Friday, November 13, 2009

"Bestill"

My dad was the person who taught me to be comfortable with silence. We could get in the car and drive for twenty minutes without a word being spoken. While his and my mother's relationship ultimately cracked under the weight of that silence, for me, the daughter, his quiet felt benign, reassuring, a safe place to be.

Even more, when he did speak, his words carried weight. A handful of my favorite memories, in fact, center around moments when he engaged in verbal expression. One time, after I'd won a forensics tournament out of town, returning from the meet late at night, I left my trophy on the dining room table. By the time I woke up later that day, my dad had left me a note, telling me he was so proud, he was "busting his buttons." Another time, after I'd behaved badly, he sat across from my hungover self and told me he was "deeply disappointed." Many years later, during the night when a bat flew into my house, and I had a fairly apeshit "I'm all alone, and the bat is trying to kill me" meltdown for three hours in my bathroom, I managed to grab my phone (with the bat only gnawing off one of my fingers above the knuckle as I reached for the receiver) and call my parents, over a thousand miles away. When I sobbed and sobbed that a killer beast was out there, and all I had were tampons for friends and nail files for weapons, my dad, casting about, counseled, "What you need to do is try to reach way down inside yourself now and find something you don't think you have. Dig deep, and you'll find something you need." He was right. We hung up, and I dug deep, finding inside myself the numbers 911, which I punched into the phone with great bravery.

Perhaps my fondest conversation with my dad occurred about a decade before his death. Chatting on the phone, we stumbled across the subject of my sister and me and our many differences. Trying to qualify the nature of the differences, my dad remarked that my sister took after his side of the family, where a certain dourness and pessimism sometimes manifested itself. “She reminds me of myself,” he noted, continuing, “and you don’t. You’re more, well, effervescent.”

There it was: one of those moments we hope for with our parents, those moments when they give us a word, an adjective, a feeling of being seen, and it signifies everything. It signifies that our parents see us as separate, as differentiated beings, that they have thought about us, that they have taken stock of us, that we are far enough away from them that the space has cleared everyone’s vision. Because such words, such adjectives, are born from the lifelong process of symbiosis to independence, they have power. Plus, anytime someone describes me to myself, I believe him.

It wasn’t even so much that I wanted to think of myself as “effervescent”—-although it was a welcome label—-but rather, it was more that I wanted to think of my dad thinking of me that way. Sometimes, from then on, I effervesced just for him.

It surprised me, then, to learn—-repeatedly--that a pipping personality didn’t reap greater rewards, in the larger scope of the world. Certainly, I didn’t expect to be voted into office on the Effervescence Platform, nor did I expect the medical field to approach me, asking me to donate to the Effervescence Transfusion Bank. But I did think being smiley and liking sunshine might have snagged me a boyfriend.

Fer damn crap smeared on a thrice-read Jane Austen novel.

Oh, all right.

I did date a guy through my 20’s, and then I truly, madly, deeply dated another guy—-one who left my two liters of effervescence out on the counter with the cap off and made all the bubbles go flat. He de-carbonated me in a way that no one ever had before, not even the boys on the high school bus who moo-ed at my sister and me.

He made my sizzle fizzle.

And then my grandma died, and the doc found a lump in my breast.

I was thirty-one.

Thirty-one wasn’t my favorite year.

Fortunately, I still had girlfriends who called, just when I was pacing the circle of my small kitchen for the 123rd time in an hour, gnawing on my cuticles, and they opened with, “Oh, honey. I just heard. Talk to me.” Even when I would have to set down the phone to grab another handful of Kleenex, they would stay on the line, shouting things like, “From the amount of snot you’re emitting, you do seem well-hydrated. And that’s something, right?” Also, I had family who knew how to circle ‘round gently and never look me straight in my teary eyes. Instead, they gave me food and invited me to participate in the yearly post-hunting butchering of the deer, and they talked at and around me.

Eventually, the molasses movement of seconds turned into minutes finally adding up into hours and days, and then months went by. My grandma was buried; the lump was benign; the former boyfriend had a new girl.

Just after the new year, one of my hunting cousins sent me an email, asking if I’d like to drive North to come visit them and, by the way, if I would be at all interested in letting him serve as my “agent in the field,” romantically.

Flattened, completely without zest or hope, my response was worthy of my father’s side of the family: “Go ahead, if you want to, but I won’t expect anything from it.”

