter’s father worked the night shift.

It was there the first time I met Peter’s parents.  And the last.

And now it is in our kitchen.  Peter has sanded off the dark oak stain and revealed the grains that give it character.  But what I love even more than the flow of the wood are the marks of living.  I don’t know where most of them came from.  One mark looks as if a hot cup was left to stand so long that it actually seared into the wood.  Another seems to be the result of an almighty bang that chipped off a corner.  There are spills that might have been beer or soy sauce or maybe even shoe polish but which have soaked in deep enough to be there forever.  

My favorite mark is a gash about a sixteenth of an inch deep cutting about six inches diagonally across the table top.   My brother Bob was helping us install bookcases, and was using the table as a sawing horse.  The cut looks so old and weathered enough now to be antique.  It is unremarkable alongside fellow marks that have been softened with age and sanding and refinishing, and blend in with the deeper life of the wood.

But all of them have been earned by the people who sat before it.  Each of them is a testament to the struggles of staying alive, of the simple processes of eating and drinking and probably of projects both successful and failed.  Of mistakes and spills and hopes and plans that make up the years of life.

 It’s a living table, that has come down to us for generations.  That’s what I love about it.

December 29, 2008

Eating the house

Filed under: Husband — theotheri @ 5:13 pm

Yesterday Peter and I were talking about the kind of children we were.  I said that I’d been an over-socialized self-righteous little prig.

Not me, he said.  “I’d eat the gingerbread house.”

Eat the gingerbread house!?  the one where the witch lived?  

The very one, he said.

And that is one of the things I have always found so refreshing about him.

November 23, 2008

Role reversals

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 5:27 pm

We woke up this morning to a lovely dusting of snow.  Within 30 minutes we also discovered that the heater in the bathroom had not turned on and the temperature had dropped to 52 degrees.  Pleasant enough outside with a light jacket, but a bit chilly for a morning shower.  Then the television got stuck in stand by and would not budge no matter how many buttons we pushed.  In the middle of which, our telephone rang to deliver a text message on our land line.  This is a first, so I pressed button #4 which the recording said would connect me to “further information,” which I was told was, regrettably unavailable at this time.

So we opted for another cup of coffee, and went out for the Sunday paper.

What’s interesting about this list of annoying inconveniences – which is all they were – is that it did not occur to either Peter or to me that I wasn’t the one to solve them. 

So I did.  Peter, as usual, is preparing what is almost always turns out to be a fabulous Sunday dinner, and doing things on the computer that outface me. 

I personally think it’s a magnificently satisfactory division of labour.

August 20, 2008

Is something wrong here?

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 9:25 pm

This morning the Pessimist with whom I live looked out and said “The summer has ended.  Look at the leaves already dying on the trees.”

The Optimist that he lives with said “I don’t think the summer is over yet.  I think those trees are just dying.”

The Optimist in me hopes the Pessimist I live with is right.  I prefer an early fall to dead trees.

June 13, 2008

My neurotic shyness

Filed under: Depression and Autism,Family,Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 8:49 pm

Since childhood, my life has been indelibly influenced by two diseases – depression and cancer.  I have never had cancer myself, and only once have I experienced prolonged depression.  Mostly whatever understanding of depression I have comes from my education as a psychologist and more profoundly from my role as a daughter, sister several times over, cousins, niece, close friends, and wife of someone who does suffer ongoing bouts of depression.  But I do have first hand experience of a painfully debilitating neurotic anxiety.

When I have to meet new people in a social situation, I become intensely nervous.  The reason I am so clear that it is neurotic is because it is totally, utterly irrational.  I can break into a cold sweat simply as a result of a casual exchange about the weather at the supermarket check out.  My heart rate is elevated for hours before and late into the night after a party during which I have to make small talk with people whom I’ve never met or don’t know well.  It is positively excruciating for me to walk into a doctor’s office for a consultation, and my anxiety has been so intense during the few job interviews I have had to endure that I cannot believe I was actually given and held qualified professional positions throughout my adult life.  Even a casual exchange with a neighbour over the fence can leave me with a feeling of awkwardness and the impulse to flee.

