Of Life And Waterbeds

Today, Lintilla and I celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary. As time passes counting the years, marking the milestones becomes an ever-increasing source of wonderment.

It does not escape me that I was 22 years old the day we wed. That means that this time next year, I will have spent more time in my life with Lintilla as my wife than without. That just feels right to me, because my heart cannot imagine any other way to be. I know at one time I was something else besides her husband, but I can no longer fathom such an existence.

That kid, that lonely, silly, unfashionable, hyperactive young man was not me – just a child using my body until I could become “me”. That transformation began when I stood at the front of Blakemore United Methodist Church with my bandmates beside me – and looked down the aisle.

Approaching was an old man who really didn’t care for me much; his face was a mixture of sadness and frustration. To his credit, he followed through with grace and dignity.

On his arm was my best friend- only different. This woman who was “one of the boys”, who had spent so many nights with me and my friends drinking beer at The Boro, shooting pool at Amy’s, participating in belching contests while we hung out at my brother’s place watching movies – she walked down the aisle, looking comfortingly familiar, yet different.

She was stunningly beautiful. Not that I hadn’t consered her beautiful before, but this?

A part of me, deep down, leapt for joy upon seeing her, in spite of myself trying to look cool.

So many years have passed since July 10, 1987. It’s a little disturbing that most of that time is now considered “history”; it is disturbing to me that even the 90’s are now considered “a long time ago”.

We’ve seen three stock market crashes, four recessions, five presidents, the reported death of liberalism, and the reported death of conservatism. The Berlin wall fell, China ascended. Japan went from ominous financial power to just a fellow troubled country. Our country’s biggest threat dissolved into nothing, and a threat we really mostly didn’t see coming wiped out 3,000 lives and destroyed part of the NY skyline.

Nashville grew, and grew and grew. Changes came: the area of town that used to be known for salvage stores (we bought our first furniture at Turrentine’s) is now a kind of local ethnic United Nations. (I consider this an improvement!)  Downtown went from a place you didn’t go at night unless you wanted to catcall the hookers, go to an “adult” theater, and step over bums, to a thriving core filled with annoying urban hipsters (part of me preferred the hookers and bums).

It used to be that for sports, you went to a Sounds game, or to TSU or Vanderbilt, else you travelled to Knoxville.

Now, Nashville not only has hockey (HOCKEY!), but an NFL team. The freaking NFL is in Nashville. And our team went to the Superbowl in its first “real” season in town.

As a city, we’ve gone collectively from wanting to be Memphis, to wanting to be Atlanta, to wanting to be some combination of Portland, Oregon and Charlotte, NC.

Lintilla and I have gone from two young people making minimum wage, starting out in a 700 square foot apartment in Murfreesboro, with a waterbed from Wonderful Waterbeds in Hickory Hollow (remember that place?) and not much else, to two second-shift state employees living in Paragon Mills, to buying our first house (back to Murfreesboro!), eventually getting a bed with a real mattress. We’ve had horrible auto accidents, and even more horrible family losses.

We’ve “moved back home”, accepting the whispers that we couldn’t make it on our own, knowing we were really doing so to take care of an ailing old widow.

We’ve felt the sadness and frustration of infertility, and shared indescribable joy as we stood before judge Muriel Robinson on two different occasions, officially adding our two wonderful children to our family.

We’ve felt the pride and joy as our careers advanced, and the fear and despair as we watched everything we had burn to the ground. We’ve experienced all the joys and pains of raising children, planning and fretting, fretting and planning. Most of our days now are a haze of activity, and the time is passing so quickly.

We have seen and been through so much.

Does she get on my nerves sometimes? You bet. Am I a jackass sometimes? Most definitely.

And yet, even today, (even this morning), when she walks into the room, a part of me, a part deep inside that I still scarcely understand, leaps for joy.

When I see my friend, my companion, my lover, my advisor, I cannot help but thank the Lord that He has allowed me to love her all these years, and amazingly, surprisingly, she has loved me. I am certainly not deserving of such a kind, beautiful person as lifetime companion.

I love you, Lintilla. How about another 22 years?

I might even get us a waterbed for our 44th anniversary, if I can find one. Whether we’ll be able to get out of it at that age is another question.

