Sunday, April 25, 2010

Do You Love Me Enough? 2

Do You Love Me Enough? 2

“They’re up to something.” Who said it they couldn’t remember, they were too busy scrambling through the house in search of the boys. On discovering the back door open they then understood that Clay was tall enough to reach a formerly unreachable handle. Jill also understood the heart and gut wrenching sensation when a mother suspects her children may be in danger. Mac figured they’d be playing in the yard somewhere.

Both parents moved toward the gate that led to the front of the house. If it had been open…

Just by the gate was the sand box that Mac had thrown together with his primitive wood working skills. It was just a rudimentary box on legs, made from salvaged lumber after the builders had finished their house, so that the boys could stand and play with their trucks and diggers in the sand.

Clay and Harrison were there. Clay was clearly in control of the game. He had Harrison standing face down in the sand and had built ramps of sand up the side of his face so that toy cars could be driven over the now sandy head of his little brother. Harrison stood upright when he heard the muffled sound of his parents’ laughter. His ears were filled with sand. His little eyes blinked away the gobs of tear stained sand and his tongue worked hard to expel as much of it as possible from his mouth. Diaper changing for days after was a terrible task but the event was always viewed with such hilarity. Afternoons were like that.

But not of late. Not today.

She sat on the love seat, he on the sofa at right angles to her. This was good, Mac thought, no direct face to face contact. Conversation began again about her arrangements for going back to Australia, how it fitted in with what was “best for them all”, and how the boys really did need them back 'home.' Screaming out inside, but this is home, Mac remained calm on the exterior, like a white washed wall against a thunderous sky. Then it came. The question.

"Do you love me enough to come back to Australia when it's time?" Her voice seemed to come from somewhere else. Mac wondered for a moment about Jill’s question.

His first thought was that it came from her insecurity, from that place in her that never seemed to get enough of the love that she craved. It hadn’t mattered that Mac diligently said he loved her at least three times every day. He never left the house without kissing her goodbye, never came home without kissing her again, always said goodnight with a kiss, and each occasion was accompanied by the words, “I love you”. It didn’t matter that they held hands just about every time they went walking together or sat with arms around and draped on each other when they sat in church or watched a movie or shared a sofa at the home of friends. No, she always looked for more affirmation than all that and so she had asked often before whether he loved her or not. But this time was different. The question was marked with an addend, an appendix, a suffix of sorts.

Next his thoughts went toward her tendency to want to control a conversation and thereby the situation. It could have been her way of collecting evidence to be used later. If he answered yes then she could later recall “But you said…” He’d lost many arguments before with that kind of trap. Mac didn’t want to fall into her snare again but at the same time he knew he needed to be truthful.

Mac decided in an instant that it didn’t matter what Jill’s motivation was although he suspected he knew the question’s point of origin. He heard himself answer.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Do You Love Me Enough? 1

Mac and Jill had sat like this countless times in their marriage. At the end of the work day they had always enjoyed the time together finding out how their days had run, their achievements, frustrations. Times past had been happier though, more joyful.

Some sixteen years prior to this had been one such afternoon. Mac arrived at their home in Gawler after taking the forty-five minute commute from his school in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. He carefully opened the front door as always because Harrison had the precarious habit of waiting right behind the door for his father to arrive. Harrison, it was recognized, was Daddy’s boy. Jill often joked that the boy even from the early days of mobility could hear the Isuzu Gemini that Mac drove change down gears as it was steered into the neighborhood. Enthusiasm belonged to Harrison as he crawled up behind the door that he knew his dad would soon enter.

Even now as a toddler he still hadn’t figured out it wasn’t safe to stand right behind the door. Mac cautiously opened the door and swept Harrison into his arms. Hugs and kisses. Kind words from Dad. Appreciative kisses on Dad’s cheek. That was the happy routine.

Jill had already had the kettle boiled. She was after all attuned to her younger son’s movements and recognized his shift toward the door. The coffee was hot, made in no time and Mac and Jill took their places in the living room together. Harrison had probably found his older brother by now somewhere in the house.

As they sat and talked Mac realized how much he enjoyed talking with her. Being in a room with twenty-four ten year olds all day wasn’t the same as talking with his wife. Mac liked hearing her talk and tried to remember to ask her how her day was before he shared.

Jill thought at times like this how much she looked forward to his homecoming each day. Perhaps had she been younger and could get away with it she’d toddle to the door like Harrison and wait. It was no fun for her being stuck out in the almost God forsaken place with just her two infant sons all day. It was nice to have an adult to talk to again even if it was about children, eating, and diapers. She’d listen to Mac as he unloaded about his day, too. (KEEP or DELETE or MOVE: There were times Jill would bring it up in conversation at dinner with friends and family that Mac tended to dominate their time together by unloading his emotional baggage he got from work.)

They didn’t realize, even later, who noticed first that the boys were awfully quiet. Jill thought that this was the first time that she’d been able to sit with Mac for longer than five minutes before either of them had to get up to attend to one or both of the boys.

“They’re up to something.” Who said it they couldn’t remember, they were too busy scrambling through the house in search of the boys. On discovering the back door open they then understood that Clay was tall enough to reach a formerly unreachable handle. Jill also understood the heart and gut wrenching sensation when a mother suspects her children may be in danger. Mac figured they’d be playing in the yard somewhere.