It’s not that I usually can’t think of anything to say, that I don’t enjoy people or find them interesting, nor do I think they don’t like me.  By and large, enough people like me well enough to give me more than the minimum number of friends I want or need.  In fact, by and large, people often think I am unusually confident and self-assured  and do not suspect that, given my talkativeness, I am so ill at ease.

I am confident and self-assured in academic situations, during serious debates, and with my friends and family.  But in the ordinary, unimportant exchanges of normal life, I am intensely ill at ease.  I think part of this is the result of growing up in a large family and close-knit Catholic community where I always knew everybody and they knew me.  But I think part of it is simply bio-chemical. 

I strongly suspect this kind of anxiety is not uncommon, and that many people suffer from it.  I do not think I am unique.  But unlike some, I’ve never found that alcohol or marijuana made things any easier for me.  Like people with depression, I think I simply must live with this painful consciousness, knowing it is irrational and unrealistic, but none the less painful.  I enjoy people far too much and even go out of my way to seek them out to say that I am autistic.  But I have a streak of shyness and awkwardness with strangers that I expect will be with me forever.

That, I guess, makes me doubly lucky to have a husband whom I still enjoy so much, and brothers, sisters, and friends who make me feel that I am somehow special. 

And who don’t make me nervous.

February 4, 2008

Toothpaste attack

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 3:43 pm

Peter and I are now returned from our foray north.  Weather-wise, we didn’t have so much as a flake of snow or drop of rain, but did have An Event.  It was a Toothpaste Attack.

I opened my toilet bag at the hotel to discover that the cap had come off the tube of toothpaste.  I never knew before that toothpaste actually expands exponentially when it leaves the tube.  But I have concrete evidence that it does, because the toothpaste that escaped from the tube was much more than was in the tube in the first place.  Perhaps one of those scientists who understands how the universe expanded 13 billion years ago from a tiny dot of energy in about three minutes could explain the toothpaste.

Another unsolved mystery is why it is so much easier to remove toothpaste from a toothbrush than it is from a hair brush.

Still, Peter and I supported each other in the face of this momentous crisis.  It’s these big things that prepare you to face the small calamities of life that come to us all.

February 3, 2008

Back to the dragon’s mouth

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 9:14 am

We are driving back up north again today – through the area where we were stranded in the floods two weeks ago.  Depending on which forecaster you listen to, the weather predictions for in the north are for heavy rain or snow.  Hundreds of cars were stuck in snow drifts in the Lake Distrist yesterday.

Despite the fact that our hotel is being held by a prepaid reservation that can’t be cancelled, we will not be so foolish as to deliberately head into a traffic-stopping snow storm if things start to look challenging.

Well, I speak for myself.  I know I will give Peter the deciding vote on this issue.  He’s not less risk-aversive than I am.  Just a better driver.

January 24, 2008

One of the lucky floods

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 4:10 pm

I’ve never been in an actual flood before.  The only thing I can remember that might be related to being in a serious flood situation was getting my feet stuck in the mud when I was about three years old and having to be rescued by my mother.  At the time, I remember thinking I might sink to China, which I’d been told was on the other side of the world.  I don’t suppose I would have been consoled had I realized that the antipode to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, USA was not China but the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The flooding we were caught in on Monday was the real thing.  We were leaving the north of England, and when we looked out the motel window when we woke up, we thought we were fortunate that it was raining rather than snowing.  The flooding on the road at first wasn’t too bad.  We slowed down at the dips in the road and made sure our brakes were working when we came out at the other end.  We crawled ahead, feeling quite competent in our Volvo as we passed the occasional car overcome by the rising water. 

The first serious challenge was the bridge.  The river had broken its banks and was flowing fast over the bridge by at least two feet.  It was narrow and harrowing.  We weren’t so afraid the bridge would collapse as worried that we would be washed over the side.  We made it.  By this time, traffic was lined up miles in front and in back of us and the only possibility was to inch forward with everyone else.  We went through another half dozen pools of water and watched a mini-Toyota scoot through what was the last major flood before the road climbed into the hills.  So we were sure we could do it too.  We were half way through when the car in front of us stalled.  Coming at us in the other lane was a tourist bus.  The only option we had was to break.  Our engine stalled, and we glided to a permanent halt.  The wave of water created by the bus washed up against the car, cresting at about three feet. 