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Have A Drink There, Big Fella

Lintilla and I have always personalized our marriage – meaning we treat it as if it were a person.  And, in a way, it is.  That is, our marriage is MUCH stronger, more resilient,  and interesting than just the sum of us.  It’s hard to explain, but I believe that other long-marrieds understand what I’m talking about.

We’ve watched it grow – we celebrated when it was old enough to be in a big-boy bed, when it reached kindergarten age, when it was old enough to ride most of the rides at Disney World, when it could drive, when it reached the age that it could serve its country.

Well, as of today, our marriage is old enough to have a drink in all 50 states.  21 years.  Party on, dude! (Or babe – our marriage is really gender-neutral, especially considering how gender-bending the two of us are).

Our anniversaries are usually quite low-key in between the “5” years.  So, we may not even go out to eat tonight (if we don’t I’m making those empanadas I told you about).  I’ll run out and get Lintilla a little something later today.  It’s not that I forgot our anniversary, it’s that we’ve really been too busy to shop for each other.

I do love that woman so.  She has been under the gun lately – uterine cancer, full hysterectomy, ineligible for hormone therapy – meaning those wonderful menopause symptoms are twice as bad, kidney cancer (and a doctor who seems in no hurry to take the tumor out, causing Lintilla much distress), and the latest thing – her joints have just about stopped working.  The doc is going to check her for rheumatoid arthritis.

Through it all, she’s kept her marvelous sense of humor and determination.  She is my inspiration.

Just a quick Lintilla story, to highlight one of the myriad things I love about her.

The hospice she works for recently had a “trouble” patient.  He would not cooperate, he was grouchy all the time, and just downright mean.  Somehow, Lintilla ended up (after several others had tried) with him as a patient.  And at first, he was awful to her as well.  He was an older man, suffering from partial dementia, and wasn’t all “there”.

She asked the family about him; she wanted to know what he had done when he was younger.  Through their conversations, she discovered that the man had been a marine for most of his life.  So, the next time she cared for him, Lintilla changed her tone.  She barked orders at him (in a firm, but nice way) as if she were his commanding officer.

The change in the man was stunning.  He cooperated fully, and started calling Lintilla “sir”.  (Lintilla also called him “sir” – she isn’t very familiar with military protocol).  From then on, he looked forward to Lintilla’s visits.  He mixed up in his mind who he was talking to – a rough officer or a caring female.  He would answer to the orders “Yes, sir!  Right away, sir!  Love you, sir!”

It’s such a sweet story, and only one of so many she can tell. 

I count it the greatest of blessings that a bum like me could snag such a beautiful prize.  Happy anniversary, Lintilla!  Have a drink!

Today Is Lintilla’s Birthday!

Today is the 19th anniversary of Lintilla’s 29th birthday.

I got her an iPod Nano, because that’s what she wanted.

She is and always will be the love of my life. 

Valentine’s Night Meal

I have an embarrassment of riches in love.

And for once, I decided to just enjoy it, and not make a big deal out of it here. 

When I got home with the kids yesterday, we went to work.  I’ve kind of let the house go in the last couple of weeks, and I know it has affected Lintilla’s mood.  So, we cranked up Hannah Montana and got to cleaning.  It didn’t take long (I could REALLY get used to having some help around the house).  Then, I started dinner.

BTW, most adults would never admit it, but Hannah Montana 2 is a pretty good CD.  Mostly vapid pop, but would you really want your 10 year old daughter to be listening to angst ridden existential college music?

Anyway, there are two days of the year we do not, under any circumstances, eat out. One is Mother’s Day, the other, Valentine’s Day.  The stress of doing so just ruins the whole day.

So, I broiled some strip steaks.  Light on the seasoning, no marinade, because we were having them with Bearnaise sauce.  No, I didn’t make it from scratch.  I work full time, have two children, three dogs, a blogging job, a music ministry,and church responsibilities.  I do not have time on a weeknight to separate eggs or clarify butter.  We used the Knorr sauce mix.  It was still excellent.

We added loaded baked potatoes as the side dish, and skipped the bread because we knew we’d be having dessert.  Trillian (with my supervision) made Hershey Mini Hot Fudge Cakes.  We had them with vanilla ice cream instead of strawberries – yum!  I have no doubt I could make these from scratch on weekends – in fact, my friend Ford Prefect has a recipe that is pretty darn close.  Just drop a hunk of a Hershey bar on top of unbaked cake/muffin batter; as it bakes, it sinks to the middle of the muffins.  Drizzle with chocolate and get out your glucometer!

