I had this great idea for a book. The name came to me first. Winner, Whiner, Weiner - a book about the three categories of husbands. Then I had an even better idea: Weiner, Whiner, Winner: How to Train your Husband. I told my husband, Joe, about this great idea. Joe said I needed to start back with my blog so I'd have someone to talk to besides him.
Below is what I wrote for you last year, a year that turned out to be a very good one, the year you became a real teacher and earned not only the job you wanted so badly but also the recognition you deserve. In re-reading last year's post, I see that both nothing and everything have changed as you continue on your journey and your itinerary unfolds. I'm very very proud (not to mention relieved) that you've become the woman you were destined to be and I look forward to seeing what comes next. Here's what I said a year ago today:
If I were with you this morning, I’d make blueberry muffins
from a mix and I’d put a birthday candle in yours, worrying as always that the
melting candle just might be carcinogenic, one of many reasons why there
wouldn’t be twenty-eight of them.
People told me a late-in-life child would keep me
young. I’m not sure if that was true for
me with you, but you have certainly kept me going, sometimes from worry,
sometimes from necessity, often from your sheer Mollyness, your quirkiness, your
dark and dorky humor, your carnsarned cussedness.
Through your more than a modicum of spills and struggles,
you’ve managed to come to an understanding of yourself and others that I think
is unusual for someone as young as you.
Although you don’t always trust enough to share this quiet
discernment, at just the right moment, under the right circumstances, you offer up
something so deep and insightful it leaves me slack jawed in wonderment.
love you because you’ve been there, because you ask so
little and offer so much: a sturdy shoulder, a big heart, a from-the-gut
and a thoughtful answer to afraid-to-ask questions. Your sense of
irony comes from your sincere belief that, if it fell apart, it was
because you didn't screw it on tight enough. And, while that may not be
all that healthy for you, it sure makes the rest of us relax a bit.
There’s such a comfort in world-worn you.
worry that, at twenty-eight, you should be further ensconced in
your adult life, more firmly rooted in knowing where you’re going and
when. I’m afraid I feel the same way at sixty-two, so I won’t be much
help in figuring that out. I do believe there’s a road map for your
journey and an itinerary, both of which will come into your sight-line
as you travel your life. What a surprise that your heart’s own true
love turned out to be with kids in high school, the very place that
you in. Talk about courage, and perhaps
a perverse form of payback.
You, my youngest child, share with me a love of reading. In fact, you’re so pitiful and geeky that you
profess the home-made Harry Potter coasters to be the best present you’ve ever
received, and I’m pitiful and geeky enough to believe you. We also now share a profession and a desire to
pass on what little knowledge we have to anyone who will sit long enough to
listen (and especially to those who won’t).
I’ll never forget that your first full-time teaching job came to you at
the same moment I was leaving my final one.
The baton has been passed and the circle is unbroken.
Joe talking to his daughter, Meghan. You can tell by the look on her face that it's something boring.
When I moved to Midtown Atlanta and began teaching
elementary school again eight years ago, the only people I talked to were women and kids.Women and kids are
easy to talk to because they are logical and make sense. Men, on the other hand, aren't and don't.
About six months ago, Joe re-entered my life - an old friend who became my new love. The very good and very bad news is that Joe is a man.
I now remember why it's so difficult to talk to a man. Here are just some of the reasons:
1. Men can't (or refuse to) remember important things. Joe can recall the names of every athlete, author, musician, actor, poet, composer, or protagonist he's ever watched, listened to, or read about in his entire life, but he can’t remember
the names of any of my friends. For example:
Me: “I’m going to call Bonnie.” Joe: “Who?” Me: “You know Bonnie, the one we visited whose husband is the banker.They have the baby named Jasmine.”
Me: “We’re going to visit Portia on the 10th, right?” Joe: “Who?” Me: “Portia, my cousin, the one we are going to visit on the 10th.” So it’s hard to carry on a conversation when I'm always
having to regurgitate everyone’s biography every time I start talking. 2. Men don't gossip (at least not well).
