Sunday, April 25, 2010

Married With Children/The X-Files/Top Gear/Return to Me

It was summer and time for me to take the boys, then 6 and 11 years of age, back to Kansas to visit their grandparents.

HOB (Husband Of Betty) insisted he could not go. He was too busy at work, he said. “Busiest time of the year,” he said. However, in the days leading up to our departure, I grew suspicious. I couldn’t help but notice a certain lilt, a certain bounce in his voice when he talked about our trip.

Though he would not admit it, I knew he was looking forward to some time alone in the house. He was thrilled to have the break from his husband/father duties for the week. A week on the couch, the no danger of the remote being taken away, no children running through the house, Play-Dough on their feet, sharp-edged toys in their hands, jumping off furniture and no wife to glare at him if he wanted to eat greasy foods out of paper bags.

Ah, the Single Man Life.

Once we got to Kansas, I called him. The bouncy lilt had been replaced by a weird sort of relaxation in his voice, a dream-like quality. His words were slow and rhythmical, like the voice in an advertisement for old-fashioned lemonade or slow-churned ice cream. The placidity was apparent. His voice had nearly taken on the tinge of a drug-induced high. This was the voice of an extremely tranquil man.

Oh, and he had taken a day of vacation time while we were away.

This far-away, smooth, pleasantly-sedated voice was fine for the first conversation, but by the second phone call it was starting to bother me. The change in his voice would indicate to anyone that he had been released from the hellish prison of marriage and fatherhood and was now enjoying his life of freedom to the fullest.

The witch and her little sharp-toothed monkeys had been sent away and he now sat on his cloud-o’-happiness eating little chocolate-dipped marshmallows in peace.

“Do you miss us?” I asked in a leading voice.

“Oh yes, Baby. Oh yes,” he said in a smooth voice that made me suspect he was not responding to my question, but, I imagined, instead speaking to the two women in flowing white gowns who were no doubt fanning him with giant plumes as he reclined on a tufted velvet sofa.

Meanwhile in Kansas I suffered with the July heat and humidity and two California boys who couldn’t figure out why they had to spend even part of their summer vacation in this place where thirsty ticks sought them out, invisible creatures in the grass called chiggers were ready to attack and mosquitoes the size of sparrows dive bombed them on a hourly basis.

Perhaps I should have been happy to hear that relaxed tone of voice from HOB, but to tell you truth, it felt like a gear had slipped out of the family machine, like one of the dependable pieces was no longer engaged. It was an odd feeling that left me feeling alone and under more stress.

The third day there we drove out to see HOB’s parents. Driving around the hilly streets near their home, the Blazer I was driving blew out a tire. It was unnerving to say the least. I managed to park precariously on a hill, told the kids to get out and stay put on a nearby grassy bank, and I walked to the nearest house (it was a time before cell phones, children!) to give my in-laws a call.

I was met at the door by a very skinny man with acne scars on his face who looked at me suspiciously as I asked him if could use his phone. He nodded, and nearly pulled me in, slamming the door behind me.

“Air conditioning,” he growled by way of explanation.

I picked up the phone as the man headed to the kitchen. I could hear him rustling around in the drawers. Obviously, he was searching for a machete with which to kill me. I made the call, yelled my thank you, and then escaped to wait at the car for my in-laws to pick me up.

They did and we returned to their home. I decided to call HOB to get the number of my nephew who lived in the area and who drove a tow truck to see if he could come and get me or at least give me some advice. My voice must have been shaking as I called HOB and explained the situation, trying not to cry while I was at it. I took a deep breath and finally said,

“So, could you look in the Rolodex and get Scott’s number?”

“Oh,” he said. “Yeah….Well, that could be a bit of a problem….”

There it was—that tone. The maddening, euphoric tone.

I sat still, in disbelief. Was he so far gone, so totally indoctrinated in the cult of pleasure and non-responsibility that he had lost all his senses?

He continued in that unnervingly calm, dream-like voice.

“You see, that number is in the kitchen and I’m in the bedroom. I'd have to walk out there and get it and I'm really comfortable right now.”

Oh no, he didn’t.

Oh yes, he did.

I sat there for two seconds in stunned silence. Then, I slammed down the phone. Hard.

He called back one minute later.

I picked up the phone and then slammed it down again.

He called back.

He apologized. "I don't know why said that. I wasn't thinking. Now, here's the number. Do you have a pen? Are you writing this down?

He continued, “Are you and the boys OK? Did the tire look OK at the rental car place? Did you check it before you pulled out? OK, now here's my advice about what to do...."

I sat, listened to him, and smiled.

It was not the words he was saying that made me happy.

No, it was beautiful tone of voice he was using. It was that familiar husband/father voice—the one tinged with concern, peppered with bossiness, the one bordering on tension, the one with more than just a hint of stress. It was the sane and sober voice of the beleaguered but loving husband and father.

I relaxed. The gear was back in place. Maybe it was the slamming of the phone that had jarred it back. Whatever it was, it was a relief.

“It’s OK,” I said. “I can handle things. I'll make some calls. I think everything’s going to be OK.”

And it was.


One Photo said...