Peter and I sat there reviewing our situation.  “This is serious,” Peter remembers my saying.  I guess having this assessment come from his relentlessly optimistic partner added to Peter’s own view that our circumstances might be slightly more than merely inconvenient.  There was every reason to expect the water level to keep rising.

But a police rescue vehicle stopped and offered to take us to the Little Chef at the top of the hill.  We waded through the overflowing river with water up to our thighs and climbed in  the back.  When we got to the Little Chef, we called our breakdown rescue service and ordered a cup of coffee to warm us up until we could be towed out.  We didn’t know it, but we were going to drink a lot of coffee. 

We got home on the back of a tow truck at 7 pm the next day, 36 hours after we had begun what we thought was a four-hour trip.

The good news is that neither of us caught a cold.  We might be feeling what my mother used to describe as “sick and tired,” but in truth we are merely weary.  We are waiting to see if our car fared as well.  The serviceman at the garage where the car was towed listened to the uncooperative thud and sullen silence of the car when we tried to start it, and thinks we are going to need a new engine.  Our insurance company told us not to expect to hear before the middle of next week.

I’m not sure it’s a logical conclusion, but I feel quite lucky.  The really extraordinary thing is that Peter does too.

January 13, 2008

Fall-out after the fall

Filed under: Growing Old,Husband,Uncategorized — theotheri @ 5:02 pm

I’m sitting here with a black eye that looks dreadful.  But apart from that, I feel fine.  I’m not even sore as a result of my dramatic exhibition on the streets of London yesterday.

The fall-out is from Peter.  He was so aghast at what looked to him like the imminent end of the world as we know it as I staggered in front of him trying to regain my balance that he has suggested that, in future, we should hold hands whenever we are walking in London.

Although I will frequently take his arm or hand when we are negotiating a busy intersection so as not to get separated, the mere thought of having to hold his hand whenever I’m out sends me reeling.  I would rather be forced to wear a full-face veil.

So I told Peter he would simply have to live with the terror that I might trip again. 

I think he’s got the message.  After 35 years, we each tend to recognize when we’ve hit the other’s no-go area.

January 12, 2008

Predicting the past

Filed under: Growing Old,Husband,Life as a Nun,Osteoporosis — theotheri @ 5:25 pm

Yogi Berra once said that prediction was difficult, especially when you are talking about the future.  I’ve often thought that, although we think predictions are more uncertain the further into the future we go, it is often events about two seconds in the future that hold the most unexpected surprise.

Today Peter and I were walking in London on our way back to Kings Cross to catch the train to Cambridge.  Without any warning whatsoever, I tripped.  I tripped over absolutely nothing visible for no identifiable reason, but went careening across the sidewalk, dizzily trying to avoid running into pedestrians coming in the opposite direction and pushing them into the traffic.  I almost caught myself, but failed and the first part of me to hit the concrete was – my cheekbone.

Two men got to me before Peter, and helped me up with great solicitations.  I was mostly embarrassed, but it must have looked absolutely awful, and it was difficult to assure either my husband or the two strangers that apart from what was rapidly becoming a black eye, I was fine.  During the five seconds or so in which I was crashing to the ground, Peter thought I was having a stroke or heart attack, and it must have felt like one of those moments when the future changes totally in a two second segment.  We are now home, and he is still in shock, I think.  I myself am no longer in shock, but I am concerned that I did not catch myself with my hands instead of falling on my face.  With my osteoporosis, a fall like that could indeed short-circuit my future quite substantially.

Predicting the past, on the other hand, is somewhat easier.  Someone has just sent me a story about a play three of us put on as young professed sisters at Maryknoll, and as Yogi Berra also said, it’s like deja vu all over again.

The author, G, describes herself as a dreamer, supremely confident that we could carry it off with aplomb.  T was a doer – she procured copies of the play, the props, and somehow a huge selection of costumes from which we fashioned our stage outfits.  “Bernadette Mary,” G says, “was the most practical.”  I was also the most sceptical, and a perfectionist.  Most of all I realized the danger in the serious possibility that we could all make fools of ourselves.  Yes, that would have been me.  More concerned to avoid ridicule than to produce a flawed but creative entertainment.  I asked how I looked in my selection of costumes and managed apparently to look quite fetching.  Yes, I would have been sure to manage that.  (I didn’t get over an almost obsessional concern about how I looked until I met Peter, who paradoxically convinced me that I was indeed quite physically attractive, and that he would love me even if I weren’t.)

