Well, my wife and I stole ourselves away for a weekend in the big city….Atlanta. While there I had two life-changing experiences…

The first, and by far the most important. I have always regretted the fact that life has gotten so complicated. Me with work. My wife with our daughter, her mother, and her volunteer work. While I do not regret the relationships in our lives, especially the one with our child, the complications that all of our concern for others creates along with our various responsibilities, require a great deal of time. Time that, when we were first married, some 27 years ago, was filled with just us. Sometimes, we did nothing, that required leaving home. Other times, we went off on adventure. Picking a direction and proceeding just to see what was over the next hill. Those days are mostly gone. But, it is nice to know that when we are left alone, left to our own devices, we fall together again to frolic just like in days of old. Like many of you, I know too many couples who no longer frolic, heck they barely look at one another, speak, or acknowledge any remaining affection. Fortunately, for us that is not the case. Although I do believe that my daughter wishes it were more the case. She has constantly reminded us that we “did” have a couple of days alone, and now we “need” to talk to her….not just each other. Eh, what does she know??? Oh yeah, the life-changing part, well, maybe it didn’t change my life…merely reinforced what I thought to begin with…. Our relationship is the axle upon which these lives revolve. Without a solid axle the whole machine stops running. Too often couples allow other things to weaken their relationship, never realizing the fact that the erosion of that relationship endangers everything…..

Ah yes, the second experience. I have ridden a bunch of motorcycles over the years. Many of them were scary. Some were fun. Heck, some were even mine. In all of these years I had never ridden anything with a Harley-Davidson engine. But, like many others I had read the derisive remarks of the magazines, websites, and fellow riders. But, also like many of you I have been intrigued by the devotion of the Harley faithful. And, since Buell has recently begun to produce Harley-powered sportsbikes I thought I’d give one a try. So, while we were in Atlanta, we went to Stone Mountain Harley-Davidson, just to give one a try. I had read with great interest about the Buell Blast. So, that is what I chose. I figured it wasn’t that much larger than my Ninja 250 and shouldn’t scare the crap out of me.

When I asked could I ride one the sales lady quickly agreed. I was surprised how easy that was. Most Japanese motorcycle dealers won’t let you test ride anything. So, I put on my gear….she was surprised that I had all of my stuff….body armor and all. It was 28F outside, but I was toasty warm. While I was donning my gear, she readied the bike. I was so excited. She reassured me that I would be fine. I attempted to start off…killed it. Killed it again. Killed it again. Killed it yet again…..aaaarrrrgghhh. What a touchy clutch. Finally, I got going. Had to stop and check my fillings. OMG, this thing almost rattled the boys loose….eeeeegggggaaaaaddddd. I have ridden thumpers before, but this was crazy. It never seemed to get better. I hated the riding position. I hated the vibration. It was slow. It had no power. It was terrible. My 250 is much faster, much sharper, and has more usable power. Sorry Eric, the Blast is a bust.

While I was getting ready to ride the Blast, the saleslady suggested that I try a Sportster. I really didn’t want to. I knew about Harleys. I figured it wouldn’t be any fun. I am such a left-brained guy that I am almost never surprised. I research things to the point of adnaseum. I spend hours and hours on each little detail. So, I knew about Harleys. But, I figured why not??? So, she got a Sportster ready too.

After I vibrated my self away from the Blast, I went inside to regroup and tell my wife how much I hated that thing. Then, I went out to the white Sportster sitting quietly outside. It fired right up…very little vibration. Then I eased away….I mean literally eased away. No problem. I gave a bit of a twist…off we went. I rode around and around and around…..and…..and….and….well, you get the picture. Yes, there was some vibration, but it was nice. What a smooth motorcycle. I had a Yamaha 650 Maxim, years ago with an inline-4, that was smooth, but nothing like this. No, it wasn’t overpowering….just smooth. What great brakes. Hey, wait a minute…this is a Harley…isn’t it???? Have I been wrong?? Maybe this is why….maybe this is the mystique. I am shocked. I don’t have words to express how I feel…other than I really want one. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the Ninja, but this was different. I have never had a machine induced life-changing event, but I think I just did. I have been concerned lately that if my daughter goes off to grad school my bike might not be the best choice for the interstate between here and there….so, I have been looking for something a bit bigger. I think I found it…in the most unlikely place of all. Now, I think I understand why they are selling as many as they can make…wow.

So, what do I take from this weekend….I need to get my wife on the back of that Harley. We’ll go adventuring. I know we’ll frolic.

Welcome, to the best day of the year. Well, at least it is here. For, you see, today is a celebration of the day my wife’s delusions began….she married me 27 years ago this evening. When I write that it seems like such a long time. But, it doesn’t feel that way inside. I cannot imagine my life, or any life for that matter, without her. She is still “the one and only”…..and, will always be.

