The Courier

Howard RittenhouseMy wife works for an accounting firm in Edmonton (she’s not an accountant – she actually has personality).  They knew I was a military chaplain and liable to be posted, so when they offered her a promotion and more responsibility, they also promised that she could work remotely. That was before COVID. When we were posted here, it proved the concept. However, periodically she needs to go down for a week (if only to get away from me and remind herself normal people exist). This week, that’s where she is.  So it’s just me and the youngest son (aged 16, pallid, monosyllabic, rarely seen).  I don’t like to cook, but I like to eat, so it’s always a challenge to figure out what to have. I could just order in, but I’m cheap. So I make do. Sort of. In past years when She has gone away for a week with friends, I used to write things like this on Facebook for her and her friends’ entertainment (and give others pause to reflect on my sanity):

Once again, Dana has chosen to abandon her family for the annual Protestant Guild retreat. And though she is only up the road in St Albert, we are desolate, lost, bereft, inconsolable … and some other words. But mostly, we are hungry. So hungry. There are boxes and cans in the house, but what do they contain? They are as the tomb of Tutankhamun before Carter – hidden, mysterious, enigmatic. She’s only away for a couple of days, so starvation is only a moderate fear. But the drums of starvation beat. Drums, drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A Shadow moves in the dark. We cannot get out. It comes…..

Melodramatic, I know, but it passed the time. Generally, these posts (as you might have guessed) revolved around my utter incapacity as a cook or keeper of my sons. It still gives her a great deal of pleasure to feel that I am a wreck without her, a bit of flotsam blown about on the waves of life without her anchoring presence, a mere bug on the windscreen of the universe.

She doesn’t think I’m incapable at all (at least I think she doesn’t think that), but I have never been nor claimed to be a particularly able chef (I don’t even come up to the level of an inept pot scrubber in a greasy spoon). However, I can make rice; I can throw a frozen pizza in the oven; I can even boil potatoes (no, wait – her voice in my head is reminding me that I once forgot potatoes on the stove and burned them to the bottom of the pot. So maybe not potatoes).

I don’t write posts like that anymore. I send plaintive and whiney texts instead.  It makes her feel needed and missed. And she is. Poke me with a stick and call me overdone, is she ever. I know – because she told me – that she missed me almost as much (let’s be realistic) when I was deployed to Afghanistan.  She didn’t miss me very much when I used to go on exercises or when I am on Temporary Duty. In fact, she keenly anticipates my departures. And yes, it’s a little demoralizing to hear your wife say, “Are you going away again soon?” with the eagerness of a kid waiting for Christmas. But I know she misses me.  (Doesn’t she?) However, when I’m away, I have no concerns about the house, the kids, the mortgage, the finances, the cats, or the cars. I have entire confidence in her abilities to cope. And believe me, having heard the opposite from troops about their significant others, I know what a blessing having that is. But getting to the place where both spouses are confident in and trusting of the other takes time, effort, and tenacity. Marriage isn’t easy (ask my wife). But it’s the most important relationship any of us will ever have. And it’s worth putting the work required into it to ensure that it does not simply exist like a pot of plastic flowers, but flourishes like a garden. I’ve been married for over 30 years (shut up about my age), and if I can be part of something so stunningly successful (even if I do say so myself), anyone can!

(But it’s mostly down to my wife)

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