My husband is one of the most interesting men in the world. Every year of our marriage, I learn a little something new. He is quite a character. His personality kinda reminds me of a wedding cake. Intricate with detail and so many layers. Let’s cut into the first layer and discuss, shall we? The bottom layer is his foundation. It’s filled with his love for tradition and his resistance to change. The man is terrible at goodbyes. He absolutely can not stand to see a good thing end. It makes him both ultra lovable and painfully exhausting to be around. Now, I know a lot of people who struggle with goodbyes but Ming takes it to another level. I fought it early in our marriage but over time I adjusted. That’s what you do when you are in love people. You adjust and suffer.
The first time I noticed his internal struggle with goodbyes was in 2001. It was early in our marriage and I was waiting for him to get dressed so we could go out for the night. His eyes got wide with excitement when he realized that his favorite pair of blue jeans were clean. They were an old pair of Levis from 1994. He put them on with great confidence. These were his “go to” jeans. They were comfortable and fit his body just right. All was going well until he looked in the mirror. I watched his face go from childlike excitement to complete and total despair. He slowly sat down on the bed and caught his breath. How could this be happening? Not now…not tonight. He wasn’t ready. I wondered what happened? Did he suddenly have a memory of a loved one that had passed? Did he forget to call his mother on her birthday? I put my arm around him.
“Are you ok?”
He looked up at me with sad puppy eyes. “My jeans. I love these things.”
I was confused. “Huh?”
He became slightly irritated with me. “Didn’t you see what happened?”
I answered hesitantly “What are you talking about? I know you love them. Why do you look so sad?”
He stood up and looked in the mirror again to see if it was true. It was confirmed. He slowly bent over and showed me. It was a hole. Not the kind of hole that was held together with enough strands of denim to look cool. It was a full-fledged hole right in the crotch of his jeans.
I sighed. “Aw! That stinks honey. I hate that. It looks like they are officially done!”
“No. You don’t understand. I have had these since the summer after I graduated high school. They are so old. They don’t make them like this any more. I’ll never find another pair.”
Alright. Now that’s a bit dramatic but I see what he is saying. I try to redirect him.
“Aw, I know you are bummed. I’m sorry. Do you have another pair you can wear tonight?”
He looked at me like I was evil. How dare I move on to the next pair of blue jeans before he has properly mourned the ones he has loved for nearly a decade.
“Well? I was hoping you could sew these?”
“What? What the hell are you saying? We gotta go. I am not sewing a huge ass hole in a pair of jeans 5 minutes before we walk out the door. “
“Geez. Why won’t you help me?”
“Help you? Are you kidding me? Dude. C’mon? Get dressed.”
“No! I want to wear these jeans. Those other ones suck.”
“How old are you…2?”
“C’mon Ronda. Please. Will you patch them?”
“Patch your jeans? You want me to patch your jeans tonight BEFORE we go out?”
“Fine. Then I’m wearing them like this.”
“Fine, whatever. Let’s go!” So he wore his jeans with a big ass hole out on the town that night. He had no shame. In fact, he felt victorious. Little did I know that this was just the beginning. He kept those jeans in his closet for another couple of years. Every year the hole got bigger but he continued to wear them until they no longer fit. That’s when he folded them up and placed them in his jean drawer. They sat on the bottom of his jean drawer like an old friend. At some point, I looked at them and decided that they were officially done. It was ridiculous. They don’t fit, he hasn’t worn them in years, they have a huge hole and they were taking up valuable drawer space. It felt good to get rid of something. I kept my secret safe for a while. I actually felt like I was doing him a favor. They would sit in that drawer forever if it were up to Ming. Months passed and then for some reason, he went looking for his holy jeans???? His frantic search for his jeans stressed me out so badly that I confessed my secret.
Let’s just say it was not a happy day at the Doherty home. How could I have done this? They were “perfectly good jeans” according to Ming. I have to say, I don’t understand this behavior. I watched his reaction the way people watch the gorillas at the zoo. I was careful not to tap the glass. It’s never a good idea to provoke an animal already in distress. Odd yet endearing. Apparently, he loved those jeans the way people love each other. This is how he loves everything in his life. Everything. People, places and possessions . They are all savored.
