Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Mine, All Mine

February 14, 2015

We share a coffee cup. We never used to. At one time I drank my morning caffeine from the ceramic mug Bruce bought especially for me. I still have it. It’s white and decorated with pastel colored conversation hearts, those little valentine shaped candies that began speaking in text before texting came about,  “Luv U”, “4 ever”, “T-4-2”, “B Mine.”  He gave me that mug, not on Valentine’s Day, but for no reason at all. It sits far back in the dish cabinet now next to its mate.

His mug, the mate to mine, is also white, but with a larger handle to fit the width of Bruce’s hand when he holds it. The mug sports a blue oval with the Ford Motor Company logo across its middle. Bruce’s first truck, his first love, was a Ford.  The mug came from a box and contents he bought at a local auction sale. I still remember the grin on his face when he held it up, having just been named high bidder.

For years, the mugs sat side by side on the counter each morning waiting for the pot to brew. Two spoonfuls of sugar and a dash of cream waited in each. One teaspoon stirred both mugs. I would set the coffee maker the night before, and Bruce would bring me my own cup of coffee in bed the next morning to help wake me.

I can’t remember the exact date we graduated to the one cup, but I know where we found it. There’s a thrift store called the Green Olive Tree half a mile from our house. We visit there on occasion for treasure hunts. Both of us spotted the mug at the same time and reached for it, a piece of handmade pottery, signed on the bottom by its maker. The colors, graduations of blue, green, and brown, drizzled in rivulets down its side. The mug was taller and bigger around than each of ours, the handle, a nice wide rectangle.  Bruce weighed the pottery in his right hand, testing it. He held the handle, examined the lip for chips. Then, he offered it to me. I cradled the piece of art, running my left hand over the colors, feeling its perfect weight balanced in my hand. I pretended to drink from it.  We placed the prize, an original, in our basket and bought it for a dollar.

Not long after, Bruce brought the new mug to me one morning in bed. I took the cup, drank from it, and closed my eyes savoring that first taste of the day. When I opened my eyes he was looking at me smiling. “That’s my cup you know,” he said. “I saw it first.”

“No you didn’t,” I said. “I saw it first. It’s mine.”

“You can’t have it,” he said.

“Yes I can,” I said with force. “But I’ll share. Here, you can have a taste.” I handed the mug back to him for a sip.  He took the mug from me, drinking from it as he turned to leave the room. 

“Hey,” I called after him. “My coffee!” 

He laughed, then placed the mug on the dresser as he left the room.

I carried it with me to the bathroom, taking a drink before brushing my teeth. Bruce came in to shave, and I handed him the mug so I could go get dressed.

I was in the hallway, headed to the kitchen when Bruce handed me the newly filled mug. “Take care of my cup,” he said laughing before he kissed me goodbye. He tasted of coffee.

I stood on the porch watching him walk to the truck. As he opened the door, he turned and looked at me. I raised the mug in a toast to my husband and smiled. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” I said, looking from Bruce to the mug and back to Bruce again. “And that means, it’s mine,” I said, “all mine.” And I could hear his laughter over the truck’s motor as he drove away.

The Price of a Weed Eater

June 11, 2011

Six o’clock in the morning is not early on Chincoteague. There’s so much to do.

We visited our lot yesterday when we got to the island. Weeds are growing thick and healthy on our little half acre, the tallest ones being those that you shoot as weapons when you’re a kid. You know the ones I mean.  They have a long stem with a projectile looking bloom on the end. You pull the weed, wrap the stem around the bloom and pull just behind the head, and Pow, you’ve put your brother’s eye out. Bruce calls them grasshopper weeds.  We have enough of those to supply both sides of an army of eight year olds.  A patch of wild daisies surround the fire hydrant next to the road (they can stay, but I have to fight my husband for their reprieve.) Poison Ivy is abundant and at its most potent, dressed in spring green with runners shooting through the grass ready to sneak up on you with their itch. Several marsh grasses grow tall between the water and tree line.

