Monday, October 06, 2008


I am not a particularly nice man.

I'm not a particularly bad man, either, but generally I talk too much, my opinions are often rude, and I am caustic and immediate in my judgements. I am a fairly sloppy dresser, tend to disrespect authority and pretty much everything else, for that matter. I have been, by turns, a bad employee, an angry and difficult husband, a disobedient son and a faithless friend. While I have also been a loving father, a caring and affectionate spouse, a genuine pal, a diligent and responsible wage-earner, a sharply competent professional and a compassionate family member, this just balances the scale against the Bad Stuff.

Put both sides together and I'm about right on the mean for human attributes. Half devil, half angel, fully human, I guess.


What I do own; what I have a complete lock, 100% pure-D monopoly on, is what you'd call "survivability". I'm just hardwired for survival. Something in me just doesn't want to die. You can kill me as easily as any other human, but my mind and body won't work with you on that.

I'm the guy, if I were in one of those 1980's made-for-TV movies, you know where the airliner goes down in the Andes and the wretched survivors, after spending endless, grueling days freezing, starving and dying of thirst finally feed off the corpses of the victims and, eventually, each other, gets hauled up to the rescue helicopter as the credits roll, burping gently?

I'm that guy.

I'm the guy who rolls past the four-car fatal accident with a glance and a grimace. Whose reaction to the explosion that destroys the office block around him is to ensure that he gets his expense receipts out of the drawer ahead of the fire. Who walks into the barracks room where the privates are watching "Faces of Death XIV: Too Gruesome For Anyone!" munching a burrito and exclaims amid the retching "Hey! I didn't know my old buddy and my girlfriend knew HOW to work a videocam!"

That's me.

Note: this is NOT a good thing.

For one thing, it makes it difficult for me to be truly human and truly empathetic. I am not good with the sick and the grieving, and I have an unpleasantly distant reaction to hurt and loss, more a longing sort of mild regret than truly tearing grief. I'm missing something very essential, some emotional accessibility that my system just doesn't have.

It works, in terms that it makes me a very emotionally and physically durable person. But there is something very...needed, missing in me to obtain this, and I am the poorer, the less...human...for it.

My beloved Mojo is, if anything, the exact opposite. When she gets hurt, or sick, she collapses. Grief and anger and worry tear at her.She has been depressive, clinically depressive, and has suffered through torments after the loss of our first child, and after the disruption of our first adoption, that I can literally not imagine.She also tends to "break down": she neglects herself, and her body takes its revenge by shutting down. If I were in the middle of a massive emotional crisis, my mind and body would force me to stop and eat, take a drink, nap. Mojo will push herself beyond that point and, finally, collapse.

Six years ago today we enjoyed a wonderful, joyous, splendid day.

The wedding we crafted and celebrated together, complete with our own vows, music, the celebrant of our choice, a reception at our beloved Overlook House catered by our favorite taqueria - we still mourn that they didn't feel okay with doing it out of the taco truck; we wanted a picture of Mojo in her wedding dress lined up with the other guests at the curb - and a honeymoon at one of our most secretive B&Bs.

It was, for lack of a better word, magical, full of the love we feel for each other with all of our friends around us.

Poor Mojo was so wired and so excited she literally forgot to eat ALL DAY.

Okay, I think she had two bites of wedding cake. Three. Tops.

So as we were leaving the B&B to get dinner that night her blood sugar crashed and so did she. We ended up eating at the first place we could get to, a NW Portland Cantonese greasy stick, nearly got our car towed away, and Mojo slept for the next ten hours straight. Ah, youth! Ah, romance!Ah, real life. It's SO not like a Hugh Grant romcom.

Fortunately, Mojo hates La Grant.

So I should have guessed that when my love said she had a headache last evening it wasn't just a figure of speech. We had spent a long, busy day, she'd been socializing and sipping wine and mommying and not eating or hydrating right. She didn't take her medication on time. So the poor girl crashed into a hideous migraine; we spent all morning at the doctor's office and she's knocked out in bed upstairs as I type this, a victim of our anniversary tradition of Mojolicious' distress.

I'm sorry, lovey, that you feel so poorly, and that I am so distressingly chipper. I hope you feel better soon.

But on this day of iron and chocolate, I will whisper into your sleeping ear:

Now, as in Tullia's tomb, one lamp burnt clear,
Unchanged for fifteen hundred year,
May these love-lamps we here enshrine,
In warmth, light, lasting, equal the divine.
Fire ever doth aspire,
And makes all like itself, turns all to fire,
But ends in ashes ; which these cannot do,
For none of these is fuel, but fire too.
This is joy's bonfire, then, where love's strong arts
Make of so noble individual parts
One fire of four inflaming eyes, and of two loving hearts.
Happy Anniversary, my love.


pluto said...

I think maybe you're being a little too hard on yourself, Chief.

My beloved and I are in a similar situation. There are times when she needs to crash and I don't pick up on the signals (usually I get about 15 minutes warning before it hits the fan) and if I miss the warning signs I get to be there to pick up the pieces. And frankly, some of those pieces are damned sharp and I still get cut on them even after 16 years of marriage.

Your apology, with lovely poetry and images, is better than I'm capable of. I'm far more likely to wander off into my own little world as quickly as I can and not come back until far later than she expects.