Turns out my cousin already had someone in mind, a 28-year-old guy he worked with in a very small town of about 300. One day, sitting in the office, looking across at this 28-year-old, my cousin started musing, “How’s Guy ever going to find someone in this bohunk town?” A moment later, he thought back to Thanksgiving and the deer butchering and the conversations we’d had, which resulted in, “For that matter, how’s Jocelyn ever going to find someone in the bohunk town she’s living in?”

His head swiveled back and forth, and his thoughts rammed into each other. He approached Guy, who agreed, “Sure, you can be my agent in the field. But this cousin of yours, since she lives more than five hours away, she’d have to really knock my socks off for me to start seeing her.” Fair enough. Next, my cousin approached me.

It was agreed: I’d drive the five hours North and, while visiting my cousin’s family, meet Guy. In the past, imbued with effervescence, I’d greeted any opportunity to meet a potential partner with gusto and a knee-jerk, involuntary planning of our lives together. This time, I didn’t think much of the whole thing.

So we’d see.

That February, over Presidents' Day weekend, I visited. I got to hold my cousin’s baby a lot and watch his 4-year-old ice skate. One afternoon, we swung through the campus where Cousin worked. As we drove away, he said, casually, “Oh, that man back there who was leaning down, talking to people through their car window? The one in the red hat? That was Guy.”



Cousin, perhaps, didn’t understand that such information would have been welcome, say, two minutes earlier. Cousin is a man.

That night, the guy in the red hat strolled into Cousin's house, there for The Meeting, there for dinner. He carried a six-pack of homebrew.

I liked him already.

In short order, I learned that Guy not only wore a red hat and was quite tall. I also learned he really liked making bread, reading the Atlantic Monthly, and running on trails. I learned that he was an anthropology major who'd minored in Environmental Science. I learned that his Desert Island food would be cheese (dropped from a helicopter once a month, to supplement the fish and coconunts he would be living on otherwise); his Desert Island album would be Van Morrison's Moondance; his Desert Island book would be some sort of reference book, all the better if it contained maps.

I learned that, while the idea of him hadn't infused me with bubbles, the reality of him was creating a few tiny pops.

Dinner lasted five hours. As soon as he left, my previously-cool cousin and his wife, who had discreetly retired to the kitchen 8 feet away after dessert, were all nerves. They gave me all of thirty seconds after the door closed behind Guy before yelling, "SO? SO?????"

My response was positive, but guarded. He seemed nice. I would see more of him. If he wanted to.

But all the little broken pieces inside of me weren't quite realigned yet. I wasn't going to put myself forward this time. I couldn't take another dashing.

Fortunately, a few days later, Guy asked my cousin for my email address. It had been mutual. Apparently, his strongest first impression of me was that I had a lot of hair. He thought he "could get lost in it."


What ensued was a modern epistolary courtship. For three weeks, we sent messages back and forth, discovering that writing is an excellent way to get to know someone: the small talk is non-existent; the conversations get to meaty matters right away; there is no body language to read or misread, no annoying laugh to cringe from.

After three weeks, Guy announced he was ready to "jump off the comfortable dock" and into the potentially-frigid waters of face-to-face. Thus, during my Spring Break in March, I headed North again, for our first real date.

As we sat in a dingy bar, having burgers and beers, conversation flowed. Snow fell.

Like 14" of it.

When it came time to take Guy to his house before driving back to my cousin's place, my car got stuck. In the snow. At Guy's house. He didn't seem to mind. His roommates were friendly. I stayed over.

I had no choice.

What I learned in those days of my Spring Break was that Guy liked to listen to me read aloud--and if that's not an activity of the infatuated, I don't know what is. He also proved that he's very good at necking.

And, about three days in, after he'd had a bath one night, Guy came back into his bedroom, where I lounged. "Brrrrrr," he exclaimed. "My feet are cold!"

"Why are they so cold? You just got out of the bath tub," I noted.

"They're freezing because. you. knocked. my. socks. off" was the answer.

Suddenly, right then, right there: there it was. The effervescence was back, the flatness banished.

It was all going to be all right.

Not too long afterward, as I stared very hard at the ceiling, I admitted I had fallen in love. He had the right answer.

By the end of my Spring Break week, five days after our first date, we had talked about what kind of wedding we wanted.

Four months later, one July morning, as I slept on a futon on the floor, he crawled in with a plate of pancakes and a Betsy Bowen woodcut entitled "Fox on a Journey."

And he asked me to marry him.


In quick order, we planned a wedding for the following May.

In even quicker order, like, the night we got engaged, I got pregnant. Three months after that, I had a miscarriage. Four days after that, we found out I'd been carrying twins, and one was still hanging on.