Joe doesn’t know how to gossip.He just doesn’t get the point of it.This is made more difficult since he can’t
remember anyone’s name and I have to provide the back story before I start in
on the juicy stuff.
For example: Me: “Remember Mavis?” Joe: “Who?” Me: “My friend whose brother accidentally set himself on
fire.Well, her other brother, not the
one who set himself on fire, his wife ran off with another man.Mavis is so upset.” Me: “Who?”
3. Men aren't interested in anything interesting.
Joe only speaks in sports or old movie or Bob Dylan
analogies, which are stupid. And when I ask him a sports question just to
pretend I’m interested, he goes on too long, with too many facts, too much analysis, and, before I know it, the commercial break for House Hunters
International is over and I’ve missed out on which house the cute couple chose.
4. Men's sense of humor is different (and less evolved) than that of women.
Joe only knows one joke, the string joke, which is not funny.In spite of that, he doesn’t get my jokes, which are funny, although they are often dirty.
5. Men are not good commiseraters.
When I want to complain about something or someone, Joe
provides a solution.A woman would never do that.She
would just agree with me about what an ass that person who wronged me is. Joe doesn’t understand that I
don’t want to solve the problem, I just want to bitch about it in a friendly and agreeable milieu. I want to be validated, not fixed.
6. Men are literal and without nuanced layers.
The other evening, Joe and I went out to his back patio for an after-dinner drink when he noticed that something had torn the upholstery on his patio chairs. After some brainstorming about what it could have been - a squirrel, a snake, a cat, a dog, a mountain lion (in Coastal Georgia), or an angry neighbor, Joe finally conceded that it just might have been a raccoon since they are known to frequent his neighborhood.
At that point, Joe said, "I wonder if Robert would let me use one of his traps," to which I said, "Now, remind me of who Robert is", hoping that he'd fill me in on some kind of interesting information (if not gossip) about Robert. But alas, Joe's reply was
"He's the guy with the trap." And so, there, in one big ole man-sized nutshell, is why it's so difficult to talk to a man, or least to Joe.* *If you have any commiseration to offer, let me know. Otherwise, keep all solutions to yourself.
Everyone had told us how great Père-Lachaise, the historic cemetery in Paris, was and that we should
visit, as everybody who was anybody is buried there. Jim Morrison, Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Sarah Burnhardt, and both Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas are
just some of the more famous dead people living there.
Joe and I had been in Paris
for just a few days and were still figuring out the metro system, but it seemed
that the cemetery was an easy enough walk so that’s what we did. We arrived in the midst of a dappling morning
that would soon give way to a warm day.
As is typical of us, we entered through the closest, albeit perhaps not best, entrance
and just started wandering around.
Oh my God!! There are
a lot of people buried in Père-Lachaise!
Some in grand tombs, others under slabs, all packed in tighter than the
rush-hour metro traffic we were still getting used to. We found a couple of famous graves, but
overall, we just stumbled around, growing hotter and hotter and more
exasperated. The other back-door meanderers seemed
just as lost as we were. Joe would ask
them in French if they knew where the heck we (and they) were, but their answers were
typically a sad “Non.”
At some point, we decided to give up for the day and do
some research and come back. We were hot
and our feet hurt.
But just as we tried to figure
out how to exit the labyrinth that was Père-Lachaise, out of a small grove of
trees appeared what seemed to me to be a wood nymph of some kind. It was wearing a black shirt and trousers
with dark curls encircling its head. I
had thought our wood nymph was female until I noticed the male pattern bald spot peeking out
of her curls. He introduced himself as
Raphael and then said, rather than asked, in quite good English, that we were looking for
Jim Morrison, which, of course, obviously being Americans, we were. I thought it was so sweet of this petite Parisian to
take time out of his day to show us that iconic American tourist destination.
Before we knew it, we were following Raphael all over
Père-Lachaise. Boy, was that rascal
fast! At some point, Joe and I whispered
to each other that we were going to have to pay this guy, but we tacitly agreed, whatever it was, it would most likely be worth it.