Women are some of the strangest, most wonderful, (and occasionally most perverse) creatures in the world. They are frequently far more clear eyed about their spouses than they let on and they learn to deal with both the good and the bad in ways that are both sub-conscious and effective, otherwise they leave.

The pictures I've seen of Mojo suggest she's a long way from leaving which I consider to be a strong testimony to your better side. Just try to live up to it more frequently and you'll be fine.

If asked, I'm sure that Mojo (AFTER she recovers from her migraine) will confirm that she is well aware of both your good and bad sides, and has decided that on the whole, that you are well worth it.

P.S. - Totally off topic, I view any person who regularly watches "Faces of Death" videos with considerable concern and may express it with a shotgun to the back of the head. Death is a necessary part of life and sometimes it is horrible and messy but to videotape it so millions can watch pain and suffering strikes me as too sick to be allowed to live.

walternatives said...

Happy Anniversary, friend. When she's feeling better, please give sweet Mojo our warm wishes, too. xo

FDChief said...

Poor Mojo is still knocked out 24 hours later. I wish I could help beyond feeding her toast and icewater and giving her her meds.

The little peeps were WONDERFUL, so quiet and patient with "mommy's owie"...poor lovie.

sheerahkahn said...

First off, Happy Anniversary!

Secondly, the skirt explains everything about your percieved wife is Scottish (Border scot), Irish, and Welsh...slow burn to anger, but once there...oh yeah, look out!

And lastly, yep, migraines, been there, done that, and still the bastard returns unannounced.
Please extend my sympathies to your wife.
For me, cold damp towel, complete and total silence, and darkness...the room must be dark...and then finally, blessed unconsciousness.

Dee said...

Happy Anniversary to you both. I'm so sorry Mojo still isn't feeling better. Migraines are a bitch. As for you, the lovely poetry and the willingness to wear a kilt weigh heavily in your favor.

FDChief said...

Sheerah: Yep, the skirt does explain a lot. We Scots, like the Bourbons, tend to "learn nothing and forget nothing"... I also liked the comment someone (was it P.J. O'Rourke?) made about Somalia: fanatics in skirts butchering each other over clan feuds - add castles and bagpipers and it'd be Scotland.

Dee: thanks for the sympathy. She's a little better today but still pretty shaky, and I'm still home taking care of her.

MeghanH said...

Congrats on the anniversary. It's funny to think how quickly those years pass by. Next week, it will be 5 years since Will's and my first date. Ah, youth, indeed. To be 28 again...

Anyhoo, hope your bride is feeling better tout suite. Let's shoot for getting together next week, eh?

Red Sand said...

Happy belated anniversary. I hope the "owie" is receding. If anything, it sounds like you two balance each other out, if one can make such a judgment without actually having met either of you in person.

You Know Where You Are With said...

Happy Belated Anniversary!

I do have to ask, why the Buchanan tartan? That's my family's tartan ("Dove"--or Dow, after the river--was part of the Loch Lomond Buchanan clan, until it died out in the 18th century)!

FDChief said...

Meghan: Thank you, and you and your guy will always be "those crazy in-love kids" to us.

RS: Personally, I suspect you're right. ALthough it can make for some pretty spectacular fights...

YK: That ugly yellow sett is the "Ancient MacMillan", since my maternal grandfather was a MacMillan of Skye. The "Dress MacMillan" is a truly horrible Victorian confection all red and black like the little doggie jacket on a Scottie. I had donw the morning-coat-and-ascot for my first marriage, so I wanted my second to be as different as possible. Glad you enjoyed the pagentry.

Lisa said...

Oh, my--FDChief in kilt. This is special.

Know that this voice finds you exceedingly sensitive and expressive, capable of empathetic understanding of your sistren to a much higher degree than most of your fellows. You are, as you say, "sturdy"--a trait we women seek in a man. It is part of the "all" when we say we want that (understanding + strength).

Also, I have the read that excellent and exquisite verse before, and it is always a fitting expression of true love. Simply elegant and heartfelt.

FDChief said...

Lisa: there's a wonderful passage in one of the GM Fraser books where he has one of his characters, a little tubby major of the Gordon Highlanders, explain that the kilt "...acts like catnip to the women, the poor dears, they cannae help theimselves. It's the aura o' the heather, the miasma, d'ye ken, o' the bens and the glens and the heeroes, that makes a man seem a wild, untamed beast."


Thanks to all commentors here for the lovely and flattering comments. Mojo is much better today, and we're hoping for a less frantic and stressful upcoming weekend.

FDChief said...

Lisa: The Donne verse has a special place in my heart because it was part of our wedding vows. And it IS a beautiful verse.

Lisa said...

As I read the Fraser passage I found myself intoning it in accent! He is correct. (My maternal grandfather hailed from the Dundee area, so I've a weakness, you see.)

FDChief said...

Lisa: I think you would find GMF's "MacAuslan" series of stories rewarding; a thinly disguised recounting of his time in the Gordon Highlanders in Libya, Egypt, Palestine and Scotland the years after WW2. Wonderful stories, told of a time, place and people the author very obviously and deeply loves.

Lisa said...

Thank you for the suggestion. I'm sure I would enjoy these.