Saturday, September 6, 2008

Carrot Cruncher, Joe

Last night found me out at Hopworks with a group of witty, wonderful moms. We were there to spend time together, to eat, drink and be merry, and found ourselves dishing about our families and, of course, our husbands.

Husbands are funny things. They are smart enough to keep our finances afloat, yet occasionally do something pretty lamebrained. They are sensitive enough that we chose them, and then sometimes we wonder "How can you not hear the kid crying?!". I could give a slew of examples, but suffice it to say, so it goes.

They probably think they get the short end of the stick with us as well. It used to be "How was your day, honey?"; now a more likely greeting is "I'm in here cooking dinner. Can you change his diaper?". Not to mention the whole boob thing: the baby has a backstage pass and daddy has nosebleed seats. I'm sure it's not what he bargained for, but a lot of guys don't complain.

So, I got a bit carried away last night, sharing all those funny little "I can't believe he..." that we ladies like to exchange. Only, when I got home, I began to wonder if I wasn't working up material for my latest one-woman show What a Bitch,(and So Am I). I went to bed thinking a little equal time balance was in order, so that a more realistic picture is drawn.

Joe is pretty darn wonderful, I have to admit. Even when I'm not entirely happy about the state of the house or how long he takes in the bathroom to get out the door (far longer than I do), I have to hand it to him. He is a loving father, a dependable and caring partner, and it's largely due to him that my life is as stable and secure as it is.

I'm not just talking about money here. I mean, it's a blessing to have a solid, leak-free roof over one's head and food in the fridge. But it's so much more than that. He's been willing to listen when I mulled aloud my frustration at being soley focused on the inanely boring tasks of motherhood, and a great sounding board as I began to craft some goals for the next few years. He's always willing to lend an ear and a hand when I need to vent about a particularly difficult day or when Joaquin needs more than I have left to give. Joe jumps in, even after his own hard day at work.

He's also been there for me the way only a best friend could be. My family is not the easiest one to understand, or live in, and without writing a (long, sad, terribly depressing but somewhat hopeful) book on the subject, suffice it to say, there are a lot of guys who would have said "Shuddup already, wouldya?". And yet, he is always willing to listen and to give me feedback, to be angry with me or hold me.

We all have our highs and lows, and lately, I've been traveling through a real valley. I feel like apologizing to all my friends: I know I'm not myself. It's hard to be in the moment and really enjoying life on some days because of some temporary, difficult distractions. It's a challenge to want to give of myself when I feel like I need more support than I have.

And Joe can't do it all, but he very patiently does what he can. And we put our feet forward and take it a step at a time. And what needs to get done eventually does get done.

When Joe and I first got together, we went to a park, hopeful with the idea of flying kites. It was a beautiful summer day and there was no wind. I don't think we cared in the least. Instead we sat and read poetry, walked through the shady spots of the park and picked blackberries, and talked a bit about ourselves and our families. I still remember something he said that sticks with me even to this day: "All I can do is be the best person that I can be."

That's truly his motto. He tries. He tries really hard. The man I fell in love with could keep up with his garden, worked on his house, had just tried out kiteboarding, and had a hopeful spirit. He even went to see his a favorite band on 9/11, a few days before we started dating. I was surprised, but he said that when bad things happened, we needed to celebrate life even more. That we couldn't let the people who do bad things get us down.

Three years later, we celebrated our love with a handfast ceremony in our backyard. It was our wedding. We exchanged bands, vows, and I took the carrot cruncher, gardener of food and words and my heart, as my partner. He took my hand and has never really let it go.

Things have changed. The excitement of kiteboarding has been replaced by quieter ventures like working on cribbage boards and the thrill of restoring old neglected boards to some of their former beauty. We haven't been able to keep up the garden at all this year. The kitchen, however, just got a new floor, and his spirit is still hopeful. We strive for balance; he's taken on more parenting and I'm starting to live beyond the pull of a baby's need for his mama. I'm grateful that he's into this for the long haul and feel anchored and buoyed at the same time. It's a nice feeling.

I love this guy, Carrot Cruncher Joe, farmer of my heart's dirt.

And now he and the kiddo are home. Time to go make lunch for the man I love.

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