Last weekend Krista and I had arranged to have a little “date,” dinner alone for a couple of hours so we could catch up a bit with each other, eat a meal unencumbered by the typical behavioral and verbal detritus that comes with sharing space with three children aged 13, 12, and almost 11.
We are in that season of life, and that season of the year, when simply marshalling enough energy and organization skills to get through each 24-hour period of schooling, chores, extracurricular activities (the kids’ AND ours) and…what am I forgetting??—oh, yeah, our paying jobs—is a hefty challenge. We decided we needed time to look at each other face-to-face and chat.
“Aahhh,” I thought to myself with quiet satisfaction as I discarded my sweaty, dirty clothes and replaced them with a clean pair of shorts and sport shirt, readying for our date. I had just spent a couple of hours playing tennis in the oppressive heat, sun, and humidity, and was lustily anticipating soon paying homage to my spouse and to Willis Carrier’s groundbreaking invention—mechanized cool air. “A nice meal in an air-conditioned restaurant. No interruptions. No table to set or clear, no food to prepare, no dishes to clean. My brilliant and beautiful wife to communicate with!! Only a fool would ask for more!” Krista arrived in the bedroom a moment later. My gorgeous partner! My soul mate! The yin to my yang (or is it the other way around?)! The peas to my carrots! Etcetera.
“Hey, Tim—how about picking up some food and taking it to the park?” she asked with an unusual level of perkiness. “We could talk, watch people go by? Maybe there’s a concert going on at the bandshell we could listen to as we eat?!”
“Umm. Nah. I’m so hot and sticky. That doesn’t really sound good to me. Let’s just go someplace and cool off, enjoy the peace and quiet. OK?”
Cue up image of fully inflated balloon being pricked unceremoniously by a needle. Pfffftttttt.
Well. Those of you who are reasonably perceptive in matters pertaining to marriage, differing personalities, and human affairs surely see where this tale is headed. Grandma arrived to attend to the amigos and a minor kerfuffle broke out about where THEY were going to get their dinner. Grandma, being the wise woman she is, knew enough to hurry the children into her SUV and settle their contretemps away from Krista and me. They headed off to McDonald’s or Chicken Tender World or wherever, and Krista and I locked up the house, boarded my car, and entered that marital twilight zone most of you, I suspect, can relate to—the middle ground between shadow and light, one as vast as space and timeless as infinity, the place that lies amid the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.
My personal marital twilight zone is on occasion situated on a line as thin as a razor’s edge. On one side lies joy, earthly bliss. On the other, the place we entered that Sunday night. The truly befuddling aspect of this zone, at least to a numbskull like myself, is that while I am aware of the rather obvious fact that we’re there, I am frequently clueless about how we arrived. Indeed, as angry and pointed words were flying about the interior of my Ford Fusion that evening, I found myself—in typically feckless fashion—asking aloud “What’s going on? Where’d this come from? How’d we get here?!?”
Suffice to say that many slights and episodes of obtuseness (committed by me, mostly unintended and stupidly unaware) had accumulated in Krista’s consciousness. The drip-drip-drip effect of these offenses finally wore down her dam of emotional resilience and it collapsed. Right there in the car. On the way to a stress-free, pleasant date. On Ohio Street. And Wagner. And Highway 127 South. And several other Darke County thoroughfares and by-ways.
After a half hour or so I pulled into a strip-mall parking lot in town and stopped the car. We looked at each other and vented (oh, blessed euphemism!), back and forth, a few more minutes. Tears were shed. Apologies were issued. Commitments to change were offered, as were pre-emptive promises for the forgiveness we will both surely need from each other in the future. I’m still going to be an insensitive dolt from time to time, after all. Let’s at least be honest.
We held hands, hugged, and prayed together, right there in the parking lot. Then we left, picked up some fast food, returned to our home, ate in our quiet dining room and continued our conversation and reconciliation.
As the saying goes, it’s not exactly Ozzie and Harriet, but it’s authentic. It’s real. And it was a pretty terrific date night, even if much of it was spent in a car, in a parking lot, in the shadow of a Mexican restaurant and a five-and-dime.
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at [email protected] Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.