Here’s another example. Every summer we go to the beach. We love the beach. The whole family. We pack all of our crap up and stay there for the entire day. I love it. All of it…except the departure. Our departure is always a predictable struggle. First the life guards leave. Then, the beach slowly empties. Families all around us start heading home. My children all have sun-kissed skin. They are tired and hungry. This is the moment when 99.9% of parents decide it’s time to go. The kids will start melting soon and the walk back to the beach house will be torture if we don’t leave quickly. I begin washing off the sand toys and folding beach towels to speed up the departure process.
This is the moment when something happens to Ming. He walks toward the ocean. “Where are you going?” I inquire. “I’m going for one last dip in the ocean.” Oh boy…here we go. I know what this means. It means that whatever time I wanted to leave, I should add a half hour onto that. Ming has to say goodbye to the beach for the day. This might take some time. I keep packing up all of our crap. The kids wash their boogie boards off. I change Maggie’s diaper. I help all 4 kids strap on their shoes. We fold the chairs and dump the ice out of the cooler. It felt like it took an hour to get everything packed up but eventually we were ready to head home. There I am, completely ready to go with all 4 kids and the only person missing is daddy. [I’m breathing heavy and sweating] “Molly? Where is daddy?” “Oh. He went for one last swim Mom. You know how he loves the ocean.” [sigh] “Yes, I certainly do. I can’t believe he’s still swimming he said he wanted to take a dip? ” I look out towards the horizon and I see Ming. The only soul in the water as far as my eyes can see. I frantically wave to get his attention so we can go home but he does not respond. The kids start whining “Moooooom? Can we start walking?” “Hang on guys. I need to let dad know that we are leaving so he doesn’t worry.” I continue to wave frantically but still no response. I notice that he is looking at the horizon. Completely oblivious that 5 people are waiting on him to leave. “Flynn. Run down to the edge of the water for me and tell Daddy we have to go.” I watch Flynn sprint to the edge of the water, flag his father down, yell something and then sprint back. “What did daddy say?” “He said he’s coming.” I look out toward the water and Ming is floating on his back. Just chilling. He was totally enjoying life. I watched in complete awe. Why don’t I do what he does? I should take some time and enjoy life’s quiet moments. I dreamed about floating over the waves. My thoughts were soon interrupted by my 6 year-old tugging on my cover-up. “Moooom? Can we please go home! Please? We are so hungry!” I was just about to snap when I saw Ming come out of the water and make his way toward us. Thank goodness! The kids ran to greet him with a towel and he smiled when he got next to me. “The water is so awesome! You guys ready to go?” I stare at him and then glance at the 4 kids and a cart full of beach crap that I have been watching for the last 25 minutes. “Yes dear. We are ready. Are you?” He takes a moment and looks at the beach one last time. The sun is setting and there is nobody left on the beach. “Yup! I guess so. I just hate to leave. It was such a good day.” I giggle at his predictable response and distract him with a glimpse into the future. “I know but we can come back tomorrow. “ This satisfies him and we make our way over the sand dunes and finally head home.
This type of struggle happens constantly. He does it when it’s time to leave the bar. He hates to leave a party. He struggles taking down holiday decorations. He is sad to see house guests leave. Sad to see the kids grow up. He is sad when we have to throw away a pair of smelly slippers or a ticket stub. I mean, it’s ridiculous! I had no idea that I married a modern-day version of Sanford and Son back in 2000. He saves everything!
There is one thing I know for sure. No matter what happens, I am golden. I have been around far too many years for Ming to ditch. I am so lucky. Oh Ming! He is a character. His little quirks often remind me how I should live my life. There is a beginning and an end to everything. Ming holds onto the past and I always look to the future. Maybe we should strive to meet somewhere in the middle. Savor the past, look forward to the future but live in the present.