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Off The Hook

“You’re my best friend” Marcie told me, lifting the red book in her hands. “I’m worried about you. You have got to quit smoking!”  She held the self-help book out to me and said, “This book really helped my husband quit. Maybe it’ll work for you too.”

          I sighed. My husband and children had been nagging me for years, my conscience told me daily what a disappointment I must be to God, now my dearest friend was stepping up to plague me as well. The problem with my trying to quit was twofold: First, I had been smoking since I was 15. Over the years I had tried numerous times before—aversion therapy, hypnosis and many attempts at going cold turkey, but the cravings were so intense and my willpower so weak, I would be miserable and only last a week or two before giving in. Second, I had struggled with chronic depression for many years and each attempt to quit smoking would trigger an episode, exacerbating feelings of hopelessness and despair.

          “Thanks, Marce,” I said, taking the book with what I hoped would pass for a grateful smile. “I’m kind of busy lately but I’ll get to it as soon as I can.” After she left, I took the book and set it dutifully on the coffee table where it sat, radiating guilt vibes. “Leave me alone,” I muttered. “I’m happy smoking. I don’t want to quit.” 

          But I wasn’t happy smoking, and I did want to quit. I hated knowing I was addicted to something as stupid as lighting a cylinder of toxic leaves and sucking smoke down into my lungs. And I knew I was playing Russian roulette with cancer. But when a craving crept in, none of that seemed to matter.

          I covered the book with a magazine, grabbed my cigarettes and went outside.

          Months passed. I shuffled the book from one end of the coffee table to the other, studiously ignoring the bright red cover’s title, “Hooked But Not Helpless”. Each time Marcie asked if I’d read the book, I’d mutter, “Soon.”

          One day, in the midst of a devastating bout of depression—sadness and despair so deep that rising from bed in the morning seemed like a mountain too high to climb—I felt strangely compelled to pick it up.  In resignation, I started to read. At least I’ll be able to give it back to Marcie, I thought, and get it off my coffee table.

          Hours later, I finished the book. Its premise for overcoming smoking addiction had been simple but innovative, teaching the reader how to change thinking patterns about smoking, and including good strategies for dealing with feelings of deprivation. Sitting back, I found myself experiencing an unfamiliar feeling…hope.

          On the heels of that feeling came an unquestionable knowing: God wanted me to quit.  I put my head in my hands and groaned.

          “No way, God!”  The very idea made me mad. “I can’t do it. You know I can’t!”

          But the knowing persisted. And it wouldn’t leave me alone. Finally, I threw the book down on the table and, I’m embarrassed to say, issued a very irreverent ultimatum: “Apparently you want me to quit smoking, even though you know I’m drowning in depression down here. Well, I think it’s completely unfair of you to even suggest it, but here’s the deal: I’ll try—but I’m telling you this—if I do, You have to do it all. I mean every bit of it. If I have one craving, I’m giving in and smoking.” 

          God, His usual, enigmatic self, didn’t say a word.

          I got up, put my pack of cigarettes into a drawer and resigned myself to the misery of deprivation.

          The rest of the day passed. The family came home and we ate dinner, watched TV and went to bed.  Morning came and we all arose and went about our routines. My husband went off to work, the kids left for school and I busied myself with cleaning, laundry and my usual chores. Throughout the day, I kept having the strange feeling that I was forgetting something. I’d stop what I was doing, think, scratch my head, then when nothing came to mind, shrug and go about my work.  It took about two days of this before I realized…I wasn’t smoking! Not only wasn’t I smoking, I had totally forgotten about it! Shocked and wary, I searched my mind for any craving for the cigarettes that had been ruling my life for so long…nothing. I had absolutely no interest in smoking.

          God, in His kindness and mercy, had heard my disrespectful, downright rude prayer…and had answered. “Yes,” He said, “I accept your deal. You try, I’ll do the rest.”

          That was twenty years ago. I have never had a craving, have never missed smoking, and have never been tempted by being around someone who does. It is as if I had never smoked.  Not a day goes by that I’m not awestruck at the magnitude of this miracle, and filled with gratitude—I’m off the hook! Thirty-five years of bondage, broken in a moment by an irreverent, even faithless prayer. And I understand now that our Father listens to and answers His children’s supplications no matter what emotional state we are in when we call out.  

          So the next time you feel like you’re all alone in the world and God’s too busy or disinterested to listen to little you and your problems, He isn’t. Pray anyway. What do you have to lose?  