Unfortunately, it is not that way for many. I hear their conversations, I teach their children, and I watch the sadness in their eyes. They have set their hopes and dreams on someone who doesn’t take great care of the precious gifts they were given. I cannot imagine how hard it must be to get up each day knowing your wife is no longer yours. Knowing that she wakes up in the arms of someone else while he raises your children. The pain that each morning brings must be nearly unbearable. Beyond that, I cannot imagine how difficult life must be when you know that you will not be welcomed into her bed tonight. You know that if you do get together it is only to keep from fighting. I feel so sorry for these people.

I met a man once who had been married for 75 years. When his wife, who was wheelchair bound, was in the room he was Tarzan. He still stared at her with the elated eyes of youth, yet he was a mere 98 years old. She, on the other hand, sparkled when he was in the room. She laughed, giggled, wiggled, and whispered to him….constantly. They both turned beet-red. To me, he is the man who knows how to love a woman…..not some poor schlep who can only keep one for a night, a day, a week, etc. No, here was a man who not only stayed with her for decades, but he kept her happy….happy, wow what a word. Don’t see that used to describe marriage much anymore…..save the day she receives a too-expensive ring that, just a short time later, means nothing. I guess the expense of the ring in no way equals the love of the man.

My wife, much like me, has changed dramatically in these many years. But, as a couple, we don’t see these changes as a problem, just another source of laughter…yeah, laughter. Sure, knees, hips, backs, feet, etc. don’t work quite like they once did, but did we really expect them to? We don’t look the same either, but should we? The laugh lines around her eyes, show years of teary-eyed peels that lit the room around her. And, every where I look…and I do look closely….she has become more beautiful by the day. Unfortunately, her husband has retained his beauty….or, serious lack therof. No, I am not aging as gracefully as I would have liked, but I am still here…..mostly functional, yeeha. Yes, we have changed, but then again we haven’t. We are still trying to get away, by ourselves. We are still the ones giggling in the audience, while everyone else is quiet. We are still the ones looking forward to just another minute together, stolen from a day jammed with way too much to do.

My big fear, if you could call it that, is that we may be on the downhill side of all this. Few couples live long enough to see 54 years together. This life just doesn’t seem like it will be long enough to know her completely. No matter how much I long to do so. No, but I promise that I will cherrish each and every one that I get between now and eternity, for I share it with “the one and only”.

If this day occurred 30 years ago, I’d have been staring at a TV screen all day. But, oh so many years later, my how times have changed. At least here, football died a quickly, nearly forgotten death, 26 years ago…..

Just after my wife and I married we moved to North Dakota. I, being a young American male, was so excited at the prospect of being so close to the home of my favorite team…the Minnesota Vikings. I loved the Vikings so much that I had even done reports on Minnesota in Elementary School. This was back in the days when the only teams shown on TV were from the region in which you lived. So, if they weren’t in the playoffs, on Monday Night Football, or playing the Falcons, this Georgia boy could only follow them in the paper. And, I did.

Well, after we married we moved to Minot, ND. I was so excited. The playing season had ended for that year, but, as always, the next season was soon to come around. When the first game was to be televised I was sitting in my favorite chair. My little 13″ B&W TV inches away. My chips and drink right at hand. The pregame show was relished. I was working myself into a fevered pitch. My wife didn’t even care that I was watching football. I was so happy. Things couldn’t be better.

It was about that time that she walked by, headed to the bedroom. Semi-clad she announced that she was taking her plump little self off to nap and told me to enjoy my game. At first, I was still happy. That is of course, until i realized that my lovely wife was off to bed……without me. And, I was going to spend the next four hours watching grown men hold each other close????? Further, they didn’t seem to care that I was watching them…..but, she would welcome me. They didn’t even notice when I turned off the TV…..

It occurred to me later that I don’t understand many married men. They would rather watch football than be with their wives????? You mean you’d rather watch grown men hold each other close, make grunting noises, and ignore you completely???? I don’t get it anymore…

Further, the teams are so happy with their fans that they move constantly, trade your favorite players, and act like you owe them a new stadium. What is wrong with us as a society? What is wrong with us as a gender??? If the teams really cared about you…i.e. return your ticket price when they lost, return the purchase price for the jersey when the payer is traded, stayed in the city that paid for them, etc; then I might understand….but, they don’t care about you. They didn’t care about me. But,…

For the last 26 years she has cared. She has been there always. And now, Sunday afternoon is for holding each other close, listening to the rain outside, and being content……isn’t that what we all want. That is what I wanted.

While football for me died, the NFL seems to be doing quite well without me. It seems there are many who’d rather spend their Sundays with people who don’t care about them, than with the one who shares his bed. Well, at least around here, the NFL is a long dead memory…..I would keep writing, but it is nap time.

So, here I was riding off to work…upset about leaving, still knowing that the mission must be undertaken. I arrive without much fanfare. No real problems on the way. Then,….the stiffness began.

It started slowly at first, a tug on the ole hamstring. Then, a tightening of the thighs. Slowly, the back began to spasm a bit. Ah yes, the ole bad neck had to ensure I never forget old injuries….the glories of aging.