We three were young and energetic with a lot of good will.  We complemented each other more than we knew then, each contributing our strengths and talents, and doing for the other what we could not do for ourselves.

How good the play actually was, though, I can’t remember.

To see additional posts on osteoporosis, click on “Select Category” in the right-hand column, and select Osteoporosis.

January 8, 2008

Of Queens and Presidents

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff,The English — theotheri @ 11:52 am

The Times here in London is running a “primary” on line in which readers can vote for their favourite candidate in the American presidential election.  ( 

As Peter (English husband) said:  “Our Queen is the only real Queen for Americans.  And your President is the only real president of us.”

January 5, 2008

Trivia survives

Filed under: Growing Old,Husband,Just Stuff,The English — theotheri @ 3:24 pm

The English papers are full this morning of analyses of the American election.  Two themes stand out.  One is the demographics of the Obama vote – the young, the independents, those who have never thought it was worth voting before, Republicans crossing over to the Democrats to vote for Obama.  It feels like a powerful bandwagon.  If he can carry New Hampshire – or even make a strong showing there – I think he may be unstoppable.  Americans are going to vote for this non-cynical clarion call of Hope.

The other theme came from some of the more mature columnists.  “Where is the meat?” one asked, no doubt remembering Walter Mondale’s challenge, “Where’s the beef?” in response to inspirational campaigning by his presidential opponent in the 1980’s.  Doesn’t the inspirational become rather banal if you can’t actually get things done?  Remember John Kennedy who could not get his program through Congress.  Or Jimmy Carter whose ethical policies coincided with 14% inflation and hostages stranded in Iran.   Or Ronald Reagan who left office with the country facing the biggest budget deficit in history. 

Does Obama know the ropes well enough to get things done?  With a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, Missouri, with a Harvard degree and the middle name “Hussein,” he could start out with a world-wide bounty of good will and expectation that has been all but destroyed by the current White House.  Could Obama deliver?  Could anybody deliver?  Who would he choose as his advisers, to replace Bush’s Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld?

Could Hilary Clinton, a seasoned and experienced politician, achieve more?

Along with these weighty issues of global import, Peter lost his glasses this morning.  After a panicky search, thankfully of fairly short duration, he found them.  They were on his face. 

Never let it be said that we lose sight of the importance of life’s trivia.

November 24, 2007

Look at the bright side – things will get worse

Filed under: Growing Old,Husband,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 3:58 pm

As a natural bio-chemical optimist, one of the survival mechanisms I have used successfully over the years when faced with unpalatable news is to look at how much worse it could have been.  Because however bad something is, I find that it could always have been worse.  My sister died of cancer in her mid-40s?  well, at least she died quickly and not hooked up to a bunch of machines in the hospital delaying the inevitable.  My mother died at 48 leaving behind ten children under the age of 19?  at least she had time to prepare and left a legacy that has supported each of us throughout our lives.  I might owe a huge unexpected tax bill?  well, at least I can still take that amount out of savings.  Etc.

All the evidence suggests, however, that Peter is not a born optimist.  He might even be a natural bio-chemical pessimist.  In any case, his reluctant attempts to apply my Things-Could-Be-Worse strategy lack a certain effectiveness.  Yesterday he said he didn’t like being 73.  But that at least it wasn’t as bad as being 74. 

Not quite the approach I would suggest.

October 10, 2007

20-minute panic with a happy ending

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 8:27 pm

Yesterday I was following Peter home through rush hour traffic after picking up the car we’d dropped off for its annual service in the morning.  I was right behind him, which wasn’t strictly necessary because we both knew how to get home, which was also where we were both going.  So I wasn’t perturbed when at the last double round-about leaving Cambridge, a car got between me and Peter.  As I moved onto the main highway out of Cambridge, I was surprised at how many more cars were now between us, but again, I wasn’t worried that he was not in sight.  He has more acceleration than I do, and usually drives somewhat more confidently (not to say aggressively).

But it was with absolute shock that I arrived home to an empty garage.  Peter’s car wasn’t there, and neither was he.  I picked up the phone and checked the last caller.  It was hours before.  I phoned his mobile, which was turned off.  Not unusual, because our cell phones don’t work at home, and we usually turn them on when we are travelling only if we want to phone someone or are expecting a specific call.  Where was he?