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A 49 Year Conversation

Submitted this to Chicken Soup’s upcoming “From Lemons To Lemonade” book  –  Now I wait….

 

It was the summer of 1964. I was fourteen years old and all was right with the world. Not only was I ready to start my freshman year in high school, but wonder of wonders, I had achieved coolness: I had a boyfriend! Life couldn’t get much better, I thought. September was only a few months away, and in the meantime I was basking in the glory of being someone’s “main squeeze”.

And then my parents, whose work caused them to travel extensively, pulled the rug out from under me: “Surprise! You’re going to Europe with us for a month. We’re leaving the first week in September.”

“What?” I squeaked. “I have school, remember?”

“No problem,” they replied. “You can study on the trip and the education you’ll get from visiting all the places we’ll go is worth missing school for.”

I was aghast. “No way! I have a boyfriend, remember? And this is my freshman year. I can’t miss the first month of school!”

“The arrangements are made; we’re going and that’s that,” my mother said while wearing that “don’t argue with me” expression I knew so well.   But being my mother’s daughter, I too could be implacable, and the dispute escalated until finally I shouted, “I’d rather go to boarding school than to Europe with you!

Before my parents’ “Oh really?” had faded from my ears, I had been registered at, and delivered to, an all-girl Catholic boarding school across town from where we lived.

Well, I thought, once the initial shock wore off, at least I’ll still be in Portland. My boyfriend can come see me, and take me out.

Unfortunately, this hopeful plan was defeated once I was informed that freshman were not allowed out on dates. I could have supervised male visitors, once a week, but that was it. Well, I can see him when I go home for the weekends, I thought. But then I realized my parents would be in Europe until October! It became clear that my stubbornness had gotten me into much more than I had bargained for.

The months that followed brought every frustration imaginable. Although I had fond memories of many of the nuns I was taught by since grade school, these nuns, perhaps due to my bitter attitude, seemed mostly cold and militant. My schoolwork, which had always been marked by A’s, dropped to C’s and D’s, because I sullenly refused to put forth any effort. This, I soon learned, would not hurt anyone but me; those who did poorly in school were grounded to campus. Any infractions of the rules resulted in the cancellation of weekends at home. And weekends spent at school meant being assigned work duties such as sweeping, mopping, and cleaning bathrooms. “I’m in prison!” I would moan to my boyfriend, when he occasionally got through on the always busy dorm floor telephone.

As for the other boarders, many of the girls were from wealthy families and quickly formed unapproachable, elite cliques. Some of the others were noticeably troubled, obviously sent off to keep them out of mischief. Of course there were some nice girls too, but I was so unhappy, I just didn’t try to make friends with them. I wanted to go home. My parents, however, wisely felt that I would learn a valuable lesson by reaping the consequences of what I’d sown.

The only consolation I had was that my parents had arranged for me to have a private room. The girls in the dorm had very little privacy, just curtains between them. But despite this costly perk, I was depressed and miserable.

And then one day, Marcie appeared at my door. “Hi!”

I’d seen her around; she was hard to miss—beautiful, always smiling and radiating kindness. I’d noticed that she, like me, wasn’t being sought after by any of the school’s exclusive groups. But it didn’t seem to bother her. She went about being friendly to everyone in general anyway.

“Hi,” I returned.

“You’re so lucky to have a private room. Can I come in?”

Her smile was infectious; I smiled back and nodded.

She made herself comfortable on my bed and we started to talk. We talked about our families, our boyfriends, and our dreams. We compared makeup, clothing, views on popular TV programs and observances of the other girls. That conversation became one of too many to count. In no time we were joined at the hip, both at school and when taking turns going home on weekends (when I wasn’t grounded) to one anothers houses.

The school year flew by, and all too soon, came to an end. I would be going back to my home on the other side of town, but Marcie’s parents had moved to California. Marcie would be living in Riverside. We were inconsolable, but we vowed to always stay close through letters and phone calls.

Somehow, though, through time and circumstances, we lost touch.

The years passed. One day I was shopping downtown, turned a corner and literally ran into my old friend.

“Marcie!” I cried.

She grabbed me in a joyous hug, “Tina! Hi! We just moved back!”

“Tell me where you’re living!” “Are you dating anyone?” “I love your hair!” In one instant, the conversation we suspended all those years ago at school began right where we left off.

