I don’t think Eric and my eyes have ever met in one of those soppy, romantic looks couples give each other over a puddle of vomit before. Yesterday, however, they did.
We’ve been battling a nasty, slow moving stomach virus at our house (four down, four still to go ;-P), and one of the children threw up rather spectacularly all over their bed, the rug and (especially helpful) a gigantic pile of library books (I guess we now own a smelly $50 copy of the illustrated Silmarillion. Yay.) I walked in on the scene, yelled for husbandly help, and he set to the rug while I faced the library books. It was unbelievably gross. It stank. It was part of parenting, and well, oddly funny. Somewhere in the middle, we looked at each other and all I could think was “Well, there’s no one I’d rather be doing this with.”
In half an hour the room was repaired, the victim tucked into bed with ginger tea, the smell aired out and we were laughing again, and I said to him “There’s no one I’d rather clean up puke with.” I think he thought it was romantic. I hope.
Buying gifts freaks my husband out. He is famously awful at it. One year he realized he didn’t have a birthday gift for me, and so stopped at the only remotely plausible gift-purchasing spot on the trip home, and provided the gift…complete with the “final price reduction” orange sticker on his panicked choice. For my 39th birthday (a year and half gone) he recently ordered my gift. He still hasn’t bought me anything for forty (in August). For HIS forty-third birthday I have promised him I’ll give him the gift of just telling him what I want from now on, but he’d probably also prefer I just order it myself.
Love poetry is not his forte. He doesn’t write romantic cards, he doesn’t buy or pick flowers, and the only valentine’s gift I have ever received from him was off-price chocolate bought the day after the holiday. Not being a big fan of V-day myself, I don’t care, but I have occasionally teased him about the gift thing, or other romantic failures.
But in 12 1/2 years of parenting, I’ve never changed a diaper when Eric was around to do it for me. The garbage magically goes away somewhere, and I don’t have to take it out. When spring comes around and the gigantic-mega barn cleaning comes, I trot out with my shovel and am often told “No, it is ok, I don’t mind doing it.” When I was knocked down for two days last week by the same stomach virus, moaning and wishing for death, Eric took over tending five children, cooking and cleaning, and the tending of the farm and it all went smoothly on without me (we also had the kind help of Phil-the-housemate here, which was invaluable), while cups of tea appeared like magic when I asked.
Despite the fact that Eric does not like change, and generally views anything different in the hobbitish “nasty, messy things that make you late for dinner” way, he has accompanied me through crazy journeys of change – from dating to marriage, marriage to parenthood, several moves, low energy life on a farm, and finally into foster parenting where your family structure changes when the phone rings. He did it for me, initially, and then he learned to like it.
Which is why I felt unaccountably soppy while we cleaned up the horrors in the boys’ room yesterday morning. He hasn’t had the stomach virus yet – we’re both hoping he misses it, but he probably won’t. He’d never, however, suggest I should do the cleaning alone just to avoid him getting sick (which in retrospect, I probably should have done, but it didn’t occur to me at the time).
He feels guilty about the presents sometimes, and thinks I must wish for a romantic husband. I do tease him about it, but I’m only teasing, because I wouldn’t trade the gifts he does give me for anything in the world. Not anything.