My first marriage was to a man who, while he has many, many wonderful qualities, he did not have the ability to "not sweat the little things." He is as kind and gentle as can be, but he is a moody artist. I can't tell you how many family outings were completely ruined because, say, as we were pulling out of the driveway I realized I'd forgotten our (then) baby's diaper bag or my sunglasses. I would quickly run back in the house, retrieve the item and be back in the car within minutes. But this would be enough to cause him to quietly seethe for the rest of the day. As in, not speaking to me or our child during the entire outing, withholding his love and affection. Now, I'm smart enough to know that it wasn't really about me forgetting my sunglasses. But still. I spent years walking on egg shells, hoping that nothing Anna or I did was going to ruin our time with him. Living with this man was like living with Pig Pen, only instead of dirt swirling around him at all times, it was a black cloud of misery. I eventually divorced him for this very reason, hoping that once I (the cause of the black cloud, I thought) was gone, he would be happy. That hasn't happened, of course.
I share this all now because of what happened on Anna's birthday. I knew that David (my current and final husband) had had a rough day at work. I had picked up Anna and a friend and taken them horseback-riding, and on the way home I called David and asked him to pick up a pizza for dinner. He, of course, cheerfully agreed to do so. When he arrived home with the pizza, he went straight for Anna, gave her a big kiss and said "Happy birthday Sunshine!!" Then we all had pizza, opened presents, had cake and played for several hours. He sat by Anna on the couch and she lazed around, feet on his lap, and he patiently put together a complicated and frustrating toy she'd received. He was his usual even-tempered, affectionate, mellow and loving self. Anna had a delightful birthday, full of laughter and playfulness and love.
And then last night, almost as a second thought, David said "I didn't tell you what happened when I came home last night" (the night of Anna's birthday.) He then explained how on his way home from work he had stopped at the bike shop to pick up his bike. As he pulled into the garage, he heard the tell-tale, sickening "CRUUUUNCH": the sound of his very nice, very expensive bike colliding with the top of the garage door.
He got out of the car to see that the wheel of his newly-repaired bike was completely crumpled. The bike rack was damaged, probably beyond repair. And the rack on top of his car was cracked.
And then this darling man came in the house, never uttered A WORD about it, and joyfully celebrated his step-daughter's tenth birthday. When I expressed shock at this after he told me what happened, he said "Well, I wasn't going to ruin her birthday! It's just a bike."
The thing I love so, so much about this man is that he conciously chooses, every day, to be the kind of father he didn't get to have, because he knows how it feels to be a kid walking on eggshells.
In other words, this man I am married to? Is a grown-up. How lucky am I?