87: Drive Fast, Take Chances

87: Drive Fast, Take Chances

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

Drive Fast, Take Chances

The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.

~William James

“You’re not wearing that shirt, are you?” I asked Paul in a rather harsh tone. The shirt was a complete mismatch with his black cargo shorts. But I didn’t want to get into yet another fight about his clothes sense, so I let it go.

Why did all the things that used to thrill me about this man now drive me crazy? He always looked great when we were dating. Now, his fashion faux pas drove me nuts. I used to find his favorite saying, “Drive Fast, Take Chances!” exciting. Now his driving scared me to death. I thought his idea of jumping around the dance floor, which he called dancing, cute; now it just annoyed me. I used to feel safe riding in his car all cuddled up next to him with the radio blasting. Now I detested his Eagles blaring on the radio. I used to lie in bed and watch him sleep, thinking how lucky I was to have him. Now I just poked him in the side to turn over when his snoring was too loud. His quirky little ways were driving me crazy.

Never mind that he did all the grocery shopping, cooking and put away the laundry. Those things didn’t count. We each had chores. Those were his… I had mine.

Over the years I tried to change him. I suggested we take a dance class together but he laughed, thinking I was joking. I told him he drove too fast. Now when we went anywhere, if I wanted to arrive without my nerves in a knot, I drove or lay my seat back and didn’t look. The coffee slurping I put up with; after all, I love to dunk doughnuts myself. I labeled his closet with tags on the rod: clothes for when you go out with Sallie, clothes for grunge wear around the house, and clothes for work. Unfortunately he moved them all to the first category. As for the Eagles, I just burned a new CD and slipped in a blasting Lady Gaga whenever I could. I totally identified with her song, “Bad Romance.”

Which, speaking of that, ours lasted forty-seven years. Forty-seven years! You’d think in that amount of time I could train this puppy. I achieved some success but only a modest amount. And yet I loved this man-child.

He provided a wonderful home for our children and me, worked hard all his life, was a good-natured intelligent companion, skillful lover and never cheated.

As Paul entered his Medicare years, he came home from a doctor’s appointment one afternoon. I could tell from the look on his face, the news wasn’t good.

“My kidneys are starting to deteriorate,” he said solemnly. “Looks like dialysis is an option I may face soon. You know the prognosis after dialysis is a life span of two to five years.”

“What? You must be wrong!” I said.

“Nope, once you start, the stats aren’t good when you have other health challenges like I do: diabetes and high blood pressure.”

I did my own research that night on the Internet after he went to bed. I was stunned. I found out I could be a widow in less than five years. This wasn’t in our plan. What happened to the “Golden Years” of travel and entertainment? What happened to the side-by-side bathtubs on the beach? How many years did we have left together? I cried myself to sleep.

From that night on I knew the color of his shirt was irrelevant. When I wanted to complain about his coffee slurping, I was thankful I wasn’t drinking mine by myself. When he snored, I knew I could be sleeping alone, so I wore earplugs. I learned I liked Foreigner, thanks to his choice of tunes. And well, the dancing, we did that in the privacy of our living room so who cared if he couldn’t dance? I realized I would be so lucky to have the pleasure of Paul’s quirks for many years to come.

 

~Sallie A. Rodman

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