Bruce is excited. He likes a vacation, but would rather have work to do. Now, he has a project, but needs a weed eater.  Here’s an opportunity to buy another piece of equipment. We head off toward Rt. 13, turn left at T’s Corner and drive a few hundred yards to the Stihl dealer. Over three hundred dollars later, we leave the lawn and garden center with the needed equipment, extra string, safety glasses, screwdrivers, a wrench, and a two gallon plastic gas can.  The salesperson throws a brand new brown cap with Stihl embroidered in gold lettering across the front into the bag as we check out. That was nice of her.

Bruce is like a kid, wearing his new hat, tuning up his new toy, wacking the unruly grasses off the future home of our retirement. He adjusts the carburetor on the machine several times until the weed eater doesn’t “miss a lick,” and spends the next two hours in his element.

Ryan bates two crab traps with chicken bones from last night’s dinner, throws the metal wire cubes into the water off the dock, then won’t wait long enough to catch a crab before pulling the trap back out of the water to see if he’s caught one.

I sit in the folding baseball chair, reading a book, feeling the breeze, watching an occasional bird dive into the water of Big Glade Creek with a “splunk,” and laugh at the antics of two male humans, engrossed in their respective projects.

After consideration, the morning was worth the price of a weed eater.

It’s the Chemo

November 8, 2010

A year ago, my step-father, Gilly, was the strong one.  He hefted the wooden display table single-handedly, loaded the bushels of sweet potatoes onto the pickup truck and stacked all sixty cases of pint jars holding  my Mama’s jams, jellies and relishes.  She stood, smiled, recited recipes and collected the five dollar bills. 

“What ‘s the best thing to put this in?” a potential customer asked, holding a jar of Tomato Ketchup made from my Grandma’s recipe.

“Your mouth, right off the spoon,” Gilly said, laughing.

“Hush up your foolishness,” Mama admonished.  “Don’t you pay any attention to him.  It’s really good cooked in meatloaf, or spooned over pinto beans.”  Then she frowned at my step-father, daring him to say another word.

He just laughed and turned to bag more sweet potatoes from the pickup.

Gilly is six feet, two inches tall and until three months ago, was able to withstand hours in the garden, planting, plowing, picking  vegetables and weeding.  He chewed the end of his cigar and didn’t come into the house at night until darkness drove him to it.  Last year he planted forty-five hundred sweet potato plants and harvested two hundred bushels of the roots with no help.  Today, he was bent, gray, and thin.  It’s the chemo.

The spot on his lung turned out to be a tumor, a cancerous tumor that necessitated the surgeon taking out the upper lobe of his right lung and several lymph nodes. The process leading up to the surgery was long and slow, one test after another, little answers, leading to big procedures, a week in the hospital.

“The most pain came when they removed that damn drainage tube,” he said grimacing.  “When a nurse tells you it might hurt a little, she’s lying.”

Mama sat by his side, rubbing his back, turning her head when the tears started. 

A week after the surgery, Gilly climbed onto his backhoe and dug a septic system for the neighbor.  He planned to dig sweet potatoes September 24th, two weeks after his surgery.  He wasn’t going to call anyone to help, but  Mama called in the troops.  The whole family showed up that Saturday to dig and gather.  Gilly didn’t send us away.  Mama only allowed him to drive the tractor, no other work.  He picked up bushel baskets when Mama wasn’t looking though.

Chemo  treatments started Tuesday a week ago. Gilly spent two hours at the Cardwell Center having chemicals pumped into his veins to kill wayward Cancer cells. The nurse gave him a pamphlet to read during the procedure. It listed side effects.  After the treatment, Gilly drove to the barbershop to have his head shaved.  He’s always been proud of his thick, wavy hair. 

“You know, my Daddy was bald before I was born,” Mama comforted. “Garnett was bald too.  Seems most men in our family were.”