I also gave Lintilla Buddy the Dog as a gift.  It’s the Hallmark stuffed animal that excitedly says, “Where’s my hug? Where’s my hug? Oh, boy, oh, boy oh, boy!”  It fits our style just perfectly.

Lintilla wasn’t feeling well, but I think we still managed to brighten her day.

Menopause – The Musical Coming To Nashville in April

Menopause, The Musical is coming to Nashville in April.  My wife has already made me promise to buy her tickets.  Looks like fun, but this is one of those things where any men who attend get funny stares.

So, why don’t we get some blogger women to attend together?  Hmmmm?

And, I may still go.  It might be a funny date night.

Sex And Disney World

Has there ever been a group of people more misunderstood than those who have a sense of modesty about sex?  Hollywood created a stereotype decades ago, and it has stuck.  The world sees us as Bree (Van De Kamp) Hodge, the uptight character from Desperate Housewives.  As described in Wikipedia:

Bree is known for her cooking, cleaning, ironing, gardening, doing her lawn, and reupholstering her own furniture, on the level of Martha Stewart. Besides being a dedicated homemaker, she also is well-versed in regards to firearm training: she owns four guns and is a card-carrying member of the Nation Rifle Association. She is a staunch conservative, owning and displaying a framed photograph of noted Republican President Ronald Reagan in her home. She is also a conservative Christian and homophobic, though as of the third season Bree has slowly renounced her disdain for homosexuals with the revelation that her son Andrew was gay, and also his revealing that her homophobic response towards him when he came out of the closet was the driving force towards the pain he inflicted upon Bree during season two.

We, and I say “we” because I count myself in this group, have not helped matters by making so much noise when others who do not share our view are more open and vulgar about sex.  It’s a natural impulse, I guess (I’ll get to that later), but it only feeds the stereotype that we think sex is dirty, that we very infrequently have sex, and even then, only the missionary position.

We are very easily mocked.  Television especially does this, but also politicians, the non-religious, liberal Christians, novelists, and bloggers to name a few.  Here’s a good example.  B’s original post was poignant and funny, but some of the comments were terribly, awfully bigoted. (Me?  I would have added one more question to B’s list: “I just had sex with a straw man.  How do I get rid of all this itching and chafing?”)

Well, I’ve always thought this outside criticism amounted to punching a man who was tied to a chair: since “we” don’t openly talk very much about sex, it’s kind of hard to refute the mocking.  I’m going to step out of my silence for a bit to speak for others who will not speak for themselves.

Now, in order to do this, I’ll have to make a few assumptions, so you don’t bombard me with exceptions.  Just for discussion’s sake, let’s use some media stereotypes.  For the “uptight” side, we’ll use Bree Hodge from Desperate Housewives.  For the open, more libertine side, we’ll use Samantha Jones from Sex and the City, described in Wikipedia thusly:

…an independent publicist and a seductress who avoids emotional involvement at all costs, while satisfying every possible carnal desire imaginable. She believes that she has had “hundreds” of soulmates and insists that her sexual partners leave “an hour after I climax.” In season 3, she moves from her full-service Upper East Side apartment to an expensive loft in the then-burgeoning Meatpacking District. Over the course of the show, she does have a handful of real relationships, but they are more unconventional than those of her friends, including a lesbian relationship with Brazilian painter played by Sonia Braga.

Now, I would opine that in real life, statistically speaking, nether woman exists.  But, for purposes of example, one extreme stereotype deserves another.

I’ll give you a shocker: in the real world, Bree has more sex than Samantha.  Here’s a scholarly study to back it up (warning: pdf).  And, it’s only common sense. Literally sleeping with the same person every night raises the availability factor exponentially.  Also, common sense would say that Bree has better sex than Samantha.  There are stages of sex between two specific people: that first, fumbling time, the getting more familiar stage, the comfortable stage, and then finally the stage that Jeff Foxworthy describes like this:

“I love married sex. After all these years together, I know I’m going to enjoy it, and so does she. I know the combination to that safe – 3 to the left, 2 to the right, 6 to the left and then Wheeeeeeee……and you are welcome baby.”

