Saturday, May 31, 1997
My man, Jack, stopped by a while ago to spend time with me and help with some daunting household tasks - like changing the burnt-out light bulbs in the family room. He tried to warn me of the downside of home ownership, but naturally I wasn't listening. I still don't, though I appreciate that he comes around frequently to remind me.
From his precarious position on the upper rungs of an ancient, rickety, wooden contraption - surely, a hazard waiting to happen - I hear him irreverently intone my name. He's looking good to me, every inch the conquering hero as he wrestles with a particularly stubborn fixture. He may be frustrated, but I have complete confidence.
He mutters under his breath, breathing heavily, emphasizing every single hard syllable, "Helga - why? - Why'd you have to go and buy yourself a house with 9 foot ceilings - and higher - when a stepladder is an insurmountable challenge? Pot lights, yet. The condo you had was perfectly gorgeous - Ideal for a single woman. Couldn't you just stay there? I was actually getting used to the place - fond of it, in fact...."
I'm in a perverse and saucy mood after the stimulation of this morning's caffeine and stirring conversation, not to mention the chemistry of my guy's company. I turn on the CD player and select the Brooks & Dunn New Country hit, "Hard Workin' Man" for accompaniment. Jack's response is low key and in character. He suppresses a smirk, and looks down on me with an evil eye from on high. No, I'm not a sadist. Playfulness - banter - is an important dynamic in our relationship. Besides, his comments are no revelation to me. They come up whenever things don't run smoothly right away - otherwise this man is the soul of patience and indulgence. I'm not phased. If that light bulb had screwed in easily the first time I wouldn't be hearing about any of this now.
I tap my foot and move in time with the music - it's hard not to - great rhythm and lyrics. "Jack...be fair. Can I help it that I'm afraid of heights? You know I fell in love with the place - Had to have it. Everybody has pot lights these days - They add so much atmosphere."
"Atmosphere be damned! Whoever put 'em in, ought to have his head examined. They're practically inaccessible. They don't last. They're expensive. You need more reasons? Can you really afford to waste that much money?"
I smile innocently and shrug. Okay, humor him. He's a sweetie. He really is. When he comes down from there, I've got some goodies for us. And there's still plenty of that nice bottle of wine he brought....
Gruffly, he comes back with, "What else needs fixing? I might as well be done with it, while I'm at it - "
Well, the good news is nothing much has fallen apart since the last time I saw him - Isn't that nice? Is that look disappointment? I have the distinct impression he actually enjoys helping me with these mundane, yet critical, chores. Probably compensates for not living here, with me, which he never would admit. He's a take charge kind of guy who likes to work with his hands and feel useful. It's his perverse pleasure to point out I need taking care of, which, in the realm of maintenance and repairs, I'm in no position to argue. I'm not terribly adept with a wrench or a screwdriver. Happily, I let him take the lead. I need a man - yes indeed. First and foremost a Mr. Fix It. I've never been one to say that men don't have their virtues. Men like Jack - I adore them - 'Real' men, men who love women, men who are comfortable in their own skin.
"You're sure? Now's the time to take advantage of me..."
There's that irrepressible glint in the eye, the beguiling, lopsided grin. A few years older, in appearance he reminds me of one of those "Sexiest Man Alive" specimens, thanks to appealing attributes like thick, wavy, salt and pepper hair, graying temples, a rakish mustache. This masculine prototype is a hook I'm happy to hassle with.
I play up my 'sultry and seductive' posture. "A hard man is good to find," especially when it comes to plumbing problems and car repairs - not to mention certain other testosterone-related skill-sets. He's down off the ladder pretty quick, and reaching for me, but I out-maneuver him. Enough already! Come out for air - and a bite to eat. It's perfectly gorgeous. If he had his way, we'd be under the covers for the rest of it. Not me, when it's such a beautiful day. I won't let myself miss the best part of the afternoon in spite of his compelling sexual charisma. I want to partake of everything I enjoy.
With a sigh and a convincing impression of 'hard-done-by' - we know better - he grabs two long-stemmed patio glasses, uncorks and pours some white wine for each of us. He hands me mine and we move outdoors to cozy up, knees touching, at the intimate little bistro table. A lovely, light breeze blows and delightful fragrance drifts over from nearby flowering vines and window boxes. Stimulation for the appetites. A real meat-and-potatoes man, I don't have to give Jack a green light to dig in. He's already heaping his plate with a huge helping of potato salad.