We moved the wedding to that November 13th, not nine months after we first played the Desert Island game over dinner. Guy became Groom right there at the environmental learning center where I'd first not-quite-spotted-him in his red hat. The bleeding from the miscarriage had stopped three days earlier. I sobbed through the vows.

Four months later, Jocelyn and Groom became Jocelyn and Groom and Girl.

All of that wonder unfolded in 1999. Not given to dreaming about the future before then, I have since been granted beauties I couldn't possibly have imagined.

He likes to touch me. He likes me to touch him.
He cooks dinner every night.
He has been our stay-at-home parent since Girl was born.
At promptly 8:00 every night, he brings me a drink.
He is unfazed by my random bursts of tears.
He is whimsical. He is dry. He is perceptive.
He sees that my ability to talk to people is as valuable as his ability to do everything else.
He likes to play cribbage.
He knows how to give me directions that make sense, like "go straight until you see the big rock shaped like Richard Nixon's head."
He takes my ideas and makes them happen.
He just brewed a new batch of beer.

And, like my father, he is gentle. Like my father, he has a thousand-watt smile.

Like my father, he is given to quiet, most comfortable in stillness.

Thus, ten years in to the marriage, we often sit and watch the world flit by

holding hands in companionable silence.

36 comments:

Pam said...

Oh Jocelyn. I loved every word of this. That's a very touching tribute to Guy, and speaks volumes about where you both are at the moment and how you arrived there.Interesting that it was my Dad that was the "decarbonating" influence in our family (a bit obvious in the comment I left recently!), so spent my time looking for and craving fizzy people.Aint no-one going to "leave my two litres of effervescence out on the counter with the cap off", as you so wonderfully put it.I love my fizzy people. You've added to my emotional repetoire with your delightful words and imagery-loveable you!

WaltzInExile said...

Happiest of anniversaries to you!
BTW, you had me at "Moondance." Love me some Van.

kmkat said...

What a wonderful post. Your words and metaphors and similes are perfect. Guy got himself a good one.

jess said...

Oh, Joccy (you *like* it when I call you that- right?), you give me hope. I'm feeling a bit defizzed at the moment myself. But I do have an abundance of hair and perhaps there is someone out there who will want to get lost in it someday (yes, it frequently resembles the photograph you included, my childhood nickname was Cousin It).

Yo is Me said...

oh, wow. i love this post. this might be my favorite post of yours. besides the one about you falling in the woods. and the one with the whiteboard drawings.

beautifully written. so gorgeous and intertwined.

Star said...

In all honesty, the best post I have ever read. And re-read. Incredible honesty enrobed in humor. Happy anniversary.

Becky Cazares said...

Wow. Incidentally, your dad and my dad (and Groom) are made of the same stock. The strong silent type - who know exactly when to talk and what to say when they do. Happiness always to both of you!

Patois said...

I have tears, tears. Wow. Just freakin' WOW!

Your Dad's word for you. I've known that since first I read you. You are that person. WOW!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

This was so beautiful. You and Groom are beautiful.

I love the way this story evolved, the wonderful confirmation that when you have the right person, the Red Seas part and everything falls into place so very easily.

Wishing you both many more 10-year love fests filled with joy, peace and of course, effervescence.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

What a wonderful "how we met" story--with lots of twists and turns at the end.

Happy Anniversary!

flutter said...

You are such a blessing.

Susan said...

What a wonderful story to build a Happily Ever After on.

Happy Anniversary to you both!

ds said...

Beautiful. Every. Single. Word. Effervescent and heartbreaking. Thank you.

Happy, happy anniversary, and many more!

Jeni said...

Are you getting the message that there are a whole lot of us out here who read your stuff and think you are the best thing since sliced bread?
I love the way you take me(us) down a trail with no inkling at all, in the beginning, of what lies ahead. Will this be funny as hell, sad, gushy sentimental or maybe even a bit of a rant of some type. Nary a clue so when you get to the core, it is often quite a surprise. I finally figured out maybe about mid-way that this might be a story of how you and Groomeo met but I really wasn't prepared for the finale in which you listed the things he does for you. (Like those are all. Hah! Not enough time or energy to list every single one but judging by those you listed, it's very clear to see he's an excellent match to your effervescence! (Loved that description by your Dad too.)
I heard or read somewhere, sometime -don't have a clue when/where -that the key to a happy relationship was if you could sit side-by-side without feeling the need for words and be happy, content, in that moment. I do believe you said something to that effect in this post that fits your relationship to a tee then, doesn't it?