After the round-about when I’d lost sight of him, there is only one way to get home.  I remembered the ambulance I’d pulled over to let pass.  No, that was before I lost sight of Peter’s car.  By this time, I’d opened all the curtains in the house, and rushed to the window every time I heard a car, and my heart rate was probably about 100 bpm.  “Be rational,” I said to myself in near hysteria.  “Think of the plain ordinary alternatives before you decide he’s had a heart attack.”

Okay, I said, maybe he stopped to help someone.  But if he did, I would have passed his car.  If something went wrong with the car and he pulled over, I also would have seen the car.  Or maybe he felt too ill to drive and pulled into the by-pass behind the trees.  I doubt he went onto a grocery store, because dinner was already prepared and we didn’t need anything.  Ah, I thought, maybe  he was low on gas.  He could have pulled into the gas station on the main road and I wouldn’t have seen his car.  I decided I would wait another ten minutes before I left a note on the refrigerator, and got back in the car to look for him. 

Five minutes later he showed up.  At the fated round-about he saw a traffic jam, and thinking I was right behind him, took a different route home.  It was an unusually agitated 20 minutes before that though. 

The next time I’m not going to even think about following him.  Though come to think of it, that still wouldn’t solve the problem if I arrived home to an empty house and he hadn’t arrived an hour later.  Risk is endemic, I guess.

September 16, 2007

On the roof

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 3:21 pm

I spent about five hours yesterday on the roof of our house scraping off the moss that has been accumulating there for years.  It looked awful, but even worse, comes down in unsightly bunches whenever there’s a storm and either clogs the gutters or makes a mess where in lands on the stone walk below.  The roof now looks much better.

I don’t know what the neighbours thought about my being up there, but I do know Peter doesn’t like it.  He didn’t try to stop me though, for which I was grateful.  Still, it’s not my favourite recreation.  I’m not particularly afraid of heights, but I’d rather be reading a book.

August 19, 2007

Seriously serious

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 3:45 pm

Peter and I went into a Cambridge bookstore yesterday.  He came out with four novels.  I came out with two books on mathematics, and one on “dangerous ideas” by today’s leading thinkers.  

My sister Cathy has said for years that I am unrelentingly serious.   A lot of things make me laugh though, practically every day.  That should count for something, don’t you think?

August 16, 2007

The workaholic urge resurfaces

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 8:41 pm

I am a serious workaholic.  I mean workaholic in the true sense of the word.  When I become absorbed in a project, especially when it’s one that involves using my mind, my urge is to work on it for ten or twelve hours a day for weeks at a time. 

For better or worse, and probably for more better than worse, Peter simply won’t tolerate it.  So I’ve learned to pull myself away from my desk, but for the thirty-five years I have been living with him, my desire to keep working nonstop has not diminished an iota .  I pause out of a commitment to our relationship.  I do know too that not getting proper food and enough exercise could kill me.  I think it helped cut Mary’s life short.  Like me, she was capable of dogged discipline and she regularly worked late into the night for day after week after month after year.

For the last three days, though, I’ve given in to my obsession.  Getting all the figures organized for my UK tax adviser is a huge job, the details of which only a fool such as I could find interesting.  It’s been raining every day, so I’ve used that as my excuse for sitting at my computer all day with only those pauses required to maintain civility in the household.  Peter really doesn’t like it, even though there isn’t anything I’m keeping us from doing. 

I know it sounds weird, but I’m loving it.  There are few things in my life I enjoy as much as work.  Seriously hard, driven work.

I will admit, however, that my delight would be completely undone if the tax adviser sends it back as all wrong, inscrutable, or missing the point altogether.  Worse yet, if she says I owe hunreds of pounds in back taxes.

August 4, 2007

The price of depression

Filed under: Depression and Autism,Family,Husband,Worries — theotheri @ 10:06 pm

The village where I live is shaken just now by the suicide of a young women who lived around the corner from us.  We were not well-acquainted, but I know she was attractive, in her twenties, vibrant, always with a cheerful smile.  She hanged herself.  Nobody seems to know why, but her boyfriend left a short time ago.  Perhaps that was the reason.  If it was, it can’t be the whole reason.  There must have been a deeper, longer depression of which this was the terrible climax.