Over the seasons to follow, our friendship deepened; we became roommates; became ex-roommates; laughed and cried together; disapproved of one anothers choices in men; fell in love with a variety of animals, she with dogs, and me with cats; stood with each other at our weddings and mourned together the loss of our parents

Today, we still talk about everything going on in our lives. And we often speak about our year at boarding school, “I hated it”, I’ll say. “Oh come on, it wasn’t that bad,” she’ll reply. We talk about the good food and the friends we remember. We talk about our long-gone boyfriends from back then, and we talk about the serendipity of our meeting. Our conversation inevitably brings laughter, just as it always did—a conversation that has lasted for 49 years.

 

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The Fiancee

The writing challenge was to create a story using these 5 words: 

San Francisco  – Leg  –  Tomato  –  Watch  –  Porsche

This is what I came up with 🙂

           “Duncan just called, they landed about ten minutes ago, so as soon as they pick up their luggage, they’ll be on their way over here!”  Eleanor was beside herself with excitement, checked her watch and straightened the pillows on the sofa for the fifth time in the last half hour.

            Her husband, Ralph, laid down his newspaper and lit his pipe. “That’s great! Now why are they flying in from San Francisco again?”

            “That’s where she’s from, San Francisco. I guess she wanted to stop there to pack some extra clothes and things…it’s much colder here than at Duncan’s place in Mexico, you know.”  Eleanor still marveled at how her son had happened to meet the woman he referred to as ‘the love of my life’, when they lived in places so distant from one another.  “She’s just like no one you’ve ever seen!” he had told her. Eleanor just knew that she and Ralph were going to love her.

            Ralph, blowing a ring of smoke asked, “Everything ready for dinner? You made all his favorite dishes right?”

            “How could I not?” Eleanor giggled. “This is more important than his birthday…we’re celebrating his upcoming marriage, for goodness sake.  I made pot roast with lots of carrots and onions and celery and covered it with two cans of chopped tomatoes, just the way he loves it!”

            Her husband smacked his lips and made, “Mmmm-mmmmm” sounds.

            “And peach pie for dessert!”

            “Can’t wait,” Ralph grinned.

            Forty-five minutes later, a Hertz rented Porsche pulled up in front of the house. Eleanor dropped the curtain she’d been peeking out through and rushed to wait by the front door. “They’re here!” she cried.  Ralph set his pipe down in the ashtray and went to stand beside her. “This is just so exciting, isn’t it, honey?” he murmured, patting her arm.

“It’s wonderful!” she agreed, fanning herself.  “I’m just so worked up, I’m perspiring and everything!”

            When the doorbell rang, they both jumped, even though they were expecting it. Ralph reached out and pulled the door open with a flourish and there stood Duncan. Alone.

            Dismayed, Eleanor cried, “Why, Duncan, where’s—“ but before she could finish, Duncan, beaming, said, “Here we are! Mom, Dad…I want you to meet Bridget! Bridget, this is my mother and father.”

            Ralph, completely confused, looked at Duncan and at the empty space next to him on the porch and blinked. Eleanor blinked as well and as if choreographed, both began to speak at once, “But honey—“

            “Didn’t I tell you she was unlike anyone you’ve ever seen?” Duncan beamed. “See, sweetheart,” he said, bending down and wrapping an arm around apparently nothing, “I told you that you were getting all nervous for no reason.”

            Ralph stared. Eleanor stared—both struggling to make some kind of sense out of their son’s behavior. Eleanor spoke first: “Um, Duncan? Are you all right? I mean, has there been some sort of accident that you want to tell us about?”

            Duncan, looking confused, shook his head. “What? Accident? What are you talking about mom? Are YOU okay?” 

            Ralph reached out to touch his son’s hand, which was hanging in midair at the moment. “Son…there’s no one here with you. You’re alone here. What’s going on?”

            Jerking his hand away in shock, Duncan cried, “Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you? Bridget, I’m so sorry, honey, they’ve never acted like this before.” 

            “Sweetheart,” Eleanor squeaked, “There’s nobody here, but you!”

            Duncan looked flummoxed for a moment, then as a thought suddenly struck him, his face got hard. “Wait a minute. I get it now…you’re freaking out because she’s a midget! How could you be so petty and narrow-minded, for God’s sake? So she’s a little short-legged—she beautiful and sweet and—“

            “Bridget the midget?” Ralph and Eleanor said together.

            “Okay, THAT’S IT!!! I am not going to stand here and let you insult my wife-to-be! We are LEAVING!”  And with that, he spun on his heel and stomped down the steps to the front walkway. Stopping halfway to the car, he suddenly turned, bent down and said, “What, honey? No, YOU tell them.”