Happy Anniversary and may you be blessed with many, many more too! And may you keep blessing us, your readers, with more effervescence mixed with just the right amount of other elements with your writings too!

AmyTree said...

Oh you just made me cry!! Happy anniversary to both you sweet things. (He's looking a tad Prince William in that photo - not a bad thing!!) xxx

Pam said...

...So excited I was the first comment, that I missed the fact it was your anniversary - DERR! Happy, Happy Anniversay dear Jocelyn and Groomeo and many more wonderful years together!!...(also that is some hair shot Jocelyn!)xxxx

Becky Cazares said...

Darn it, now I have another item on my List To Do During Christmas Break. Just went back to reread this wonderful post over oatmeal this morning and discovered the words, "one was still hanging on" had an actual live link to a previous post. Discovered that there was a real live Jocelyn that existed long prior to my first click on her blog (!) and now I have to go back and catch up with all those older blog posts!

It does my heart good to know there are people like you and your family in the world - who have been through the worst of times and come out richer for the experience. And I truly didn't need a kleenex when reading the post from 2007 until the picture of Girl with the little twin dolls. THAT got me. And then I had some 'splainin' to do to my hubby as to why oatmeal induced tears this a.m.!

What an amazing storyteller you are. Where are all the lazy publishers who haven't beaten a path to your door???

Jazz said...

Girl! you write good!

The steam from my tea seems to have gotten into my eyes and burned 'em this morning. They're leaking.

This was so definitely worth the wait.

Catherine said...

Wow, now I'm crying. What beautiful story. Congratulations and thank you for sharing such a great story.

Jim Berg said...

Dearie, I read this twice. The second time through tears. Then I read these comments.

You make me want to hug you.

diane said...

You must never lose this post. Make a copy of it and save it for your daughter. Hugs. xo d

choochoo said...

YES! Those are the kinds of directions that are really useful. Why is that so damn hard for ppl to understand?!?

Love the post.

Margo said...

being quiet together is the best, when it's the right person. And what a great word for your father to give you :)

actonbell said...

Beautiful post--the memories of your father, your lost and found fizz, and the journey toward your wonderful life are riveting.

Cheers! To you and Guy and many more years to come.

Mr London Street said...

Check my blog out. You've won something.

chelle said...

awww shucks ... love birds!

Happy Anniversary.

I didn't know you had a stubby fingers ... bats!

Hunter said...

Here by way of MLS. Very lovely post.

geewits said...

What a great story. It sounds like a movie I'd like to watch.

monica said...

wow. you. have. the best. life. ever! so delightful, lots of humour and togetherness. I love it. I wish you lived nearby so we could hang out - I know I would love that!

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

This is so awesome. I wish I could say something more profound, but I can't. I love the part about him saying "I could get lost in your hair..."

My dad talks a lot, but there are times he is quiet and then speaks and that is interesting. . . sometimes frustrating, but always interesting.

It is weird how we marry our fathers, sometimes without even realizing it. My husband and my dad are so much alike, but it took me quite awhile of being married and living with Hubby to realize it. They are both stubborn to a fault, grumpy if they don't accomplish what they wanted to, and like to make a list of all the things they need to do in one day and all the things they didn't get done.

Logophile said...

Awwwwwwa,
happy anniversary for starters, hope it was a great day.

I apparently married a male, more sane, and very talented version of my mother.
Odd, I know, but the older I get the more I realize I'm an awful lot like my dad.

Either way, when you have a kindred soul to go through life with, it's so much better.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Happy anniversary. This was the best love story I've read since Pride & PRejudice. Seriously. Have some cheese tonight, just the two of you kids.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

This is my very, very favorite post. You do that to me, often. From your dad, to your girlfriends saying "Oh, honey, I just heard. Talk to me, " to the epistolary courtship. Thank you for sharing such a fine story.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

P.S.

And in regard to your comment on my blog about the 200 word question/prompts, I'd like to take you up on it.

lime said...

you are so wonderfully blessed to have had both a father and a husband who could make you effervesce. thank you for sharing such a clear image of those bubbles that rise even when the saddest, scariest things happen.

i wish you many more decades of fizz.

Michelle Wells Grant said...

Oh my. This post snagged me as I returned to look you over again. I loved reading about your journey. It's often a miraculous one, isn't it? Especially when we take a moment to reflect and appreciate, it becomes so clear that it shorely ain't no random plan. I loved hearing about your Dad. Pearls of wisdom.