Why, you may ask, did this occur. There are two reasons. The first, my own actions. Since returning to motorcycling after more than a decade away, I decided to do some research (I am a science major after all) and learn more about the activity. Well, I am reading a book by a man named Hough (More Practical Motorcycling), that explains some low-speed skills I had never attempted before. I had already been trying a lot of low-speed maneuvers to sharpen my skills, but these were a bit different. (You see, I know that like in aviation, some one who can control the bike at very low speeds has a much easier time of it at high speeds.) These particular skills required me to stand on the pegs altering the pressure left or right to achieve certain motorcycle behaviors. I haven’t tried that for……I can’t remember…the pain in my sore legs is too great. It is far more athletic than I anticipated. I am weak. I am nervous. I am feeling very old. Well, I did the maneuvers without too much difficulty, but I have suffered all day. My New Year’s resolution to exercise a bit more will have to wait until I recover from…er….exercising?????? How does that work? I do not understand…heck I can hardly stand at all….eeegggaaaadddd…..I am such a weakling.

The second reason for my distress lies with my lovely wife. You should be aware of the fact that a few years ago she had surgery to remove some questionable growths on her thyroid. She came through the surgery wonderfully. I was very relieved. But…….it left her with a very odd side effect. She now often sounds like a muppet when she sleeps. Normally, I don’t care my snoring drowns her out. Or, my tinnitus keeps me from hearing anything anyway (at least on my bad days). But, last night she added a new sound….honking goose. OMG….she was not rhythmic. It kinda came and went. I couldn’t stay asleep….my ringing, her honking, the dog, the cars in the road,…but, mostly the honking. I realize this is not her fault…but, it isn’t mine either….what was the name of that doctor again?????

So my sleeplessness added to my recovery time. Age added to my recovery time. My usual athletic prowess added to my recovery time. Then, I began to try to make my self sleep….ever try that? You keep flinging yourself down on the pillow. Slam your eyes shut. Block out what you can. Force sleep to come. Then, you begin to quiz yourself to determine if you are asleep……which of course you aren’t…or you wouldn’t be asking stupid questions like: AM I ASLEEP YET……WELL, NO STUPID YOU ARE NOT!!!!

So, for now I shall drag my tired, sore, pathetic old ben-gay smelling self off to bed…put a pillow over my wife’s head, stuff plugs in my ears, dart the dog, seal the window, and GET SOME SLEEP AROUND HERE.

I don’t want to go…….

January 2, 2007

Well, the holidays have come and gone. Its back to work….oh, joy…..oh, joy. There is a reason they call it work….if it were fun we’d call it something else. While I will, gladly, admit that my teaching¬† job pales miserably in frustration, physical pain, and stress when compared to my old Military position, it can still find ways to get under my skin. But, that is beside the point today.

It is amazing to me that so many people are so happy to get back to work. Whether its after a long vacation, holiday break, or even a weekend, these people come hipity(?) hop gleefully to work….what is wrong with them???? I remember well when I was on active duty in North Dakota that we’d occasionally get snowbound and have to spend 2-3 days at home without electricity and/or any way to leave. My contemporaries would get back to work and they’d be all frustrated… They had spent 3 days stuck in the house with “that woman”, and they were fit to be tied. I was upset too. I had to leave “that woman” and return to the office with those clowns. I can’t imagine a situation where work is the place I go for happiness while home was full of frustration. If I didn’t want to get snowbound with “that woman” I wouldn’t have married her. Now, as we approach our 27th wedding anniversary I still find the same to be true.

I believe it was New Year’s day I had awakened from our nap and was watching my wife sleep…she is so peaceful, especially when she sleeps, it is mesmerizing. I lose track of time when I watch her. While watching her it occurred to me that I had been watching her for nearly 27 years, it seems like such a short time. I cannot believe it is slipping away so quickly. I cannot imagine life without her.

All that said, I feel sorry for others who don’t feel that way about their spouse. It seems that my wife and I are in the minority…most relationships explode rather quickly for one reason or other. I have watched my friends and their trials and tribulations, I have watched the celebrities on the news, I have watched those with more money, I have watched those who look so much better than we do, and I find myself shaking my head at their folly. How much pain must they feel? Yet, they jump from relationship to relationship not changing the way they act. I’ve heard that the true definition of stupid is doing the same thing the same way over and over expecting different results.

It occurs to me that part of the reason that my wife and I have survived, as a couple, when others didn’t is the fact that, I truly appreciate what she brings to my life. She is not my property, but my partner in a world working hard to tear us apart. She is my best friend. I do understand that if most guys married their best friend it would sadly be Tom, Mark, John, etc. What does that say about the importance we place on those who have our children?

Well, I for one, have reached the end, once again, to a wonderfully quiet holiday season and must leave my wife to go to work tomorrow, the next day, the day after that, etc. and “they” will expect me to be happy…..aaaaarrrgggh. She will be asleep when I leave. I’ll step into the cold grey dawn as she snuggles…..aaaaaarrrrggggghhhh. Tomorrow the commuters around me will race and jockey for position flinging themselves toward work at a break-neck speed. I’ll let them pass….. I’ll ease my way to work, savoring the last few wisps of my wife’s presence, as the grumpiness of our separation envelopes me as I amble away, but only for a while, from here.