            Ralph and Eleanor were halfway across the porch, running to catch up with their son and try to reason with him when a sweet, breathless little voice rang out, apparently from midair…

            “IT’S NOT MY FAULT THAT I’M SHORT!”

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BREATHING EASY ~ Published in Chicken Soup “Parenthood” March 2013

Moments after our daughter was born, the doctor held her up and pronounced, “She’s beautiful and perfect!” With her healthy cries ringing in my ears, I reached out and the nurse placed her in my arms. “Hello Summer,” I whispered, “Welcome to the world.”  At my voice, her sobs quieted and she nuzzled against my hospital gown so I loosened it and moved her mouth to my breast where she immediately began to nurse. “Look at that,” I said to my husband, Fred and my best friend, Marcie, “she’s a natural!”

A heartbeat later, she turned blue.

The nurse’s happy expression turned to one of concern. “Doctor,” she said quietly. He looked over at the baby, frowned and in two strides was at my bedside. He observed her with concern for only a second or two before reaching out and gently lifting her from my arms then turning to hand her to the nurse, who whisked her away to the bathing area across the room.  Summer, upset at having her first meal so unceremoniously interrupted, began to wail again.

“Don’t worry,” the doctor told us, we’ll just suction her mouth and throat and clean her up a little. I’m sure she’s fine.”  A few minutes later, the nurse called out, “Okay, all better now, pink and perky!” and having wrapped her in a soft blanket, brought her back to me to nurse.  Once again, she stopped crying to latch on greedily.  Once again, within seconds, she turned blue.

“What’s happening?” I cried.

The doctor looked up from the chart he was writing in; his expression went from concerned to grave. In seconds he was at my bedside, taking her from me once more. “I think we’ll just go run some tests,” he said.

“What’s wrong with her?” my husband, asked him.

“Probably nothing serious, but we’ll know more in a few minutes. Try not to worry, okay?” he told us.  “See, she’s already looking better.”  Summer was crying again and thankfully, turning pink as we all watched.

As he and the nurse left the room, Fred and Marcie and I all looked at one another with worried eyes. Reaching for my husband’s hand, I said, “She’s going to be okay, right?”  He nodded. “Sure. Of course.”  Marcie took my other hand silently and squeezed it. The three of us spent the next hour staring at the door the doctor and our baby had disappeared through.

When the nurse came back into the room, her troubled expression spoke volumes. Marcie cried, “Is she okay?” The question my husband and I were afraid to ask.

“The doctor will be in any minute now,” she evaded. As predicted, the doctor came through the door and before we could ask, he said, “Well, I’m sorry to tell you this but your baby has a very rare birth defect; it’s called a Coanal Atresia.”

“Oh my God,” I breathed.

“What does it mean?” My husband shakily asked.

“Choanal atresia is a congenital disorder where the back of the nasal passage (the choana) is blocked, usually by abnormal bony or soft tissue formed during fetal development,” he told us. “In other words, your daughter can’t breathe through her nose at all. She needs to have surgery as soon as possible because a baby doesn’t breathe through its mouth when its nasal passages are blocked. They don’t know how.”  He moved to my bedside and explained further, “That’s why, when she was crying, she stayed pink—she was getting enough oxygen. But when she began to nurse—well, there was no air getting through her nostrils. She was suffocating.”

“Surgery?” I whispered. My mind was in a turmoil trying to grasp the enormity of this nightmare.

He nodded. “Fortunately though, there is a surgeon up on the hill at Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital that has actually had several of these cases before. I’ve talked to him already and he’ll be waiting to see her when she gets there.” He laid a comforting hand on my shoulder. “He’s very good. Try not to worry, okay?”

I blinked away tears and shook my head. How could I not worry?

“They’re sending an ambulance team from OHSU to pick her up. They should be here within the hour.”

“An hour? But she can’t breathe!” My husband said.  “How are you keeping her alive?”

“We have a tracheal tube in place; she’s breathing fine for now. We’ll bring her in to you so you can hold her before they take off, okay?”

We nodded our heads in unison, too overcome to speak, questions racing though our minds. How could something like this happen? Will she survive the surgery? I closed my eyes and wondered, how am I going to make it through this night? And I prayed.

When they brought Summer in barely an hour later, she had a tube down her throat, keeping her airway open. Surgical tape was criss-crossed across her cheeks, holding the tube in place. Her eyes were huge as she stared at me in pitiful bewilderment. They laid her in my arms; I held her and cried while Fred and Marcie stroked her little hands and downy hair and fought back their own tears.  Finally, after all too short a time, one of the paramedics stepped forward and said, “I’m sorry, but we have to go now. The surgeon is waiting to examine her.” As I handed my daughter to him, I had to turn my face away; I couldn’t watch him take her out the door, knowing I might never see her again.

