The truth is this: I do bring my husband coffee in bed every morning.
This has been a bone of contention of late, not within the confines of our own marriage, in between the bedroom and the kitchen, the duvet and the coffee grounds, but among others. As in “Did you know that Dina brings her husband coffee in bed every morning?” Nudge, nudge, wink, wink and a big, old unspoken “How come I don’t get coffee in bed?”
I could say the coffee in bed is payment in kind. You see, I have a bad habit of irrationally blaming my husband for all the things I misplace throughout the course of my life. This happened recently when I needed to get the boys to school and couldn’t remember where I had put my bag. He stood and looked at me throwing things around and calmly said, “You blame me, don’t you?”
“Yes!” I yelled. “Even though I know it’s not your fault, I do! I totally, totally blame you!” I also do this when I get lost and he can’t immediately tell where I am from my frantic woman-on-the-street descriptions. I am a terrible map reader. Even carrying a phone with a GPS function I get lost. I have every confidence that he can direct me out of the paper bag I’ve walked into and can’t punch my way out of. I expect him to extract me from my predicament, SWAT style if necessary. I have an unrealistic expectation that my husband, the man who vowed to love me in sickness and in health, in lost and found, can tell me how to get home.
So I bring him coffee in bed every morning.
No, of course that’s not why I bring him coffee. I bring him coffee because he is categorically not a morning person. To have him underfoot in the a.m. would cause, in the words of the Fat Controller, confusion and delay. He would be grumpy and in my way and we would all suffer. I do it for the sake of the children.
I bring him coffee and he puts the pillowcases on because he knows how much I hate it. He scrubs the bathroom because he knows if he left it up to me, it wouldn’t get done. I make sure his family gets birthday cards for the same reason. I do school stuff, he does camping stuff. While I break out in hives at the very idea of fishing and cooking over an open flame, he has the same histamine reaction at the idea of small talk with people he doesn’t know.
As a young woman I used to think that the way to equality meant splitting things down right down the middle. Marital contracts that spelled out who vacuumed on what day and if it’s Wednesday it must be your day to cook, I changed the last diaper it must be your turn now and so forth. And so on.
Then I grew up, got married, had kids. For a while I hung on to my notions and resented the hell out of the fact that it never seemed to be fair, that I always seemed to be doing more. My husband changed a diaper, I changed 284. One of the kids would wake from a nightmare and call out for “Daddy” and he would be snoring next to me while I seethed at the gall of the universe for making me get out of a warm, cosy bed when his child had clearly voiced a preference. You can have a contract laminated and posted on the family bulletin board for all to see. It’s not going to stop the fury when Wednesday rolls around and he doesn’t vacuum even though it’s clearly his turn and there is an army of dust elephants getting ready to charge. Even if it’s written in blood that “thou shalt not blame your spouse upon misplacing your keys’, it’s not going to stop you from doing it, even if you don’t do it out loud.
After seventeen years of coupledom, here is what I’ve learned: it is never fair, it’s never equal. You love each other and you hurt each other and you argue over who left the toothpaste cap off so that there is a crust of hardened Colgate that’s set on the sink like mortar. You live and you learn and you stare at each other over the mess of a toy room and thank God and the heavens you found this person because who else is going to put up with the moods or the morning breath? Who else is going to let you squeeze their blackheads or remember that you never remember Mother’s Day? Who else is going to know that you hate putting the pillowcases on or that you need an extraordinary amount of time to wake up in the mornings?
If love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, then compromise and understanding are the whip and driver that get it moving.
In the end my husband almost always gets me out of whatever map challenged predicament I’ve found myself in (which is, more often than not one street over from where I’m supposed to be). I put up with his schizo Gemini moods and he pretends he doesn’t mind when we have hot dogs for dinner or when I don’t change the sheets often enough.
I bring him coffee because I’m making it anyway. It’s a small act of kindness. As I tell my kids all the time, kindness doesn’t cost a thing.
Maybe those small acts of kindness, the ones that don’t cost you a red cent, are the pot-hole fillers that help smooth out the road so that we can all get where we are going in one, unbroken piece.