Junior’s 69th Birthday

The birthdate of a deceased family member is one of those special dates that has the power to hurt us because it recalls the loss, the coulda, shoulda beens. We do our best to cope, trying to lessen the pain while coveting sweet memories. Our grandkids bake birthday cakes in remembrance of their papa. Other folks discuss their feelings with family members, sharing how much they miss them and wondering if the void will ever lessen. I check in with my mother-in-law on my late husband’s birthday, and though we try not to cause each other to cry, we do anyway because we have a mutual loss and love. But there is a sweetness to shared tears, even hundreds of miles apart, that has a healing effect that eases the pain a bit.

I’m not one who believes that those in heaven are monitoring Facebook posts, but I do believe in remembering those we have lost and loved.  In the past I’ve used my loss to remind others to appreciate their spouse, but today as I reread the good-by letters JR wrote me I was inspired to write about something I did right as a wife, according to him … Toot my own horn as it were with the same horn that women of my generation can relate, which is a far cry from modern women who are taught (I’ve been told) to empower and fulfill themselves instead of their spouse.

It’s probably laughable to millennials and yuppies, but back in the day of Home Economics classes we were taught that wives should provide a sanctuary for husbands.  We were instructed to welcome our future husbands home wearing a clean dress and apron (yes, apron), where a nice meal awaited him in a clean and orderly house. We were told not to burden him with our problems when he got home, but to sooth his troubles away.  I can hear young women laughing now, but many of us took this advice seriously because we were also taught to respect and listen to our teachers and authority figures.

I married at 19 so four years of Home Economics was still fresh in my mind. JR and I wed not too long after he served in Vietnam, and he then became a firefighter/EMT with all the trauma that entailed so I accepted that lack of drama and a calming sanctuary for him to come home to was smart.  That wifely philosophy was confirmed when JR told me about some fellow firefighters who hated to go home to the turmoil in their homes especially after dealing with stressful life and death issues at work.  So, as silly as it may seem to this generation, I attempted to provide a calm atmosphere when my husband came home after dealing with car wrecks, heart attacks, a demanding public, child abuse, etc.  That also meant I was the main disciplinarian in our home since I didn’t want to hit him with complaints of failed tests, kids fussing, skipped chores and smart mouths.  Not to say he didn’t ever discipline, but that was only when I needed to pull out the big guns.

Soldiers, police, firefighters, doctors and nurses face serious “stuff” that the rest of us don’t have to deal with, and then they come home to a wife’s whiney complaining about hurt feelings, personality clashes at work, and all the little problems that seem so minor when compared to blood and gore.  I just tried to keep it light at home and give him a place to renew himself for another day.  I used my girlfriends to unload the personal drama on.  And, JR appreciated it.  He loved that he could relax after a stressful shift, and he often said I made him laugh, but I think we made each other laugh. We were blessed because we enjoyed being together, and if all that hokey stuff from the 60’s helped my marriage, I’m thankful.

Nothing important here, but if somebody can relate or get a laugh out of an older woman’s reminiscing, then guess it is worth the time to post.

By Elaine Marze