It was one of the longest nights of my life.

*          *          *

Three days later, Summer had surgery.  The surgeon drilled through the wall of bone at the floor of her nasal cavity, creating twin passageways for her to breathe through. When that was completed, he stitched clear plastic tubes, called stents into the passages to keep them open. “These will stay in place for three months,” he told us.

We left the hospital with our daughter two days later. Before we were allowed to take her home, however, we were given CPR training, outfitted with a suction machine to keep the tubes cleared of mucus, and a heart monitor.

The coming days were nerve-racking, especially after the three months became six months; but we made it! When the tubes were ultimately removed, Summer could finally breathe easy; and so could we.

Today, our daughter is a beautiful, healthy, twenty-eight year old woman.  I look at her and thank God for the precious gift she is. I think about how easily we could have lost her and I reflect on how going through all the worry surrounding her birth deepened my appreciation of being a parent.  Mostly though, I simply think about how blessed we have been and are, and I’m grateful beyond measure.

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Mickey Newbury ~ Cortelia Clark

If you’ve never discovered Mickey Newbury–it’s time. He can break your heart with his songs and music. He’s gone now but never forgotten…..

 

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A CAT NAMED SLOOPY ~ Rod McKuen

I can listen to Rod McKuen for hours…..

For a while
the only earth that Sloopy knew
was in her sandbox.
Two rooms on Fifty-fifth Street
were her domain.
Every night she’d sit in the window
among the avocado plants
waiting for me to come home
(my arms full of canned liver and love).
We’d talk into the night then
contented
but missing something,
She the earth she never knew
me the hills I ran
while growing bent.

Sloopy should have been a cowboy’s cat
with prairies to run
not linoleum
and real-live catnip mice.
No one to depend on but herself.

I never told her
but in my mind
I was a midnight cowboy even then.
Riding my imaginary horse
down Forty-second Street,
going off with strangers
to live an hour-long cowboy’s life,
but always coming home to Sloopy,
who loved me best.

2
A dozen summers
we lived against the world.
An island on an island.
She’d comfort me with purring
I’d fatten her with smiles.
We grew rich on trust
needing not the beach or butterflies
I had a friend named Ben
Who painted buildings like Roualt men.
He went away.
My laughter tired Lillian
after a time
she found a man who only smiled.
Only Sloopy stay and stayed.

Winter.
Nineteen fifty-nine.
Old men walk their dogs.
Some are walked so often
that their feet leave
little pink tracks
in the soft gray snow.

Women fur on fur
elegant and easy
only slightly pure
hailing cabs to take them
round the block and back.
Who is not a love seeker
when December comes?
even children pray to Santa Claus.
I had my own love safe at home
and yet I stayed out all one night
the next day too.

3
They must have thought me crazy
screaming
Sloopy
Sloopy
as the snow came falling
down around me.

I was a madman
to have stayed away
one minute more
than the appointed hour.
I’d like to think a golden cowboy
snatched her from the window sill,
and safely saddlebagged
she rode to Arizona.
She’s stalking lizards
in the cactus now perhaps
bitter but free.

I’m bitter too
and not a free man any more.

Once was a time,
in New York’s jungle in a tree,
before I went into the world
in search of other kinds of love
nobody owned me but a cat named Sloopy.

Looking back
perhaps she’s been
the only human thing
that ever gave back love to me.