Samantha certainly rarely even gets to stage 2; stages 3 and 4 take many, many years with one person to achieve.

So, let’s see.  Bree has more sex than Samantha, and it’s better sex at that.  But, since Bree doesn’t talk about sex in public, certainly she doesn’t talk about it at all, right?  For the answer, let’s peruse the Sex and Pregnancy section at the quite conservative Christian Booksellers, shall we?  134 results?  Titles like Sex God:  Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality, The Gift of Sex: A Guide To Sexual Fulfillment, and so on.  Man, for people who don’t talk about sex, those uptight Christians sure talk about sex a lot.

Part of the problem is our own.  We not only like to keep our sexual conversations behind closed doors, but we have a very bad habit of insisting that others do the same.  Part of the reason, I think, is because, if we wish to remain true to ourselves, we have to drop out of the conversation altogether, to become societal wallflowers.  And nobody wants to be left out.  So we try to ban the conversation altogether.  Me? I like being overtly different from my more “open” friends, and I like the fact that people notice that I’m somehow different, that I speak with allegories and euphemisms, without my having to shout it from the rooftops.

So let’s keep score:  we have more sex, better sex, and we talk about it a lot (behind closed doors).  Yet the stereotype of the undersexed, hypocritical, conservative Christian persists.  I think there’s only one explanation for this: there is a fundamental misunderstanding of why we are the way we are.  I’d like to set the record straight.

We love and revere the mystery of sex.  We want it to be more than the matter-of-fact “this part goes into this part, and it feels good”.  By not relegating sexuality to the ordinary,something we discuss over dinner with strangers as we would the latest Stallone film, we make it more special.  Well, actually, we don’t make it more special, we properly recognise it’s special-ness.

Let me change gears. I have a love that borders on mania for Walt Disney World.  Many share this particular feeling with me.  I have been there three times, and I’m going again next year.  I can tell you the best shortcut from Dumbo to Space Mountain.  I can tell you the best days of the week to visit the Magic Kingdom, the best route to take through Animal Kingdom, the best restaurants at EPCOT.  To many, Disney World is just another theme park; a crowded, overpriced one at that.  And, if I were ever totally objective about it, I’d admit they were right.

However, I remember so well my sense of awe and wonder upon first visiting the Magic Kingdom in 1976.  I will not let that wonder go.  I hold onto it, I cherish it, I guard it jealously as a lover, keeping that wonder hidden in a safe place inside myself.  When, as an adult, I take that familiar monorail from the TTC to the gates of the Magic Kingdom, I am 12 years old again, basking in the awe of this perfectly magical place that sprung from the imagination of Walt Disney, just for me.  I reconnect with my family in a way that is hard to describe.   I surrender myself to it – here I am a 43 year old man giggling under my breath like a child – knowing full well that I am blowing $5K in a place that at its heart is designed specifically for that purpose, to separate me from my $5K.  Yet, I surrender to the magic, and allow myself to be reborn, if only for a little while.

It’s like that with sex.  It’s more than a biological act that sometimes results in reproduction.  It’s a Magic Kingdom, sprung from the imagination of God, just for me and my wife.  I get to reconnect with my wife in a way that is hard to describe.  I don’t want to lose that sense of awe and wonder.  I want to surrender to the magic, to drink deep from the well of the love my wife and I have for one another.  The only way to do that is to hold on to that wonder, cherish it, guard it jealously like a lover, to hide it away in a safe place.

And that’s why you won’t find me having casual, public, graphic conversations about sex.

It’s Like A Little Hug

Conversation yesterday:

Lintilla: “So, I’m headed to the oncologist.  He’s going to have me set up an appointment with Dr [xxxx] (her OB-Gyn).  I’ve got a list of questions to ask her.”

Me: “Good.  We need to make sure we’re doing everything right.”

Her: “I was going to ask her…when we can…”

“What?  Mow the lawn?  Go on a trip?”

“No.  You know…”

“Oh.  That.  Well, I wasn’t going to ask, because I don’t want to come off as an insensitive jerk after all you’ve been through.”

[After a few seconds of silence].  “I wasn’t asking for you.”

Sometimes, I love her so much I can’t see straight.