In the middle of the summer, I got mad at my husband.
I remember the day exactly because, strange as it may seem after 53 years of marriage, I rarely get mad at him. Annoyed sometimes, but almost never really angry.
I would not be considered a docile person. Or subservient. Or without strong opinions, easily shared. But the way it works with us is that we generally give one another the benefit of the doubt, maybe think about it for a bit and then, if it still needs airing in some fashion, we try to do it gently and in a nonconfrontational way.
This may not work for everyone, but it does with us. Not that there haven’t been a few testy moments, but they’ve been rare indeed.
It also helps a whole lot that Bruce is an even-keeled, easy-going, kind and sweet man.
I really lucked out.
What he did was wake me up from a nap. I know, I know … this isn’t even a wiggle on the Richter scale of wrongs done to a loved one. Our issues, clearly, aren’t big ones.
Bruce’s favorite napping place is on the loveseat recliner that sits in the open area just off our kitchen, and close to a partial wall dividing the area from the living room, where his office desk is located.
He works hard every day and, when he can, he’ll catch a little nap before heading out for the next group of jobs.
Truth be told, he can nap anywhere and anytime and in pretty much any position, a trait which once had a friend (who has trouble sleeping) remark, “if I didn’t like you, I’d really hate your guts.”
The recliner really isn’t in a convenient place for napping since it’s in the heart of much activity in the house. I can still do a little work in the kitchen when Bruce is napping because pretty much nothing disturbs his slumber. And I can find things to do elsewhere in the house.
I’m not much of a napper, though occasionally I’ll join Bruce , put my feet up and maybe doze or just rest for 15 minutes or so, while he sleeps on … until his internal clock goes off and he goes back to work.
So on the day in question, Bruce came home midafternoon in between jobs just as I was sitting down in the recliner. I told him I thought I’d try for a little nap.
Now what he didn’t know was that I’d had a lousy night’s sleep the night before, getting maybe three hours of shut-eye, and I’d just gotten hit with the sleepies. Time to take advantage.
Unlike Bruce, I am awakened by most any sound not normal for my sleeping experience.
He was being his usual good-guy self and set about either doing things elsewhere or doing them quietly nearby.
At some point he decided to make a phone call, so he sat at his desk, only feet away from where I was sleeping deeply, and did just that.
Bruce is hard of hearing. He has long since abandoned hearing aids (“they really don’t help”) and manages by turning the volume on his cellphone all the way to the max and putting it on speaker.
Even when I’m at the opposite end of the house and with doors closed, I can hear every word being said.
In our day-to-day life, he says “what?’ a lot when I speak to him. I repeat myself.
It’s just one of those accommodations we make for one another.
Believe me, he has many more allowances to make for me and my foibles.
So, he made the business call, and the booming voice on the speaker jolted me awake.
I had been in that deep well of blissful sleep and was suddenly awake. I’m normally one of those people who, when I wake in the morning, am fully awake from the get-go, chirpy and alert, and quite annoying to the men of my family who kind of stagger around for a bit, groggily getting their brains in gear when first greeting the dawn.
But this time, I was struggling into awakeness. A new sensation for me.
And, of course, the rising annoyance quickly overrode the grogginess.
I mean, the nice thing about cellphones is that they’re portable and can be used anywhere, and preferably not close to a sleeping spouse.
I blurted out: “You woke me up.”
Not angrily, just matter-of-factly.
Now we’ve been married long enough for Bruce to recognize a certain kind of matter-of-fact tone for what it really is.
Because I had been “down” for about an hour, way longer than I ever nap, he either forgot I was in the chair or assumed I was surely now awake and possibly reading or doing a crossword. I was mad because (1) he woke me up, (2) he didn’t check to see if I was awake and (3) HE WOKE ME UP.
I retreated to my office, where I wrote a column (not this one), answered emails, cleaned junk mail out of my inbox, and watched some TV. I wasn’t in the mood to discuss this. He’s not a cruel man, so I was aware this was just a mistake.
And when we did have a chat later, I had cooled down, and we both understood.
But here’s the thing of significance that did occur while I was coming down from my mad in my office.
When I saw my friend Suzanne’s email, I began thinking of her and some of my other friends: Suzanne, who was just observing the first anniversary or her husband’s death; Sandy, who has relocated to another state and is rebuilding a life for herself there after her husband’s death; Harriet, who is missing her dear Bill; Isabelle, who is also is now on her own after the death of her husband; Carolyn, who lives in Canada and whose husband died last fall and who is experiencing her year of firsts without him.
I felt so bad and guilty for feeling so pained and mad at my husband.
Bruce unintentionally woke me from a nap. Not exactly the crime of the century.
My friends would be so happy to be in my shoes, to have their life-mates puttering about nearby, maybe underfoot and maybe doing something annoying, as men are wont to do.
Even if that meant being abruptly woken from a nap.