My husband is the mildest of men, even in temperament, gentle in manner.
He makes his own yogurt, sweetly wrapping the Mason jars with a blankie while the stuff ferments.
When the dishwasher backs up and fills with water, he sighs deeply before strapping on a headlamp and going in. Discovering a tube jammed with wild rice and glass shards, he laughs at the ridiculousness because wildriceandglassshards. Plus–hahahaha!–we didn’t have to call a repair man. Two minutes later, he goes into the bathroom, sits down, and the entire toilet seat breaks off (rusty screws affirming our status as low rent). He laughs again, chuckling that he’ll have to scrub all the various kinds of Disgusting off the seat before he takes it in to Home Depot to find an exact replacement.
If we’re out for a walk, and he spots branches on an upcoming bush rattling ominously, he tells me to stop until he ascertains what it is–because he knows I’m a high-strung filly when it comes to rodential phobia. Peering into the foliage, he makes out the critter and tells me, calmly, “Don’t look at the bush, and cut a wide swathe here. Don’t go near it. Someone’s guinea pig appears to have escaped from its cage. Look away. I’ll stand between you and the bush until you get past.”
He loves to put on a wetsuit and hop into Lake Superior once it hits 58 degrees. Open water swimming, being buffeted about by waves and unable to touch his feet to the ground, is his idea of a great time. Often, he swims with a partner or a group; other times, one of us follows him in a kayak. This week, with no kayak along as we were camping in a yurt, I tried solo canoeing for the first time so that I could trail in his wake and provide support if needed. Having never been the one to steer the canoe before, my solo self was mastering a steep learning curve that sounded something like “stroke, stroke, rudder, stroke, C-stroke, C-stroke, C-stroke, slap mosquito, sweat, stroke, stroke, rudder.” Every few minutes, Byron would stop, tread water for a second, and ask, “How are you doing?” In truth, I was having a good time figuring the thing out, but I certainly hadn’t mastered it. “The only thing I’m worried about,” I told him, “is that I’m going to run you over. If I get too close, I won’t be able to correct before I’m on top of you.” His response? “Go ahead. I don’t mind being run over. I can just dive deep ’til you pass.”
A few years ago, he got in a bike crash and knew something bad had happened to his wrist. However, he had made a commitment to chaperone Paco’s third grade class at a swimming pool field trip that afternoon. So he stood poolside for three hours, pacing in the humid air, watching wild energy do cannon balls. Once Paco was dry and changed, he loaded the kid onto the back of his big cargo bike and rode the two of them to Urgent Care. When the doctor diagnosed a broken wrist, Byron called me to come pick up Paco, so he wouldn’t have to wait for a few hours while the cast was put on. However, since a cargo bike is too big to fit on a bike rack on the back of a car, Byron simply rode it home from the hospital, navigating with one hand. Smiling.
Simply put: you do not rattle this man’s cage. The bars are invisible.
There is one thing, though, that gets his back up.
It’s called Having His Face Touched.
If he has ketchup on his cheek or a crumb hanging from his chin, I may not give into impulse. I may not reach out and brush it away. While all other touches everywhere else on his person are received with happy sighs, I may not touch his face.
If I do, I receive the firmest of remonstrances.
Seeing a well-meaning spousal hand heading his way, my low-key Norwegian-ish husband morphs into a heavyset woman of color starring on a reality show.
Prickly, eyes flashing, attitude jerking, he unleashes the equivalent of
Then, as my hand curls into my chest protectively, recoiling from his vehemence, he cleans off his face, pats my leg, and asks sweetly, “Can I get you another beer?”