Surprisingly, although the hopelessness of depression robs everything of joy, makes everything seem worthless, it is often hidden, a private face that the family sees and that the public never suspects.  Even a supremely successful professional  might at home be engulfed in irrational despair or make unreasonable demands of a family equally desperate to avoid the descent of darkness.  A depressive himself often uses alcohol to stay out of depression’s grip.  It is futile, because alcohol is in itself a depressive, but first it provides a short escape into euphoria.  Shopping for things one doesn’t need but desperately wants until one gets them home, binge eating, paranoia,  irrational bursts of anger, and many addictions are also often attempts to escape the deadly cloud of depression. 

It is hard to be serially depressed.  It is also immensely difficult to love and live with a depressive.  Just as depression takes different forms, so too its toll on others.   When my mother died and my father remarried, I saw for the first time watching his second wife that it was possible to love someone and yet not to blame oneself for their depression.  I don’t think my mother altogether understood this, and I suspect that blaming herself for my father’s unhappiness contributed to her early death.

I still struggle sometimes to keep myself separate from someone else’s depression.  Not to let it infect me with the same hopelessness, not to cast around desperately for some solution that will lift the cloud for them.  Sometimes I know when Peter is depressed, and I feel guilty, feeling in some irrational, inchoate way that it is my fault.  I try not to let Peter see this, because this guilt of mine is as irrational as his depression.

So we’ve learned and shared and loved.  And yet, it is still not always easy.  It’s been a challenge that occasionally I have felt I could have done without.  But – and this is the mystery – I know I needed it.  And chose it.

July 17, 2007

The fascination of an unachievable man

Filed under: Depression and Autism,Family,Growing Up,Husband — theotheri @ 3:26 pm

I described how I met the man to whom I am now married in my June 15th post.  We have been living together for more than half my life now, and he has become the most important and significant man I have ever loved.  As we have survived, exalted, triumphed, and despaired over the inevitable ups and downs for thirty five years, I have wondered about the glue that has held us together through it all.

Peter is immensely kind, exceptionally intelligent, highly educated, capable of expending baffingly amounts of energy and determination – and subject to swings of depression that can fill me – and undoubtedly him – with despair.   I continue to find him fascinating.  Not with, perhaps, quite the same driven excitement that I felt when I first met him, but I still love to talk to him, to be surprised by his alternative take on life.  He is without doubt the best – if not the easiest – thing that has ever happened to me.

For many years, I thought that, because of my father, I had confused depression with intelligence the way some women confuse abuse with strength in men.  But it’s more devilishly complicated than that.  As some women are attracted to married men because they are unattainable, I’m attracted to intelligent depression.

I am attracted to intelligent depressives because they are so hard to please, and because happines eludes them.  I am attracted only to men who think I am something quite out of the ordinary, and however kind and sensitive depressive men are, I always sense an unmet yearning.  My impulse is to say “I am that special person you are looking for;  I understand your longings, your exceptional gifts;  I can love you enough.” 

So I didn’t stumble accidentally after all into marrying someone who was an intelligent depressive.  I chose it, even though I may not have understood myself in the choosing.  I doubt that I have changed.  I’m still fascinated by that enchanting deception.

Anyone who has lived with a someone struggling with depression knows how hard it is.  Sometimes it feels simply impossible to overcome the bleak despair engulfing someone’s whole view of life.  It is not rational, even though it might be triggered by real tragedy.  It is not voluntary, though there are sometimes controllable factors like drink and nutrition and exercise and medication that effect it.  It demands strength from anyone living with a depressive.  Or at least it has made demands on me that have pushed me to greater maturity and I hope greater gentleness.

I never once talked to her about it, but the person – besides Peter – who is probably most responsible for my not walking out of my marriage during its darkest days was my father’s second wife.  I think my own mother blamed herself for my father’s unhappiness.  Mary never did.  I watched how she lived with my father.  Though at times I thought she was a witch incarnate in relation to my brothers and sisters after Mom died, she was also the best role model as a wife I ever had. 

