No man is perfect.
Just ask his wife.
After 27-and-a-half years of wedded bliss my wife can roll out an extensive catalogue of my sins, transgressions, errors and bungles as well as a man of the cloth reciting the Sermon On the Mount.
“Do you remember my first pregnancy, with Liam, when my labour went on for twenty four hours with him turned the wrong way, and how much pain I was in ?”
I nod, neutrally, but I know where this is going.
“And what did you get for me, after all that… a pot of chrysanthemums ?”
I nod, blankly. I forgot that I had bought her anything at all.
My wife Brenda’s main problem is that she married an incurable unromantic. I’ve never understood women very well, let alone their apparent passion for receiving a bouquet of flowers. Roses… potted mums; really I couldn’t see much difference. Except that the mums lasted a heckuva lot longer, not to mention that you received a lot more for your money.
In my own defense, Brenda knew what she was getting before she tied the nuptial knot. I remember early on when she hinted that women liked to receive flowers from time to time. Eager to please, I visited some kind of store; I don’t remember which one exactly, and the next day proudly presented her with a tiny cactus.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” was her response. She didn’t act as pleased as I had hoped after my prompt compliance to her wishes.
“Well, not much, and that’s the point.” I was a little put out. “You hardly have to water the thing, and it lasts practically forever. But don’t handle it too much. Those bristles are prickly.”
Not as prickly as her behaviour for the next few minutes. “Roses are more what I meant,” she suggested to her slow-witted suitor.
Roses were the answer, then. The next afternoon I unwrapped twelve of the most perfect-looking roses that I had ever seen.
“But they’re plastic !” Again Brenda didn’t seem as thrilled as I thought she’d be.
“Yes, well, look at how good they look, you never have to water them and they last even longer than a cactus.” I couldn’t understand her lack of enthusiasm. Alright then; those would be the last beautiful flowers she’d ever see from me.
Flowers weren’t the only letdown in Brenda’s pre-nuptial romantic life. There was a staff Christmas party that was a formal, dress-up affair and Brenda hinted that it would be fun to attend.
“Is that the Friday or Saturday before Christmas?” I wanted to know.
“You know I play hockey Friday nights.” I couldn’t believe her forgetfulness.
“Couldn’t you miss it for one night?”
“I’m going for the league scoring championship.” I thought that would be self-explanatory.
“All right then. If you don’t go, then I’m going to ask Tony.”
She must have thought she had me cornered. But Lindsay, Ontario, where we were living at the time, was not large, and I hadn’t rode into town on a load of watermelons. “He’s gay, isn’t he?”
If Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings warned mamas not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys, I’m going to caution men not to let themselves be married to Capricorns. They’re the ones born between December 19 and January 22. My wife happens to be born on January 5. It’s too soon after Christmas, I’m all shopped-out and sick of celebrating and to top it all off for a lifelong schoolteacher it always seems to be the first day back. And the event is usually distinguished by a coldsnap or a blizzard.
I’ve hated that day for twenty seven years.
Not that I haven’t always tried my best. Well, maybe not my best. I’m only human, after all.
“Do you know what you can get me for my birthday this year?”, I remember Brenda asking me one New Year’s Day.
Jeezus Murphy. I was lying on the living room floor after getting up early with one of our three kids and I was also more than a little hungover. I just hoped flowers weren’t on the list.
“I don’t want to tell you. I want to be surprised.”
You know, I smiled to myself, you have to give full credit to a wife who still wants to be surprised by a husband like me !