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Cheryl Hughes: Do You Have to Do That

“If you don’t quit parking there, you’re going to back into my truck.”  Garey has said this to me on more than one occasion.  


 “How many times have I backed into you?” I ask.  “The answer is zero,” I answer before he can.

He knows why I park where I do in the driveway behind our house.  It’s for my cats.  They like to take shelter under my car, when it’s aligned with the sidewalk and back door, so they can dash in when I open the door.  It’s also a handy place to hide in the event that a strange dog visits our place.  Besides, if I think there may be a chance that I might hit Garey’s truck, I get out of my car and pull his truck over.

There are several little habits we each have that get under the other’s skin.  The trick to any relationship is to decide which hill is worth dying on, so to speak.  My hill is Garey’s habit of spitting out of the car window when he’s driving.  This drives me crazy.  He justifies it by asking, “Would you rather I fill the car with snot-covered paper towels?”  My answer: It depends.  Sometimes, he spits just as another car is passing us.  I tell him that one day, his luck will run out, and we will be chased down by a driver with a gun.  I have already thought about what I will do if this scenario plays out in our local area.  As the driver approaches our car, I will hold up a token for our local car wash and say, “This is a ten-dollar token for a car wash…on us.  You can buy more ammunition with the savings.” (Okay, maybe ten dollars would buy only one round, but hey, one bullet is one bullet.)  I don’t know what I will do if we’re on the Interstate when Garey spits on a car.  May God have mercy on our souls.

I am thankful, however, that Garey doesn’t chew or dip tobacco products, then spit the juice into a bottle or can.  One of my friends picked up her husband’s spit can (a soda can), at a ballgame, thinking it was her drink, and took a big swig of tobacco spit. The couple is still together.  She is a bigger person than I am.   I would have left the game immediately and filed for divorce.

I read once that couples who try to adjust to one another’s annoying habits are like two porcupines mating—the quills have to align so the prickly parts don’t wound one another.  It takes tolerance and understanding, which can only be developed through years of being in one another’s company.

On Monday, November 28th, of this year, Garey and I celebrated 47 years together.  His mother’s visitation was that day.  She was buried the next day, November 29th.  Garey’s father died this same time of the year, twenty-eight years ago.  November has held some of our darkest days.  

At his mom’s funeral, Garey turned to me and said, “I know it seems like everything bad happens to us around our anniversary, but today, we get to send Mother off to Heaven, and that’s a good thing.”  He has always been a glass half-full person, and I love that about him.

For years, I would rather have stayed quiet than to be in the middle of an argument.  It took years for me to find my voice.  During the interim, I let a lot of things that really bothered me go unaddressed.  Garey was the sort who believed if something was wrong, I’d let him know, because he always told me up front if something was bothering him.  The following is one of his favorite jokes, and it avidly describes Garey to a tee:

A couple had a baby, a little boy.  As he grew, he learned to crawl, he learned to walk, but he never spoke a word.  The parents did everything to try to get their son to speak.  Nothing seemed to work.  The parents were getting anxious, because the boy was fast approaching his fifth birthday and would soon be entering school.  One night at the dinner table, the boy said, “Mashed potatoes cold.”  The parents could barely believe what they had heard.  The father said, “You haven’t spoken for five years, and the first words out of your mouth are, mashed potatoes cold!  Why?”  The little boy explained.  “Up until now, everything’s been okay.”

There is a line of notebooks on the market that have very funny covers.  One of them reads, MY LIST OF THINGS I WAS RIGHT ABOUT.  In a relationship—any relationship—you have to put aside your need to be right.  A very wise fellow musician once said to me.  “The thing is you can be right and still not win.”  And isn’t that what it’s all about…crossing the finish line together.


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