Jack is the best man I've ever been involved with. In many ways, he's a male version of myself, a psychological mirror. We have the same temperament, same sense of life, an intuitive understanding, and mutual sensitivity. There's no question of tying the knot. We've been married before. Both of us know better. At least, not with each other.
Still, we've had a highly satisfactory 'arm's length' relationship for several years, now, and it's suited us perfectly. Coincidentally, we met when I vowed to accept nothing less than the best kind of treatment from any man with whom I form an attachment. It may be a love with limits, but no man has loved me more and cared for me better. As for the ones that got away - almost, or, never quite happened - who can say...? I've learned to recognize love when I see it, as well as feel it, and take it - a gift - as I find it.
We do not put undue constraints on our relationship, and we do not try to test it. We just go with flow and it keeps on going.... We're both better off for it. It's helped us to grow as individuals - me, for sure. One of life's blessings, it has allowed me to flourish, by providing practical support and an emotional anchor, so I can get on with my self-development and pursing my numerous interests.
Maybe, we've lasted because we're not married and don't live together. We see each other when we want to, because we want to. If we were together all the time, we'd get on each other's nerves, for sure. Let's count our blessings. Who needs to ruin a perfectly good relationship? Jack can be such a nag - a regular Felix Unger. He's a real 'Push-Me-Pull-You' - always has to get away from me, just so he can come back - (and visa-versa). If he lived with me, probably, he'd still have to have somebody else.... Ah ha. When I make the suggestion, he smirks.
As for me - No need to go into it - I have too many foibles to mention. When I say so, he keeps a straight face, but raises his eyebrows. He's adorable when the corners of his eyes crinkle up like that - an upbeat guy with the laugh lines to prove it. I guess, no matter who, it's not easy - especially, for me - to live with another person....
Speaking of my faults...I kid him about the impassioned hate letter he once wrote, when we, thanks to me, almost split up. It was a treatise. A dozen pages, trashing me. I was amazed to see that it included everything he ever professed to like about me. I won't let him forget it, but I won't tell him where it is. So help him, he's going to find it, tear it to bits, and burn it. Meanwhile, where's the one page he promised to write, in recompense, with all the good stuff? Still can't think of anything? Same stuff he hates? I wait for him to name one thing he likes. Drives him crazy.
He's the kind of guy that can't talk about feelings, much. Not one to profess his undying devotion, he shows it. Lots of ways. The most I get out of him is a grinning, leering, rejoinder: My body. I scowl. Okay - My mind - too. Admittedly spontaneous, occasionally unpredictable, he finds me stimulating - not just sexually - he finally confesses. It's never boring between us. I'm the beneficiary of his emotional side. I get the best of both worlds - freedom and a loving relationship - and - his words - I don't have to wash his socks.
I submit. I surrender. I'm one very lucky lady. My man is capable as well as lovable - The very best kind of man to have around - handy with everything - electricity, carpentry, gadgetry, mechanical wizardry...What else can I do? He soaks it up, like a cat snoozing on a sunlit windowsill.
The following evening, he leaves me with a lingering, parting kiss, and my favorite line, "Try not to break anything else until I get back." I watch and wave as he adroitly backs his new navy pick-up out of the driveway, honks the horn and drives away. I may live alone, but am I lucky in love.... Luck is what it's all about, when it comes to love. You have to have the gods with you, meet the right person at the right time, and have neither time nor circumstance stand in your way.
When I met Jack he was perfectly right for me. He still suits me pretty much, except, I seem to be changing.... He has a rare quality I especially like, though; one that's hard to replace - beyond consideration, caring, and a sense of humor - a deft, light, scintillating touch - psychologically. Not for me those heavy-duty, heart-rending entanglements; emotional morasses; brooding, smoldering passions. The stuff of soap operas and the under-developed psyche. His is the right formula.
But, if there is still more one could ask for in human relations, I would want to be lifted up - even higher. I'd want to laugh and cry with happiness. I'd want to share spirit and soul and a temporal place together in this earthly space, for a while. I wonder if such a thing is realistic or possible - To live a beautiful life in a beautiful place with the one I love; to have the same dreams; be moved by many of the same things. All these years, ever the romantic....
~ Helga Marion Ross ~