66: The Odd Couple

66: The Odd Couple

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

The Odd Couple

Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of
the way things turn out.

~Art Linkletter

Bill likes everything to be in orderly fashion and he’ll plan months in advance for an occasion. I am impromptu and can pack the night before a vacation. He has a need to know facts, formulas and minute details about future events. I wing it.

We were middle-aged when we met at a dance hall. He was a genuine, respectful man. Neither of us was looking for a relationship. After I’d known him about six months he invited me to his home for lunch. I opened his pantry to retrieve a can of corn and thought, “Oh boy! He and I would never work as a couple.” His shelves were aligned with rows of canned goods and healthy foods that were sorted, alphabetized and neatly stacked. His half-eaten bags of chips had decorative clip closers, and his plastic storage bags were seriated from snack size to gallon size. My pantry was like my life: groceries tossed haphazardly on a shelf, corn curls unraveling in cellophane bags, and way more chocolate products than healthy foods. His sink was scoured, not piled high with dirty dishes. There were stacks of neatly folded laundry, not rumpled piles of clean whites in a busted laundry basket in the bedroom.

This guy was too nice, too organized, too good a listener, too perfect for me. His hands were too big, and his feet were as long as carpet samples. His head was too round, his hair was too naturally curly, and his eyes disappeared into his face when he laughed. And he made me laugh… all the time. His laughing eyes peered into mine with sincerity. His head contained a methodical brain that knew a little bit about a lot of things, and he readily shared information and facts. Those over-sized feet had taken him to places I’d only dreamed about, and he never used them to kick people when they were down. His ears were big, but what a listener. I observed him reach out with his big paws to give people a helping hand, and when we danced and he held my small hand in his, I felt safe and protected. But I resisted affection. Friendship felt fine, but a relationship with an organized, intelligent, psychologically sound man — no way!

Our relationship progressed from seeing one another at Friday night dances to Sunday walks around Francis Park. I could barely make the one-mile lap by myself, but it seemed effortless when we walked together. Bill’s large feet balanced his 6’4” frame. Like a gentle giant, he towered over my 5’4”, but he never talked down to me. He was so genuine; he’d stop to chat with old timers sitting on benches, and he’d pat dogs on leashes. He was too good to be true. He didn’t complain, raise his voice to make a point or express disapproval with a grimace. He had a positive approach to life and a wonderful personality. I had recently unraveled a twenty-five-year marriage, but no matter how nice Bill seemed, I wasn’t looking to be tied down.

Sometimes, no matter how unintentionally you toss groceries onto a shelf, the two ingredients that work well together end up side by, like a package of spaghetti and a jar of Ragu. I decided to reciprocate the lunch with a meal: spaghetti, salad and garlic bread. I introduced Bill to my cat, the crazy dog and the kids, but I refused to let him near my pantry. I just knew if he saw how disorganized it was, he’d get a glimpse of the real me, and that would be the end of us.

When he discovered me rummaging in the pantry and complaining that I could not find the garlic salt, he didn’t lecture; he merely said, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

As our relationship evolved, we spent more time together and eventually married. We were committed to one another, but neither of us could commit to the other’s way of stocking a pantry. What worked for me never worked for him, whether it was in regards to groceries, luggage or lodging.

When we planned a trip to Colorado, he asked if I wanted to make reservations. “Why? Let’s just drive until we get tired, and then find a place for the night.”

He shrugged and said he’d give my way a try. He didn’t tell me he could drive for hours on end. Neon NO VACANCY signs glared at us. By midnight we realized there was no room at any inn, so he pulled into the dark lot of a car repair shop and reclined his seat. He didn’t complain. He snoozed. I rolled up a wad of twenty-dollar bills and hid them in the waistband of my shorts and lay there wide awake, worrying about being robbed. At daybreak, I spied a convenience store a block away and gently opened the car door. As I stepped out of the car, twenty-dollar bills started falling out of my shorts and down my leg. The wind whisked them away one after another. Each time I took another step another bill fell out. I chased them for half a block, peeling them off the damp pavement. When I looked up, Bill was watching me, and so were the workers in the weigh station across the highway. Sheepishly I returned to the car.

“It pays to have a plan,” is all he said, with an ear-to-ear grin on his big Irish face.

He’s right, and I have tried to commit to being more organized. When Bill buys groceries and shelves them, our pantry looks like the grocery store. When I stop at the store for a few things, he never knows what he’ll find or where he’ll find it when he opens the pantry door. My way makes him as crazy as his makes me. After seventeen years of marriage we’re still crazy about each other. We allow each other space; his is organized and mine is cluttered, but we are still very committed to making it work.

 

~Linda O’Connell

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