"See? I can change."
I say it with a grin because sometimes I get so proud of myself over very little things.
"And you're not even a man." he deadpans as he waltzes down the hallway.
There's a split second before I get his joke. My laughter follows him down the hallway.
We'd been having a conversation about my attempt to load the dishwasher the way he does. I tried it for no other reason than I could. We do most things differently. From folding towels to hanging toilet paper to shovelling snow. We don't argue about these differences anymore but we do notice them. And some days I try things his way just because I can. Which is both monumental and insignificant at the same time.
I was reminded of this the other day while talking to my mom on the phone. I'd asked her a question and she'd turned to my dad for clarification. There was an exchange between them and on her end I heard that My God, you are such an insufferable idiot full of contempt tone of voice that she uses with him. I hate that tone of voice. Hate it. I don't know if it's worse because they have been married nearly 55 years and I wish there was tenderness and compassion between them instead of this pissing contest that never seems to end. I can feel the tension building in my body just writing about it.
I know all about pissing contests and that tone of voice. It was the way I approached my marriage for many of the last 28 years. The world was out to get me, including dearest one, and I only felt secure when I had the upper hand. I forget that I used to look at life that way until I hear my mom's tone of voice or when I choose to do something someone else's way and find out it doesn't hurt one little bit not to be in control of the universe. And some days I still find a hint of that tone of voice coming out of my mouth. That happened the other day in a public place and I apologized instantly. That tone of voice is so, so ugly.
One time, several years ago, I made an offhand remark to dearest one about the way he folds towels. I can get pissy about the stupidest things. Any time I talk to my mom about these things she eggs me on in a men are such idiots and far inferior to us women kind of way. And that day dearest one said to me, "Show me how you do it." He meant it in the sincerest way and when I gave him a puzzled look he added that in his job they only succeed when they work as a team so why not try it at home. Team work never entered my mind. In any bit of life. His comment stunned me into silence and much contemplation.
I think of that conversation every time I look at the pile of folded towels in the bathroom. He has a knack to them now that I can't duplicate no matter how much I try. That conversation is also the reason I try to do things like loading the dishwasher a totally different way just because I can. And because I need the practice. The world will not end if it (or the toilet paper is on backwards) doesn't run according to the book of Hope.
And, God help me, if I keep on trying I might just be in the market for a pair of these suspenders before you know it.