Sunday, May 22, 2011
Help Wanted: Just a LIttle
I am 49 years old yet I had never filled my own car tires with air until today. In fact, I asked my 28 year old niece to accompany me to the gas station before I got on the highway with my kids to go home. I was nervous about my big, bulging back tire and I didn't know how to fill it. I imagined the flat I might get on the road, and how I'd be alone with my kids in the evening on the side of a Chicago highway if it got any worse. She showed me how to do it so that the next time I won't need any help at all. So thanks to her for not making me feel like a big idiot for not knowing how to do something so simple. Something that my husband would have taken care of had he been here.
Something else I don't know how to do? I hate machinery and I have a really hard time pulling the cord that gets the lawnmower started. I also have zero interest in maintaining the lawnmower from year to year, zero interest in shopping for a different kind of lawnmower, and if I never again touch another lawnmower I'll be perfectly happy. I'm in the process of completely eliminating all need of said machinery. Two years ago I took all the grass out of my backyard and replaced it all with low maintenance plants, trees and shrubbery. Front yard grass? Watch out. You're a goner in the next couple of years. Cause get what else I really don't feel like learning how to do? Growing grass in the shade. Just not interested.
I felt a little stupid today watching a bunch of relatives listen to me say that I didn't know how to put air in my tires. But when my niece so kindly offered to help, I looked at my father-in-law and said,
"Well, I do a lot of things all by myself."
Married people get to lean on each other all the time. If you're married (to someone with some degree of competence, initiative, pride, or kindness, not to mention love for you), you can partially eliminate whole categories of activities you have no interest in mastering from plumbing to cooking to planning trips to arranging classes and activities for your children. The social schedule? Your investments? Budgeting? Picking up your own underwear? Playing catch? Finding the leftovers in the fridge? Leave it to your spouse. He or she is good at it anyway. Does Mary need help with her homework. Your turn, babe. I did it last night. Johnny has a soccer game? I'm going out with the girls. Can you do it tonight honey? And, by the way, thanks for putting that chicken on the grill!
When people in a well-functioning marriage lose their spouse, they have to be responsible for so many things all by themselves that they never intended to do all alone, sometimes for years and years. Sometimes for the rest of their lives. Some of those things are very big and profound like dealing with your children's emotional highs and lows, or guiding and advising them as they grow to adulthood, college selection, planning weddings, or facing frightening health matters or important financial decisions.
Some of the tasks you now have to do on your own are very small like making school lunches, driving your children where they need to go, moving a heavy object, unplugging a toilet, cleaning up a wet basement after a storm, showing up at school or sporting events,
or filling a leaky tire.
When somebody steps up to help with something very small, it's like a vent opening up in a lone self to let out some of the pressure that comes from living life widowed, from living or parenting on your own when you had intended to do it in a pair. This is a long and windy way of saying thank you to my niece for helping me with something small today. Many times small is bigger than you realize.