Both parents moved toward the gate that led to the front of the house.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Airport 4

The short drive home from the airport had his head swinging two directions. It wanted to weep over Harrison’s departure but the relief from Jill being no longer around was so great it overrode any hope of tears. Mac got home and cleaned the house.

He started in the kitchen where he rearranged the contents in the pantry so it was easier for him to see and grab oft used things. Jill had her kitchen arranged just the way she wanted. He didn’t have to think of it as her kitchen anymore.

Funny thing that. When they first got married Mac would help out in the kitchen often; food preparation, cooking, washing up, and so on. He’d take the time to prepare an amazing spinach pie every week and it was often the case that when they had guests Mac would be the one to produce the desserts like Pavlova, a cheesecake, or a chocolate something. But Jill always called it her kitchen – not their kitchen – and as time went by Mac got more and more the impression that she believed her own publicity in this regard.

Jill had always had her way of doing things but Mac didn’t see how it was necessary for her to tell him how to peel potatoes, or cut carrots, or how to wash a plate. But that was what she did and he just went along with it. She overlooked the fact that he had been doing it since he was a little boy when Shirley had left and he found himself as the family’s chief cook and bottle washer.

At various stages of their marriage Mac had tried to tell Jill that he knew how to do things in the kitchen but she went on regardless. Mac giggled quietly to himself one day when Jill was telling Harrison how to wash lettuce and Harrison said, “Mum, you can tell me what to do, or how to do it, but not both.” Jill had called out to Mac to come and deal with his son but Mac pretended he hadn’t heard the conversation.

The sad thing was that over time they had spent less and less time in the kitchen doing things together. Quite a contrast to when they were first sharing a house. Back then they had often delighted in acting on the quote they’d heard from some marriage expert that sex begins in the kitchen. They’d tried that out plenty of times initially but eventually that came to an end too as Mac found it easier to avoid the kitchen than tolerate Jill’s bossiness.

Later, on one of his Thursday evening suppers with his good friends, Joy and Carey, Mac shared this story and Carey laughed heartily. He then related to Mac a time when Mac and Jill had been over at their house and Carey was preparing a stir-fry for them to share. Jill couldn’t resist and had proceeded to tell Carey exactly how he ought to cut his vegetables.

Eventually the hostilities between Jill and Mac had grown to a quiet smolder and when she had recently begun to tell him how she wanted the sink cleaned down he put down the cleaning sponge and spray bottle, took off the rubber gloves and said, “I know how to clean a sink, but you can do it your way yourself.” He left the kitchen and headed to the patio with a beer in his hand.

“No need to act like a victim,” she called after him. Mac’s skills at ignoring her were getting better. He knew this because he smiled.

Now as he cleaned out the pantry he wondered if she’d like her four bottles of Paprika and two boxes of cornstarch. He kept the freshest of everything and threw the rest into the trash. And when the kitchen was cleaned and reorganized into ‘his’ kitchen he moved on through the remainder of the house. Mac scrubbed the bathrooms, polished the woodwork, and dusted down the sills. He even vacuumed the carpets although he strongly suspected that the cheap vacuum cleaner they had picked up at a discount store had never done anything other than noisily push the carpet pile around.

Mac went to sleep that night and slept the sleep of the weary and had escaped the need to think about where his emotions were. He had crawled into bed around 2am and knew he would have to be up in time to get to work. The only thing he had in the back of his mind as he drifted off to la-la land was that he hadn’t looked in Jill’s walk-in closet. He was pretty sure there were plenty of things in there that he’d have to deal with but he decided that three hours sleep would barely be enough to be sane the following day and he could leave the closet door closed until he was ready to sort things out.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Airport 3

Harrison didn’t turn back, true to himself, although Mac longed for one more look into his eyes or a glimpse of his smile. Instead he found himself face to face with Jill.

Mac had already found the card she had left for him on the dresser at home. In it she had implored him to come back home to Australia and be ready to give her his whole heart. He knew he couldn’t do that. She hadn’t given her whole heart to him. Talk about hypocrite. She had already ripped his heart from him and discarded it. Right now he had to get through this goodbye thing and get her onto the plane. Then he could go home and start to work on preparing for his imminent return to Australia in eight months time as per the plan that Jill had initiated and to which he had given complicit acceptance.

They hugged, kissed, tried to make it meaningful. Jill picked up her hand luggage and moved to follow Harrison who was already out of sight and probably putting his shoes and belt back on at the other side of the security checks. Unlike Harrison though, Jill turned back.

“You can always come home earlier than we’ve planned.”

The comment infuriated Mac. It was her typical style; have the last word, make sure you’ve covered all bases. Mac discovered later in conversation with some of his friends that Jill had told them that there had been conversations about Mac returning earlier than the end of the school year. No there hadn’t. That one line as she departed was her version of the conversation. True to her controlling communicative habit she turned away before Mac could respond. Mac nodded his head upward, as the locals do when they wanted to give a noncommittal recognition to someone or to something that had been said. Jill didn’t see as she was already on her way having said what she needed to say.

Mac had anticipated something other than what he felt. He was certain that twenty-three years of marriage would contribute to a certain degree of sadness, disappointment, broken heartedness. Nope. Nothing. Nothing but a gigantic wave of relief crashed over him at that moment. She was gone and he didn’t have to see her again for eight months. He didn’t have to hear her on a daily basis for eight months. He didn’t have to touch her.

He knew there was something wrong with this picture but he realized that at this point there was no sense of loss in him and in the days and months ahead there would be benefit on benefit; gain on gain added to him because of Jill’s absence.