“I didn’t even know men had hair until I went to school,” I told him.

He looked down at the floor and sighed deeply as Mr. Herndon swept up the hair he’d buzzed off. Gilly put his John Deere cap back on his head and paid the thirteen dollars.  The bell over the door sounded cheery as we left the shop.

Today was the Vintage Apple Festival in North Garden. We tried to talk Gilly into staying home. We assured him we could handle everything just fine, but he was having none of it.  He wanted to sell his sweet potatoes and flirt with Mama’s lady customers. We finally gave in because we didn’t have a choice. 

Mama bundled Gilly in layers, brought the folding chair with the drink holder and a cooler full of water, tea and diet Pepsi. She kept him as far away from handshakes and sneezes as she could. My cousin Kandy, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last November, came with her husband Randy to help us.  All eight of us who showed up to help, took turns weighing and bagging sweet potatoes.

“Take that back and trade the big one for a couple smaller ones. People like a mixture,” Gilly said.

We followed directions and tried not to be conspicuous as we watched him for signs of fatigue and dehydration.  He caught us, rolled his eyes, and finally snapped at Mama as she asked him for the twenty-fifth time if he was feeling alright.

A woman picked up a jar of Zucchini relish, read the label and asked, “What’s the best use for this?”

“Just ask my husband,” Mama said.

Gilly looked up and said, “Just spoon it out the jar. It goes down easy.”

Mama didn’t scold. She smiled.

Twenty-nine and Holding

January 2, 2010

  I woke this morning to a hot cup of coffee presented to me in bed. It was a nice way to start my anniversary. My husband is a good man.  He isn’t romantic, doesn’t sing or recite poetry, rarely tells me he loves me, but brings me coffee, changes the oil in my car, plows the path for me to explore, and sometimes cooks. He goes about life quietly doing.  A hug from him wraps me in security I can count on. I hadn’t had much of that before he came along. I take him for granted.

       Few of my friends have been married twenty-nine years. One asked, “How have you tolerated the same man for so long, doesn’t he get on your nerves?”

      “Sure he does,” I said. “I’ve finally learned that his workday begins at daylight and ends at dark, “evening” means anytime after the noon hour, and “Ask your Mama” is his way of being supportive in raising children. Oh, and he snores.”

      My friend shakes her head. She doesn’t understand my marriage.  She never will. She thinks I should be bored.  She exhales excitement about her third marriage. The latest man is tall, has hair on his head, and his chest, drives a BMW and sky dives.  

      Then, she complains about the blendedness of her family. “His cell rings. It’s his ex. Every other weekend is his son’s soccer followed by his daughter’s ballet.”

   My friend doesn’t like receiving children mid-raising.  They don’t love her on contact. They wear shoes on her carpet and leave water rings on her coffee table.  Vacations are not relaxing. Her hair needs color and her nails are chipped.

      The equations that make up her life take me back.  I come from a long line of complications.  Multiple relationships flung themselves at me when I was growing up.  I spun around, trying to catch all the strings that tied me to parents, step-parents, step-siblings, and sets of grandparents. 

     “I just want to find that simple love I missed out on the first time,” my friend laments.

      I want to tell her, but don’t, that nothing about relationships is simple, and they get more complicated with endings, new beginnings, additions, subtractions, divisions and multiplications. There is no simple love. 1+1 rarely equals 2.  Love takes sweaty effort, a good sense of humor, and some luck.

     As I leaned back against the headboard this morning, holding my cup, I decided I’m happy. The payment I receive for the toil in this marriage is measured in my son’s excitement at hitting a baseball, in the comfortable quiet as I sit next to my husband watching the sun set behind the Blue Ridge, and in tablespoons of fresh ground coffee.  No words are needed. I don’t want a man with a fancy car or one who jumps out of planes. I want one who plows a path for me to grow, and brings me a cup of coffee in the morning.