I have been married 37 years to the same woman and over those 37 years I’ve gone from a very healthy and active male to a 58 year old man facing his 12th spine surgery to fix an old Army injury who also has bleeding ulcers that flare up too much, just found out he has PTSD, again, from the service, walks with a cane, walker or wheelchair depending on how the spine/legs are acting and has been told he likely won’t make it far into his 60’s.
How does my wife treat me? Like I am the man she married.
In all those intervening years we have stood side by side during it all and in all the time we had our kids with us (1 girl, 1 boy) they heard us raise our voices once and that was when my wife got mad at me for overdoing it after a surgery.
I was hurt when I was 19 and told her EXACTLY what might happen in the years to come yet she still married me and I truly believe she still respects me. I don’t know what I did to deserve God giving me the courage to walk into that little record shop and talk to her but believe me, I will be on my knees thanking Him when my time comes.
We were married while I was at university and all I had was one pair of jeans, a frying pan, a couple of plates and a stereo system. Listening to music has always helped me when the pain comes. I never let the VA treat me after I finally got out of the hospital that last time. I went in at my normal, very fit weight (6 pack and all) of around 190 and came out at 142. Now you see what she had to look through to see the real me. And yes, the day I walked in, I was using my cane.
I spent over 40 years working as a programmer, analyst and manager and various combinations and believe me, with the influx of foreign labor into that field, it was really hard to keep a job those last 15 years or so when they could offer themselves for $25 an hour, benefits included and we had to get at least a living wage; besides, I PROVED I could outwork 5 of them and 99% of the time wound up training them because they simply did not have the advertised skills on their resumes.
Yes, I am leading up to something else she saw me through. By 2011 I had been working from home for over 6 years, my weight was up, my health was deteriorating and someone other than God put me in the path of a so-called pain physician who had me taking the same level of drugs they give to end-stage cancer patients just so they can go in peace. I was working anywhere from 60-80 hours a week (on record) non stop in 2011 because they kept getting rid of American workers, adding cheap offshore labor who did not know their jobs and telling us either to get the work done or they would simply replace us. I really wanted to work until I was 62. Let’s see, I was what, 54 in 2011? I am a mathematician also but I cannot ever remember whether to add or subtract one to get the right age.
I could have gone 100% disabled decades ago but both of us were raised up in dirt poor but proud families where you were taught to give it 100%. When she decided to stay home with our little girl after a terrible incident with a so called “grandmotherly” sitter, we simply shifted our savings a bit and never blinked. We are a team. When the kids came, they became part of the team and we tried so hard to pass on what we knew to them, especially how it can be between a man and a woman in a marriage. They also had great examples from my wife’s 10 other brothers and sisters and their marriages and their kids’ marriages. I am sure you get the picture. And at the center of it all is Mom. My wife’s mother who took me in as one of her own and I will never be able to repay her for that.
I did not mean for this to be so long but your column echoed what my wife and I have been talking about on trips to and from the various doctors that keep me moving; what in the world has happened to the American male and in particular, fathers. Let’s be honest as you do in your column, there is plenty of blame to heap on the male side. I often think that perhaps since we have moved so very fast technologically that we ignored many of the impacts on society in general, not just from technology but from things permitted by technology such as mass migrations of peoples and let’s face it, cultures. I just don’t think we were ready for all this change when there is so little education in so many places but I digress.
Now look at what technology has wrought in our own society. I simply cannot believe that just a bit over 40 years ago I stood toe to toe with a professor who essentially went insane on me when I pointed out the basic fallacies behind Marx’s work. Instead of arguing against my points, he tried to use volume and in a way that is what has happened to males in almost everything you see them doing in television shows or even movies. I am sitting here trying to think of a feel good movie where the guy was the “hero” in the past 5 years. Captain America maybe comes close but it is a comic come to the big screen and therefore not real so it is to be ignored.
Even my wife’s Hallmark Channel movies have taken a turn where it seems to always be the woman who toughs it out on her own, no man needed and everything turns out fine in the end. Yes, it can happen but it is so much easier when you have that extra pair of loving hands to help with the kids or whatever. Besides all that, we are at heart a social animal. If you are a Believer, which I confess I am and I hope that does not offend but I simply state it, I will not preach to people, then we were made from the Beginning to be a pair. I know that section about the man leading the household gives many women and all Feminists stomach problems an to be honest, I don’t fully understand it myself but I read the New Testament and I pretty much stay there. I keep the Commandments, yes but the bulk of my reading is New, not Old. Besides, we split it up about who is going to be boss. I have a math degree so guess who got to teach the kids math? She can keep a checkbook which mystifies me though I can write applications that have literally hundreds of thousands of lines of code in them and keep the majority in my head so guess who does our family bookkeeping? The thing is that you share and you trust each other enough to be able to open up and ask for help when needed. That’s a real partnership.
Unfortunately for us, our partnership may come to a real test and possible end this coming Friday. If they have issues or if I stroke out on them or have a heart attack and there is a lot of brain damage it means a respirator and I have made sure that my wife, with her understanding and blessing, my surgeon and our kids understand that I will not live on a respirator. I have given it a good fight. I deserve the right to die with some dignity. All I want is that one last kiss and goodbye then they can give me some pain killers and let her turn off the machine. That is the ultimate in teamwork as it shows just how much we trust and believe and love each other.
Thanks for an important column,
In a subsequent email, Richard added: "If only you knew her or her Mother you’d understand why my words pale when trying to describe the real people. You know, I had always heard that there is a soul mate out there for you. I know it to be the absolute truth now."