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Why Didn’t You Tell Me? By Cheryl Hughes

Garey and I will be married 44 years on November 28th of this year.  Now, wouldn’t you think we would know all there is to know about each other after 44 years?  Yeah, me too, and we’d both be wrong.

            Last week, I overheard Garey telling one of the guys at work about the little restaurant in the town of Jacksonville, where he attended college.  The place was called Mama Zuma’s.  He’d told me about the restaurant, adding that it was the only place in the town to get a decent meal on a college student’s budget.  What he said next was the surprise. 

            “Mama Zuma made the best chili, and she would always serve it with a grilled cheese sandwich.  I love grilled cheese with chili,” he said.

            I didn’t know Garey liked grilled cheese with chili.  In 44 years, never once have I fixed grilled cheese with chili.  We’ve had hot dogs, fried bologna, barbeque; heck, we could have even had sardines, for all I can remember, but we have never had grilled cheese with chili.

            “Why didn’t you tell me you like grilled cheese with chili?” I asked, a bit defensively.

            “You know me, I don’t complain about what you put on the table.  I just eat it.”

            I’ve told you this about Garey.  I could serve shredded cardboard with ketchup and he’d eat it.

            I understand why he’s like that, and you would too, if you had met Garey’s father and grandfather.  J.D. complained constantly about nearly everything Garey’s mom, Aggie, cooked, and she is one of the best cooks you will ever find.  One particular tirade J.D. was fond of was the one in which he would go on and on about the bacon she cooked for breakfast.  He would say to her, “I know you go through every package at the grocery store just to make sure you pick out the worst package, so you can cook it for me for breakfast!”  I’ve even heard him come home from work complaining about how she wrapped his sandwiches for lunch that day.

            Garey’s grandfather, his dad’s dad, was even worse.  He would get up from the dinner table, grab a bowl of something Garey’s grandmother had cooked—on a wood stove, mind you—and scrape the contents off the porch and onto the ground below, while griping, “This ain’t fit for the dogs!” 

            In our early marriage, I learned Garey doesn’t like Oreos—yes, the cookie all America eats.  When I would buy a package of Oreos, I would put them into a cookie jar.  One evening, I noticed there were only two cookies left. 

            “We’ve eaten almost all of the Oreos,” I said.

            “We?  You got a mouse in your pocket?” he asked.  “I don’t like Oreos.”

            “Who doesn’t like Oreos?” I said.

            “Me, that’s who,”Garey said.  (He doesn’t like chocolate chip cookies either, which makes me worry that he might be part of a Communist sleeper cell.)

            I don’t want to give the impression that Garey never speaks up about his likes or dislikes.  He will flat tell you things like “This house is lit up like a Christmas tree” or “Don’t blow the grass toward the strawberry bed when you mow, I’m tired of weeding it” or “You need to park more at an angle or you’re going to back into my truck in the morning.”  And I have learned, no matter what, do not move the Vicks Salve or Campho Phenique from the bathroom counter, even if you put it in the cabinet where it has lived for the past twenty-five years, because he won’t be able to find it, and he won’t be happy about having to look for it.

            With that said, it’s really nice living with someone who doesn’t gripe about what I fix for meals.  It has taken a lot of stress off of me during the past forty-four years, and makes me look forward to the next forty-four.



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