June 15, 2007

A bad divorce, great luck

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 3:35 pm

A former colleague, BR, from New York has just told me he is in the middle of a vicious divorce.  He’s moved out and is living in temporary quarters in Brooklyn while his wife seems to be fighting for everything but his job, which presumably she wants him to keep in order to continue to support her in a manner she wishes to remain accustomed.  BR and I were very good friends during the years we worked together, and I remain immensely fond of him.  I asked him if he hoped to become reconciled with his wife, and he said there’s no chance.  So I told him how Peter and I had met.

Thirty-five years ago there was a graduate student by the name of Harvey in one of my classes who kept nagging me saying that I had to meet the professor who was running the program in which Harvey was earning his masters degree.  I told Harvey I’d met enough professors for a lifetime and doubted another one would add much of significance to my life.  Harvey was undaunted, however, and in a two-pronged attack, also began to tell the professor running his program about this fabulous woman professor he just had to meet.  Eventually we relented, and set up an appointment to meet in Peter’s office.  I knew within ten minutes that Harvey was right, and within months we were living together.

It still amazes me though.  Peter was living in a run-down hotel room on New York’s upper west side.  Several of the local prostitutes had befriended him and even introduced their children to him, presumably because he was possibly the only resident in the hotel not using their services.  At the university no one suspected his marriage was in meltdown.  If he hadn’t told me, I would never have guessed.  I did eventually learn that his wife was as angry as any woman I’ve ever known, determined to destroy him, his reputation, his work, and to leave him penniless.   She succeeded in the last but not in any of the former. 

The other day, just out of the blue, Peter told me his wife leaving him was one of the best things that had ever happened to him.  He would never have left her, although the marriage had been a disaster for years.  So she freed him.  Bloody and bruised, but still in tact.  I asked him if he thought he’d misinterpreted her aggression for strength.  Yes, he said, and for intelligence too.  But when he realized his mistake, he was firmly married. 

What amazes me is that he had the insight and courage to start a relationship with me under those circumstances.  He wasn’t even divorced yet, though it was clear that he would be.  How did he know that we would be so right for each other?  I still don’t know.

So did we live happily ever after in a lovers’ paradise?  Not exactly.  There were times when I felt his bitchy wife had had a point.  But I’d been out of the convent for five years when we met, and Peter gave me something on which I thrived and grew as much as I gave him space to recover and grow.   On that topic, more on another day.

In case you were wondering, Peter got his computer running again.  It’s still got problems, but it’s functioning. 

June 14, 2007

A short list of crises

Filed under: Cataracts: a story,Family,Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 1:20 pm

I was talking to my sister Catherine yesterday and she got me laughing at myself when I told her I’d managed to make a mini-crisis out of my new vision after cataract surgery.   “Oh my god, what am I going to do now?  I’ve had cataract surgery and now I can see everything better than I ever have before.  This is a terrible problem.”    Almost all of us in the family have a capacity for this navel-gazing angst, and I am not even the worst.  She suggested we make a list of possible crises that only members of our family could be cajolled into taking seriously.   Of course, not to be included is anything that really qualifies for serious angst – like Mom dying at the age of 48 leaving behind ten children under the age of 19.  Or like my sister dying at 46 of breast cancer, or of C’s own husband dropping dead two weeks after they’d moved to Arizona.  Not like my brother Larry who has never been able to walk without crutches.  Not like broken marriages or child abuse or mental illness.  Not like Iraq or Palestine or Darfur.  We are looking for seriously ridiculous angst here.

I was prepared to make this list of crises only our family could appreciate today, but we woke up this morning to discover that Peter’s computer had crashed sometime during the night.  This is no ordinary crash, the kind you get over by rebooting.  As I write it is now mid-afternoon, and he is stripping the computer down to the factory settings.  You probably know what this means.  Especially since he’s the webmaster for a couple of sites, one of which is an educational website that is in the midst of its summer session with all the late registrations and changes this entails.

So the list of faux crises will have to wait until a different day.  Computer crashes aren’t mega-tragedies, but it could mean losing all the computer documents and installing all the software again.  It might mean a new computer.   

I don’t think the time has quite come for me to waltz into Peter’s study and joke about it.  Somehow I don’t think it will help at all.