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MY OTHER HUSBAND

Published in Cup Of Comfort’s “Cup Of Comfort For Couples” 2010

I have been happily married for thirty-four years…to two men. Fortunately, they both occupy the same body, so I’m not in danger of being carted off to prison any time soon.
Husband number one’s name is Fred, a hardworking mechanical engineer, quiet, reserved, serious, and an honorable man. He’s very intelligent and analytical; a no-nonsense kind of guy on whom I can depend no matter what kind of crisis comes along. I myself am a free-spirit, usually led by emotions, not logic; my response to most serious problems is to laugh and let God worry about them. Fred’s is to weigh out the circumstances and calculate an appropriate course of action. We are two very different personalities, so when people I know meet Fred for the first time, they are usually surprised. “He’s so…serious”, they say.
I just smile because they don’t know my “other” husband, Freddie.
I’ll give you a for instance: You know how boring grocery shopping is? Not with Freddie. When he comes with me, this is usually how it goes: We walk into the market and Freddie says, “I wanna push the cart!”
“Why?”
“I’m the man.”
“So you’re the man. What does that—?”
“I have qualifications. I have muscles.”
“I guess you could call them that. But what does that—?”
“AND I have hair on my chest.”
“You have hair on about 90% of your body, Freddie. You’re more bear than you are man. It still doesn’t explain why you should—“
“I am the man and I push the cart.”
I can see that I’m never going to come out on top of this ridiculous dispute.
“Okay. Whatever.”
And the adventure begins: I’m standing there trying to figure out which soup is the best buy and when I go to put the chosen one into the cart…Freddie runs about 6 steps ahead. So, I run to catch up and he sprints about 8-10 steps further on. Before long, I’m chasing him up and down the aisles and we’re laughing like fools and people are beginning to stare. Finally, stifling a giggle, I grab the vehicle away from him, “Okay, Mister—you’ve lost your cart-pushing privileges! I’m pushing the cart from now on!”
“Hmmph.”
The minute I set my purse in the basket, Freddie jumps on the front—effectively stalling it where it stands.
“Get off the cart, Freddie!”
“I wanna ride!”
“You’re heavy! Get off!”
“You don’t love me….”
“Oh, for crying out loud. All right, but behave yourself.!” Grunting with the effort of attempting to push a grocery cart that now weighs 200 pounds, I finally manage to move it 20 feet or so to the paper products aisle. Freddie is grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
“What are you up to?” I ask. I know that look.
“Nothin.”
“Don’t give me that. I know you—“ And then I look down and see that he’s been dragging his size 10 foot on the floor, adding even more resistance to moving the basket.
“FREDDIE!”
He laughs and gets down. “Oops! My foot musta slipped.”
I just shake my head. “Right.”
I start checking out the prices on the paper towels and when I turn around, Freddie is now about 20 feet away, in his “Michael Jordan” mode—making basket after basket with assorted brands of toilet paper. There are now approximately 20 packages of tissue in my cart.
Trying not to laugh and thus encourage him, I yell, “STOP THAT!!!!!”
People are gathering to watch.
Freddie, all innocence, “What?”
I start putting the toilet paper back on the shelf. He, in the meantime is replacing them with boxes of facial tissue. This goes on for another few minutes until he gets bored with the game and disappears around the corner. A woman who’s been watching this whole debacle laughs. “I have one of those at home,” she says. “Of course, mine is 3.”
I shrug, smiling. “He’s 50 going on 3!”
I finish putting the last of the paper products away and continue to the next aisle. No sign of Freddie, thank goodness. I can finish my shopping in peace.
At the checkout counter the clerk is ringing up my groceries when I stop her. “Hey, those aren’t my ice cream bars!
“Uh—they were in your basket.”
“How did those four packages of Cheetos get in there?”
“Hmmm”, she says, with a lifted eyebrow, “You might want to ask him.” She points at Freddie who has suddenly appeared from out of nowhere, grinning like a hyperactive 4 year old
I look at him suspiciously, “Where have you been?”
“Just messin around….”
The clerk waves for my attention: “So…will you be wanting this package of chicken feet?”
“FREDDIE!!!”
At this point, Freddie gives me his most lovable grin and in his best Bart Simpson voice says, “HA HA!!!! You love me!”
“No! I don’t. You’re a pain in the butt!”
“Yes you do!”
I Sigh. “Okay. I do. But I don’t have to like it!”
The clerk and the three people behind us in line are laughing out loud by now.
In the car, as we drive home, Freddie goes into his “bet I can drive you crazy” mode, grabbing my knee, tickling the back of my neck, rolling my window up and down.
“Quit it, Freddie!”
The response is, of course, an escalation of the behavior until I give him “The Look”, and he settles down.
All is quiet for the next quarter mile when suddenly he says, “Ha-Ha!”
I groan. “Ha-Ha what?”
“Ha-ha” he says tickled with himself, “You’re married to me!”

* * *
So, you see, I have the best of both worlds. I have a husband who is a rock in every storm and a steadfast partner in a serious marriage. A husband who shows me he loves me with his hard work around the house and in his job, by handling our finances brilliantly and who displays his affection frequently by a warm hug and a light kiss.
But I also get to live with a bona fide character, a best friend who constantly surprises me, who makes me laugh like nobody’s business and who honestly believes that affection is best shown by a well-timed, heartfelt wedgie.