Not only did Raphael know his way around, he knew the shortcuts and he
knew stories about the most famous of inhabitants. He knew who died of what (often something
messy or scandalous), he knew how many dead-people layers were allowed and who would have to be dug up after 99 years so
others could be buried, and who was famous enough to stay forever. He was bossy and sometimes just on the edge
of boorish, but he was always interesting and entertaining. He told us that he wanted to be cremated when he died, or "barbecued" as he put it, and said that those who were dug up for others to be buried were typically "barbecued" at the end.
One of the most interesting of Père-Lachaise stories was that of Victor Noir, a journalist killed by Pierre Napoleon Bonaparte in a dispute over a duel. It wasn't his death so much as his tomb, which is notable for the realistic portrayal of the dead Noir, that makes him, according to Raphael, the most visited of all Père-Lachaise dead people. And the photo that Raphael bullied us into posing for and which embarrasses Joe just a tad, became my absolute favorite of our whole Paris trip. I'll leave finding out the entire story of why Victor Noir is such a hit with cemetery visitors up to your own investigative resources (as in, how fast can you google Victor Noir?) but I can tell you that my right hand in the picture is placed (under Raphael's assertive instruction) just where you think it is.
Apologies to Joe Guiendon for including this great picture!
Finally, after lots of stories, a few yarns, and, most likely some outright lies, Raphael was spent and so were we. Joe shook Raphael's hand and thanked him, asking how much we owed him. Raphael responded with something about how our enjoyment was all that mattered to him. But when Joe pulled a twenty out of his pocket, that scamp, Raphael, intoned with "More." When we laughed at his cute retort, Raphael responded again, this time with, "No, really. More." At that point, I pulled my own twenty out of my purse, which led to a couple of "Mercis", several "Adeux", and quite a few cheek kisses.
Joe and I agree that meeting Raphael and his "friends" at Père-Lachaise was well worth the forty euros we were coerced into spending, especially since our intrepid huckster guide also showed us how to exit the cemetery. Otherwise, we might still be wandering around in there somewhere.
We knew it wouldn’t be easy.
Sixteen hundred miles, a rehearsal dinner, and a wedding, all in three days. Traveling
in a rented minivan with two children, one six and one three. Three drivers, one half-blindish.
But it was totally worth it.
We drove, we laughed, we argued, we cried, we danced, we celebrated, we remembered. We
sunned and swam and made sand castles.
We were late. Once we were somehow early. We lost things and found them. We sang in the car. We ate and drank and loved each other in
spite of ourselves.
The wedding was beautiful as was the bride, my recently-lost
brother’s youngest. Also beautiful was the officiant, his oldest, already vigorously pedigreed, just ordained
online. And, of course, their mother,
who is always gorgeous and impeccable.
I couldn’t help but
wonder if the bride's choice not to walk down the aisle was an homage to her
father, who would have given anything to be there.
Now that the miles and the "Are we in Delaware yet?"s are behind us and the expenses are safely ensconsed on my credit card for future consideration, I'm so glad my daughter and her family and I were able to attend my niece's wedding in Bethany Beach, Delaware, especially now that my brother, who was the tether that attached me to this part of my family, is gone. My nieces and I share DNA and they and their mother and I have memories in common, all of them involving a man we loved so deeply.
We made some new memories this past weekend, and, as always, my brother was right there.
The Bride, the Groom, her Mother, and Sister
My Daughter and Me
Georgia and Miles letting off steam during a break.
Neither Joe nor I can cook, although he can grill up a mean
steak in his back yard or even in his kitchen with George Forman at the ready. However, at some point after we started hanging out, we decided
we needed something to go with the steak, so our first foray was into the realm of the baked potato.
Now, I know how to cook a baked potato as I eat them all the time. However, I believe God would never
have invented the microwave if He’d not wanted people to “bake” their potatoes in
one of them.
