It's that day on Facebook when many of my friends post pictures of their Valentine Day gifts and share all that their significant others have done in the past year to inspire deep emotion.
Well, I could tell you a lot about Joe's activities that have inspired great emotion, the most recent being when I woke up in the middle of the night and he wasn't in our motel room. I went out into the hall and someone who worked at the motel told me that he was in another room down the hall. I was confused, not really understanding why he would be in there instead of our room. I thought there must be some mistake…but no. When I opened the door, he was there, in bed, and a woman I didn't know was standing by the window. I said to him, "Are you serious? You cheated on me??" He didn't answer, just stayed in bed, looking at me with a stupid grin on his face. Yeah, pretty clear that he had cheated on me. Let me tell you, when I woke up, I was pretty mad at him.
"I had a dream that you cheated on me!"
"It was a dream!"
"But it seemed very real to me. I need you to apologize."
"No. I don't apologize for the stuff you dream up."
Carly Simon once sang, "It's the stuff that dreams are made of…"
Confession: I've been having a lot of crazy premenopausal dreams. A few nights later, I came to a kind of REM resolve about his cheating and subsequent refusal to apologize. The next morning, I warned him, "Don't ever cheat on me again because last night, I learned that I will kill you." He wanted to know more. Then he actually wanted me to apologize for killing him!
I told him, "No. I don't apologize for the stuff I dream up."
My Joe is a great man. Who else would put up with my nonsense? Still, that's not what I tell him. I tell him things like, "You would be bored without me," and he always parrots back (although sometimes in a longsuffering tone) "Yes, I would be bored without you."
Tonight, on Valentine's Day, we are staying home. Joe is out right now picking up Chinese food for the family and I'm looking forward to "the same old conversation with the same old guy" I've "known for years." We'll talk around the chatter of kids who are growing up way too fast. To me, this is the stuff that dreams are made of. We have been enjoying exactly what we dreamed of having so many years ago. I don't want anything different. I only want this dream and the one who dreamed it with me. There isn't anyone else who could understand how happy these kids make my heart. Only Joe, who rolls himself out of bed every morning to provide for us. Only Joe, who likes to hold my hand when we take a walk in the evening. Only Joe, who would only cheat in someone else's crazy, premenopausal dream…
Maybe you've passed my husband in his old pickup, on the freeway on his way to work. You may have noticed him chugging along at 55mph trying to save a little gas. If you did, you may not have known what an amazing man he is...that he has held our family together when I have fallen apart, and that I have had the security of knowing that the word "leave" is not in his vocabulary.
Maybe you've seen my husband in the grocery store. You may have noticed his old flannel shirt and dirty work clothes. If you did, you may not have known that you were seeing a man whose children, ages 21, 17, and 12, have never gone through a stage when they didn't want to hug their dad when he came home from work. No one has ever told them to give him a hug. They started doing it when they learned to walk and they just never stopped.
Maybe you've walked by my husband on the street. You may have noticed that his clothes were worn. If you did, you may not have realized that you were looking at one of the most unselfish men I have ever met, a man who puts everyone's needs above his own. He is a servant of his family and friends. Around 10 pm every evening, he starts nodding off in his seat on the couch; I always wake him up and ask if he wants to go to bed. He always says no, and tries in vain to stay awake. One time I asked why he didn't just go to bed when he was clearly so tired. He looked around at the kids and said, "I don't want to miss out on anything."
I'm not saying that he's a saint. After all, he never did apologize for cheating on me. Still, we are happy most days just staying home and enjoying our kids. This thought reminds me of the song played at our wedding: "Come with me, my sweet, let's go make a family and they will bring us joy for always." We just want to savor every day they're still living at home, to relish these moments before they leave the nest. At this point in life, we just like to listen to our kids. They talk to each other while Joe and I exchange looks with each other, remembering so many different moments; their words trigger our memory banks and we see the past alongside the present. The connections are almost constant…we've talked about how we hear echoes of their childhood voices mingled into their young adult conversations. Oh, where has the time gone? There was that one day that one of us said, "Let's have a baby." A few weeks later, that dream materialized into a living room filled with little kids and Joe was reluctant to leave the house to go to work, feeling like he was missing out on the fun. How much time has passed since then…a few months? And now he is fighting to stay awake so he doesn't miss out on anything as they discuss college and other plans. Everything has changed and yet nothing has changed. Some things have stayed constant because some people are constant, like the man who rolls out of bed every morning to go to work and the kids who still like to hug him at the end of the day. In every conversation, the past and the present converge in glances of shared recollections with the same old guy I've known for years. What good stuff we've dreamed up.