LET ME SET THE STAGE
Let me set the stage: I am married to a frustrated forest ranger. My man is an introvert, a very focused guy, a guy who knows a lot about a lot of things, a guy who was happily living like a monk when I met him. And I’m a people person.
It all started with an ad I ran in the “Meet Your Match” section of The Arizona Republic. My friend Len Young decided I was bored. So she helped me write the ad, and I sent it in and recorded a three-minute phone message about myself.
You see, back in 1997, internet dating wasn’t de rigueur. (That’s an homage to my French teacher, Madame Pallissard.) People ran ads, and those who were intrigued paid the paper by calling a 900 number to listen to the advertiser. I received about 10 messages, and returned all but one, which belonged to a man whose accent was so thick I couldn’t understand him.
After talking to my potential dates, I decided I wanted to meet Gene. He has a wonderful voice, for one thing, had left a very articulate response to my message, and was self-deprecating, unlike the rest, who sounded more like job interviewees than potential friends. So I checked him out by calling his workplace and asking for his title and address. He appeared to be legit.
We met for breakfast, played golf a couple of times, went fishing, and started dating. Three years later, after two broken engagements and while I was mid-way through chemotherapy for breast cancer, we got back together. I found that I couldn’t live without him. Literally. On June 22, 2001, we were married.
Jump to today. We are camping in Payson, Arizona, in our travel trailer. Now doesn’t that sound romantic? Well, guess again. And picture a guy who just 10 days ago was diagnosed with Bells Palsy, while we were camping in Cottonwood, Arizona. He was determined to get out of the house after being home for a week because of the coronavirus.
I love to go camping; I really do. But the getting there and the coming home are a lot of work. There’s hiring the kitty-sitter, planning the food, grocery shopping, gathering the fishing stuff, packing clothes and toiletries, bringing things to do if it rains, and leaving the house clean, in case we’re killed on the road.
Once there, I make the bed (like wrestling a bear), put the food away (picture squeezing into Spankx), and organize our things (imagine limited space and, even more important, limited sockets).
And then there’s Gene’s part: packing the car, hooking up the trailer, driving to our campground, parking the trailer (the true test of love and commitment), removing the stabilizing bars (I always imagine him losing one of his arms to this part), unhooking the car, connecting the water hose, installing the sewer hose, and plugging into the electricity. You can see why I’m concerned about all this work in his present condition.
So here we are, having driven each other nuts trying to get the trailer properly positioned and level. It takes a few tries.
Me: “Can you pull up and I’ll try one of those boards under the tires?” He pulls up. I lay down the board, and he backs up over it until I shout, “Stop!” Me again: “How about if you pull up and I’ll try the thinner board?” Same thing. Me again: “I think we need one thick board and two thin ones on top of it. Can you pull up again?”) Finally, the trailer is fairly level, and I am completely insulted, as he has talked to me as if I’m an idiot, just because he couldn’t hear or see me while I was directing him. And then he tops it off with this: “I’m not sure you’re in tune with my needs.”
So I get organized inside, and he enjoys the great outdoors and has a glass of wine. And slowly, as we eat dinner (reheated pork loin with peaches, mashed cauliflower, tabbouleh, and chocolate chip cookies, with more White Burgundy), we relax and begin to talk again.
I’m reminded of telling both my girls, once they were old enough to think about marriage. “Chemistry is important; it gets you through the tough times.” A glass of wine, a nice dinner, and the cuteness factor. Thank God for the cuteness factor.