Joe disagreed, being the Yankee purist he is. He said we needed to bake our baked
potatoes. That’s when the degrees
argument ensued. He said 400 for an
hour. I said 350 (because basically 350
is my setting of choice for all cooking).
I won and what we won was a rash of rawish potatoes after an hour. Joe was smug and said he told me so but I
just put the potatoes in the microwave for a few minutes and that way I won
Next we tried quiche because Joe is a Francophile, plus I
guess he feels manly enough to withstand any aspersive remarks toward said
manliness based not only on his quiche eating but also his quiche cooking. The quiche was good and we ate it for the
next three weeks.
Next, we decided to take a cooking class. Again, because Joe thinks he’s French, we
chose the Spring in Paris Hands-On Class at the Cooks Warehouse in Decatur. It started at 6:30, which is not only late
for me to cook or eat, it’s also past my bedtime. However, I womaned up and we
set out for the class (after stopping by Taco Mac so Joe could get his free
beer glass because it was Free Beer Glass Night).
Our class consistedof 12 participants in two groups, a bevy of
sweet volunteers, and Chef John Wilson, who was not only not French, he was also
a bit of an ass. Our group had Joe and
me, an adorable mid-20s couple who were just moving in together, a woman who
was a history professor at Agnes Scott, and another woman who just liked to
Chef John yelled a lot, although I don't entirely blame him. He had an ambitious menu and 12 morons in the kitchen, people who couldn't follow directions very well. The menu consisted of:
Three Cheese Spread with Olive Oil
Corn, Tomato, and Basil Individual Souffles
Green Beans with Bacon and Mushrooms
Pan Seared Sea Scallops with Beurre Blanc Sauce
Chef John was an equal opportunity yeller and we all caught some of his wrath; however, I was the only one he told to step away from the stove and to "go stand over there." Somehow, though, having John abuse us only brought our group together in that weird common foe way. And the class was really fun, although I think we should wait until after our instructor retires and opens that bed and breakfast he's planning before we show up for another one.
Since the class, we haven't used anything we learned, although Joe spent about thirty bucks on a Madeleine pan and a lemon zester. We did cook a pot roast (at 350) in 80 degree weather a few weeks ago. It took us all day but tasted good and certainly warmed our bones. We still go to the Waffle House for breakfast most days and supper is often a bag of Lay's Salt and Vinegar potato chips.
I can't remember the temperature for baking Madeleines. I wonder what Chef John would say if I were to tell him I just cook them in the microwave.
In one of my crazy books written years ago, I talked about
how tacky is was for someone named MeeMaw to have a boyfriend, meaning that
a geezer woman needed to either hang in with the old fart she married when he
was still young and cute or to be happy in her MeeMaw status, sporting roll-down
stockings and keeping the cookie jar full.
And when I became a grandmother myself I fully subscribed to
my earlier stand, although I can't bake and I don't own a cookie jar.I even wrote a blog
post about how lacking I was in any interest in the romantic arts.(See That Dog Still Hunts)
Until now.I’m here
now to tell the world that MeeMaw (in my case, Grammy, me, Marcia) has a
boyfriend and his name is Joe.
Joe was my boss twenty years ago and his wife, Mary, was my
friend.When Joe’s beloved Mary and my
adored brother, Sandy,
died within just a few days of each other, we were both left wondering if that
was it for us.Would the rest of our
lives be spent in lonely waiting for our own sad ends?
Enter Facebook, that newfangled arena for reuniting old
people, and the rest is our own personal history.We have liked and loved and lived and laughed
and yes, lusted (sorry kids) in a powerful way, and I have to take backmost everything I said about sex in our later years.What we lack in prowess is made up for with some wisdom and great humor.
So now, we are trying to figure out how to make it work, to love each other
while still taking care of our children and grandchildren, to balance the me
and you with the us, to look forward to the years we have and to prepare for the
time we don’t have.
We feel very lucky to have (re)found each other at what might have been considered too late a date. Lucky and happy.