June 7, 2007

Just don’t tell me the answer

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 4:28 pm

Peter and I got into an amiable discussion yesterday after what happens when we die.  He thinks  “ashes-to-ashes” is about it, and when it’s over, it’s over.  My intuition is that life is more mysterious than that, and it is something more than the as-yet-unlocked arrangement of molecules that sustains life, and makes the amazing reality of consciousness possible.  So I’m not inclined to think when we die that everything ends, though what exactly happens then I have no fixed ideas.  I certainly hope we don’t all have to sit on clouds singing in chorus with the angels, a possibility that makes even hell at least look interesting by comparison.

I have just read a review of two books, one furiously attacking the idea of God, the other by a scientist about why he is a believing Christian.  I have little difficulty in respecting others’ belief or disbelief.  What I have no patience for, however, is what impresses me as the arrogant righteousness of someone who not only is convinced they have the right answer, but also the right to impose it on everyone else.

The only niggling little worry I have about my own superior brand of tolerance I’m brandishing is that I might be just as intolerant of intolerance as any TV evangelical or imam sending me to hell, or of any furious aethist ranting at the hypocrisy of religion.  As I puzzle over this conundrum, I think the problem is not in having strong convictions, but in whether we appreciate the inevitable narrowness of our individual perspectives.  Opposites are sometimes both true, but we rarely can see how.  We’ve got to live by the lights we each have, but someone with a completely different perspective might actually have a hold on part of the truth as well.  It’s the judging that someone else must be wrong if we are right that seems to be the nub of our intolerance.

May 31, 2007

Dental trauma

Filed under: Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 2:17 pm

Last month I made a dentist appointment for Peter with the dentist who’s been treating him in Kendal where we used to live in the Lake District.  It’s a four-hour drive to get there from our home here in Cambridge, but Peter is – what word can I use that may reflect a little more sensitivity on my part than “phobic”? – perhaps I can say “hesitant to change dentists” after he’d finally submitted to treatment after a self-imposed exile of thirty years.  (I think it is only fair to say in this context that his stories of dental terrorism practiced in the north of England during his childhood may have produced a similar avoidance behavior in almost anyone not suffering from a bad case of masochism.)

Anyway, we made hotel reservations and added an extra day to the trip to have dinner with some friends, with whom we had a lovely visit.  The next day we arrived at the dental surgery an hour early so we walked along the river before going in to announce our presence to the receptionist.  She was a brittle young woman who greeted Peter with a steely “your appointment was thirty minutes ago.  The dentist cannot see you today.”  I screamed as dramatically as I manage dramatic screaming, which is poorly.  This trip had cost us several hundred pounds and two days’ drive, and I had apparently got the time wrong. 

To make a ghastly story short, Peter dragged me from the office saying we had no choice but to go home.  I phoned the receptionist several times that afternoon to see if anyone had cancelled, but she was unyielding and unsympathetic.  Peter clamped his jaw closed so I knew he was seriously upset, but after saying once that I’d first told him the appointment was at 2:30, didn’t produce a tide of recrimination at my stupid carelessness.  I might have felt vaguely better if he had.  Instead, I lay awake rigid most of the night in the pub where we had booked a room, trying to relive the event with a different ending.

I’ve just booked another appointment with the same dentist for next Thursday.  I will phone on Monday to confirm that it is, as I have recorded on my calendar, for 9:30 a.m.  It no longer seems quite so important to convince myself that it was the receptionist who wrote the time of the initial appointment on the wrong line of the dentist’s appointment list, and not I who scribbled “2:30” into my calendar and later misread it as “3:20.”  It is a mercy that some of our mistakes become less important with time. 

May 22, 2007

Learning to drive – again

Filed under: Cataracts: a story,Husband,Just Stuff — theotheri @ 4:05 pm

Since my cataract surgery, I’m seeing things I’ve never seen before.  Like the markings on the birds in our garden, or what my make-up actually looks like to normally-sighted persons.  On the other hand, I’m also seeing that a lot of things need cleaning that looked perfectly all right before.

Driving again has been a bit scary.  My confidence that gradually seeped away as my eyesight deteriorated hasn’t come flooding back with my new vision.  It’s worse when Peter is in the car because he’s still quite jumpy, which makes me a nervous wreck.  I’m concentrating on ignoring him and watching the road.  For his part, Peter is trying to appear outwardly calm.  His confidence in my driving hasn’t come flooding back either, so I guess we’re in this together in a step-by-step process of learning to trust my road-worthiness again.

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