The headlights from our white Chevy Venture van lit up the front yard of Shamrock Drive, exposing the freshly-cut green grass and the real brick façade that protected the bottom front of our little home. The hunter green front door opened and Roger, hair still wet and sticking up from his shower, walked out. He had on his plaid pajama bottoms and a clean white t-shirt. He was holding the front of his PJ’s just above the knees so they wouldn’t touch the ground. His skin was sun-kissed and squeaky clean.
The smile on his face was wide. I could tell he was struggling to remain cool and not act too excited to see us, then I realized I was doing the same thing. The boys, tired and stiff from a fourteen-hour drive got out and ran to him. As always, I waited in line to hug him last but longest. We unloaded the van and went into the house to see the pups. It was very clean.
It was my first trip driving to Massachusetts and back with all the boys. People were trying to discourage me from going without Roger but he was working three jobs and we would not have been able to go at all. He didn’t try to talk us out of it. He trusted my judgement. He knew I was strong. I mean, he helped me become strong.
It was like that in the fire department, too. “Want to try breathing air?” he asked me while smirking. He was holding an air mask in one hand and the tank in his other. I was nervous but he wasn’t. He taught me that, how to drive the brush truck, and not to fight fire if my hair was wet because it would turn to steam.
He was away at least seven months every year on average, and I believe it gave him peace-of-mind to know that I was capable and sturdy, to know that I could take care of the family and our home when he was gone. There were times when I was feeling down or needy and I felt like he didn’t worry or care, but it wasn’t that at all, he simply trusted me. He was proud.
He taught me how to use a chop saw, mow the lawn, drive a stick, and how to be a fire fighter. He would beam with pride if my run time was faster than his, would laugh and make excuses when I beat him at a wrestling match, and he bragged about my air consumption test to the rest of the fire fighters. (It was so embarrassing.) It’s like he was setting me up without knowing it, like he was getting me ready to row the boat alone.
In light of the world and the questions we all have about what should be and what shouldn’t, I feel happy to brag about my husband who didn’t try to protect me or keep me as a good wife, but as a true, strong partner, an equal in every way and any way and all the ways.
I’m not sad today. When I thought about what I would say in this post about this special anniversary, I imagined it would be about how good of a dad he was, or how we had the same silly sense of humor. Missing him is annoying and it won’t go away until it’s my time, but finding happiness on a dictating date day feels really good. Confusing and a little wrong, but still good.