Cheryl Hughes: The Things I Wouldn't Change
Many times, I walk into the bathroom, after Garey has showered, and I see that the bathmat is still on the floor. I stoop down, pick it up, and say to no one in particular, “I wish Garey would pick up the bathmat.” Garey will tell you that most of the time, he does pick up the bathmat. I will tell you that he is delusional.
I would change that part of my husband if I could, but there are other things I wouldn’t change if you paid me. I have small endearing images of Garey that always make me smile. Some of my favorites are of Garey when he is working on a project or gardening or on his backhoe. Others flit across my periphery as I walk out onto the back sidewalk and see Garey in the golf cart, a basket in the back, the shoe on his left foot gleaming with silver duck tape he has used to reattach the sole to the upper part of the shoe. He wears a straw hat and a denim shirt over his tee shirt. He is headed down the hill to pick okra from the garden.
The image is just a flash, but it remains. It remains, not because it is odd, but because it is familiar. The actions that are repeated, the actions that become the very essence of the person who doesn’t realize he is repeating them, those are the ones that stay with you.
There are conversations I’ve had with Garey I wouldn’t have missed for the world. They aren’t deep philosophical conversations. They are every-day back-and-forth exchanges in which Garey makes the case for his point of view, and they are always hilarious—for me, anyway. One morning, he asked me what to pick up for breakfast at McDonalds for our granddaughter—she was still sleeping.
“Get her a sausage McGriddle,” I say.
“Anything to drink?” he asks.
“That caramel iced coffee she always gets. You know,” I say.
“No, I didn’t know,” he says.
“How could you not know?” I say, “She always gets that. I know,” I add sanctimoniously.
“It doesn’t matter what you know,” Garey says, “It only matters what the orderer knows, and I’m the orderer.”
With that said, he trumps my sanctimoniousness, turns on his heel and heads to McDonalds.
I laughed for fifteen minutes after he’d left.
It isn’t just Garey’s conversations with me that have given me hours of entertainment over the more than forty years we’ve been together. He has had some classics with his mom, Aggie. The last time we visited Alabama, Garey was rifling through Aggie’s junk drawer in her kitchen in search of a screw.
“Mother, I don’t know how you find anything in this drawer,” Garey said, as he moved around bread ties, plastic bags, batteries, and pieces of broken things.
“I’ve been meaning to clean it out,” Aggie said defensively.
“You need to throw about half this stuff away, and then you might be able to find something,” Garey said.
“I know, Darlin,” Aggie said patiently. (I was in the living room reading while this conversation was going on.)
“Like this,” Garey said, “Mendets. Mends all leaks instantly. The woman on the package looks like she stepped out of 1950 .” (Okay, that got my attention. I had to see this.)
I walked into the kitchen where Garey was holding a yellowed piece of cardboard with—he called it—a woman dressed in 1950s attire. The package contained a small metal disc and a small plastic disc with rivets and fasteners.
“It probably only cost a quarter,” Aggie said.
“No, you’re wrong, Mother,” Garey said. “It cost 15 cents. It’s right here on the package in a big blue circle. If you haven’t used this by now, you’re not going to use it.”
“Oh, Aggie, can I have it?” I asked.
“You can have anything I’ve got. You know that,” Aggie said.
“What are you going to do with it?” Garey asked.
“I’m going to put it in my junk drawer,” I teased.
Garey gave me his “don’t even think about it” look, to which I said, “It’s going to live on my dresser with the other things that make me smile.”
That’s where it sits today, and I smile every time I see it.