Life in the Pedestrian Lane

When opposites attract

Posted: Sunday, October 28, 2007

My husband and I just passed a milestone anniversary. This has caused me to reflect on these passing years and I am a little awestruck. I can't imagine how two such diverse personalities have maintained in tandem for so long.

We got married very young, when hormones still ruled our heads. He and I were so sure we'd invented sex that it didn't occur to us we were not otherwise compatible. Reality dawns with age. My husband is the know-a-lot-about-a-little type, while I am a know-a-little-about-a-lot person which works OK for writers and reference librarians, but probably not as well for brain surgeons and airplane mechanics. I always have a plan B,C and D, at least. For my husband, plan A doesn't dare NOT work.

Our differences aren't subtle. For instance, have you ever tried to fold a tarp when one of you folds horizontally and the other vertically? We discovered this deviance the first time we tried to fold bed sheets. My cousin and I always had the job of folding the sheets off the clothesline. I always got "the other end." We'd walk toward each other 'til she could take the corners from my hands. She'd grab the center of the hemmed edges under her chin and bring the two sides together, arms stretched full length out front. Then she'd slide one hand along the top edge to the chin corner and with a shake, straighten the folds. I'd pick-up the dangling edge and we'd repeat until the package was small enough for her to handle by herself.

The first time hubby and I tried this with a sheet, I sent him to "the other end" and it went downhill from there. He took the corners and brought his hands together in a vertical fold as I stepped forward ready to pick up his end. We looked at each other in dismay. Neither of us would adapt so I have folded the sheets by myself for lo, these many years not as easy, but in the long run much simpler.

However, it is not easy to fold a canvas tarp alone, so, being on his turf, I capitulated and tried to learn the other way. Bringing my end together for the first fold wasn't hard. But the next step, grasping the creased edge for the second fold, went awry. You bring the corners together, seize them in one hand and use your empty hand to pick up the folded edge. The clue is "the empty hand." The twist became creative as we grasped diagonal corners, then simultaneously dropped them to pick up the other side to conform. Such an easy chore turned into a Keystone Cops routine that deteriorated into a yelling match the neighbors still talk about.

Over the years other disagreements have surfaced, like whether to keep the car radio tuned to Country and Western or to NPR. We solved that one by getting two cars. Then there's early mornings: Do you bounce out of bed and get dressed immediately ready for the day or do you slither out of bed and have two cups of coffee before you even open your eyes? In the early days that one was easy, as we parted early in the morning with an air kiss to carry on our separate activities. We've resolved it in these Golden Years by not speaking to each other until noon. Works for me!

We have weathered family vacations, what movies to see, how to cook fish, and even who runs the remote, but I probably don't need to mention that we never discuss politics, religion, or the merits of chiropractory at our house.

And we have collaborated on a few good things. We play pinochle together really well. Kind of like we'd invented it! We're both down and dirty, power-is-king players who expect to run the board rather than finesse our way to a strategic win. More or less the story of our life together.

But our most notable joint effort is our four kids who all turned into friendly, productive adults. They left home in due time, some meandering away down the random-abstract path and others marching off on the concrete-sequential road. In time they presented us with seven very beautiful, highly intelligent granddaughters (I'm telling this story!) who appear ready to meet the world head on in their own diverse ways. I know we can't take credit or blame for the third generation, but I am keeping my eye on the youngest one. The other day she needed help folding the blanket she carries for emergency comfort. "Grandma, you take the other end," she demanded.

As I picked up the corners, she commented, "This is a really hard job".

"You're right," I said, "and it's a lot easier if we meet in the middle."

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.

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