My husband is a quiet sort. Which makes the "opposites attract" adage all the more true considering that I am anything BUT quiet. He is the strong, silent type - always there when needed, getting shit done, but not taking any credit for it or needing any kudos for doing it. He just does what needs to be done and moves on to the next thing.
This past weekend we attended the baptism of my great-niece and nephew. I was scrambling to get some pictures and I quickly asked Jeff to "watch my purse and camera bag." The next thing I knew, the priest had asked the family to gather on the altar and suddenly we were in a semi-circle watching the baptism ceremony unfold. Everyone but Jeff. He was still sitting in a pew, dutifully guarding my purse and camera bag. The only other people in the church were two wedding planners tying bows on pews and the husband of the godmother and his two kids, occupying the pew behind Jeff. I motioned for him to join us, but he gestured towards the bag and kept sitting.
I didn't think much of it, except that I wished he was on the altar with me. But I was also caught up in taking pictures and didn't have much time to dwell on it.
Afterwards, he mentioned that he felt excluded - that the whole family was on the altar and shouldn't he have been, too? But he quickly brushed it off saying it was ok, because he was watching my stuff for me. And then he reminded me of another time he was excluded.
When we first began dating, it was only a very short time after my separation from my first husband. We were to attend my niece's wedding and I invited Jeff and Arlie to come along. Before we went, we sent emails to our respective families explaining our relationship, and letting them know that we would be arriving together. And staying in a hotel together with our kids.
Jeff's family responded warmly and I received a couple emails of support as well. I had "talked up" my family to Jeff, telling them how laid-back they are; how completely accepting and easygoing they were. But my sister decidedly informed us that Arlie could attend the wedding with us, but Jeff was NOT invited. My ex-husband, however, WAS invited and would be attending. Obviously this was an awkward situation for all involved and it went over about as well as could be expected. Or worse.
Having nothing else to do on the day of the wedding, Jeff took a long bike ride and then returned to my sister's house where a huge party had been held the day before. Knowing that the wedding reception would be held there in just hours, he set about cleaning up from the party, including disposing of a huge pig carcass (the party had been a "pig pickin'" - and we had roasted a whole pig). Not to mention all the cups, chairs, garbage, filthy kitchen and more that needed to be cleaned. He did it all and waited for our return.
I could not believe he would do such a kind act - especially after being snubbed by my family! And I knew instinctively that he did it, not because he was trying to win any favors with the family, but because it needed to be done. It saved everyone a ton of time and trouble. And took a lot of stress off my sister, who would have had to deal with it all while trying to throw a wedding reception on top of another party.
That was just one of many times I saw Jeff being generous and selfless. He's more than happy to hang back, hold the bags, attend the event he's not interested in......just because that's how he is.
Early on in our relationship, when things were crazy and hectic - both of us going through divorces, raising our kids, blending our families - there were plenty of times I thought I couldn't do it. I simply didn't believe I had the strength to do the battle. I couldn't see better days ahead - everything seemed bleak and hopeless. And I remember Jeff saying to me once "I've got your back!" He said it many times after that and I knew that regardless of how things turned out - whether our seemingly risky move into togetherness so close on the heels of broken relationships would last, whether we'd end up married or "just friends" - that he would always, always "have my back." It was that simple. I just knew.
We've been married nearly seven years now. We've weathered four teenagers, endless emotional crises, financial disaster, sleepless nights, and the general noisy chaos that is our life. Some days we hardly see each other or speak more than a few words (most of them by text) because we're so busy. Other times we languish in the bliss of a few kid-free days on a short getaway (although, truth be told, the last time we stayed in a hotel without the kids, the first thing we did was take a nap!). We're tired. But we're happy.
And so, standing on that altar without my husband, caught up in the busy-ness of taking pictures, I neglected to stop and see that he was not with me. Not by my side as he should be. Guarding my purse from a church full of.....no one. (And, seriously, who steals a purse in the house of God?). Regardless, he was, once again, excluded and forgotten while the rest of us laughed and posed for pictures and enjoyed a family moment.
He did join us afterward for pictures and general congratulations all around, but once he pointed out the obvious - that he was not standing up on the altar with our family - I couldn't help but feel bad. It's bothered me since that moment and I know it's nothing I can set right, and I know it is, in his book "not a big deal" but to me it illustrated how important it is to look around and make sure the ones you love are close by. Enjoying family moments with you. Instead of holding the bag.
This guy is my rock. And there's no one I'd rather stand next to, ever.
I love you, Jeff.