Last year in May we went to Destin with our then 2 year old daughter for a week's vacation. It was enjoyable but also a lot of hard work as while she loved the beach she had a hard time dealing with all the unfamiliar surroundings and it all served to remind us that vacations were never going to be anything like our vacations in the past. The following month my husband went on a week long summer school course at MIT with his work. He came home after staying in a great hotel, eating wonderful meals and mingling with the elite of the IT world looking wonderfully relaxed, regaling me with stories of how beautiful the river was when he went for a lunch time walk etc. He later admitted that it was much more of a vacation then spending a week with our daughter had been!

Ms. A said...

I could never let mine get too comfortable with my absence, he might like it, a little too much. But, it would be him calling me, every five minutes, to ask where something is. Funny, we've lived in this house, for 33 years and he still doesn't know where to find things.

My Mind's Eye said...

OH MY WORD!!!!!!!!!!!!! That is some story and it sounds a little familar...except I was at home while my hubby was on a business trip...HA
If you come to Raleigh we will arrange a tour of Raleigh that includes all of Madi's napping spots.
Madi and Mom

Joe Cap said...

A great story!
I wonder how busy HOB was at work if he took a vacation day?
I know what it is like to be able to have the house alone for a few days, but you must know that husbands do miss the family when they are gone. It is a nice break, but we wouldn't want it to go on forever.
Pretty scary with that flat and the old man with the scars...I am glad it turned out ok.

Old Kitty said...


Dear oh dear!! Well done you for getting you and your kids sorted after your car broke down - like braving that potential machete killer and getting to a phone!

I hope your hubby never forgets this. So glad it's here on your blog now!


Take care

Joann Mannix said...

Great story! I was seeing red for you!

I hate it when one of gears slips out of place. All is well when everyone is doing what they should in our little family machine, here.

Ann said...

What? you only hung up on him twice? My ex used to get, or should I say take, the experience of single life way too often. I spent more time home alone with the kids than I cared to. And how dare they use that calm, serene voice. The nerve :)
I do have to say though that being home alone is like a little bit of heaven

Cheeseboy said...

Oh man, my wife would have KILLED me. Literally strangled me when she got home.

However, I am so jealous of your husband. A week home alone sounds about as good as it gets. Especially if it were during March Madness.

Sara said...

I would have been so mad at my hubby, but at least he snapped out of it!

Have a great day and I also wnanted to let you know that I photo tagged you on my blog!


Holly Renee said...

Okay, that's a little hilarious that he didn't want to walk to the kitchen and was so open about it. He must have just gotten too relaxed. Glad he came to his senses. Glad everything was okay.

Kazzy said...

Oh, man. You are much nicer than I would have been!

But I admit when my hubs and sons go camping and I stay hoem alone, I get a little of that relaxed tone in my voice too.

Theresa Milstein said...

Wonderfully written. You make the whole situation come alive.

I used to get that same feeling when my husband travelled for meetings, hanging out with his friends at night, while I was home with a small one. said...

I think you need to turn the tables next time round. You stay home and have men in large white robes fanning you with their plumes, while he takes the kids to Kansas. It's only fair.

Copyboy said...

I'd like to say I don't have a different frame of mind when my wife is out shopping and I get to crash on the couch and watch tv, but I'd be fibbing. But hey, that doesn't mean I'd love her any less. :)

Unknown said...

Oh, whata tale! I LOVE it. I got back to work this week- 12 hours shifts, while the hubby will get a full experience of the two boys...including getting the 6 yo up, dressed, school lunch packed. We'll see....

Green Monkey said...

nooooooooo....IT CAN'T BE OKAY BECAUSE I'M STILL PISSED!!! so much so, that at this very minute, I'm punishing my husband by refusing to hand feed the pets and I just "accidentally" changing the TV station (in the middle of baseball) .

THAT was a great story - please tell me it was fiction.

YOU are the queen....

(crawling back to my hole)


Julie said...

"The witch and her little sharp-toothed monkeys had been sent away and he now sat on his cloud-o’-happiness eating little chocolate-dipped marshmallows in peace."

“Oh yes, Baby. Oh yes,” he said in a smooth voice that made me suspect he was not responding to my question, but, I imagined, instead speaking to the two women in flowing white gowns who were no doubt fanning him with giant plumes as he reclined on a tufted velvet sofa."'s phrases like this that always keep me coming back for more. I seriously can't contain my laughter as I read your memoirs! I am so glad I found your blog!! You and all your bossiness!

And by the way...I'm flattered that you stop by mine on occasion too, and leave such kind comments. I like knowing that a wiser woman..with years of mothering experience under your paying me a visit. I'm always happy for any advice!

liz said...

I happened to read Julie's comment before posting, and I couldn't have said it better. Your quips make me laugh out loud! You are one of my top three funny ladies, that's for sure.

Stephanie said...

LOL No more vacations for you umm I mean him! :)

Susan Fields said...

Oh how I wish my husband would take the kids on a vacation somewhere! But it never happens - it's either all 5 of us or just me and the kids. But two years ago when we left him home alone, the dog went into heat (she was stray and the vet couldn't tell if she'd been spayed or not). I'm sure that week he wished he was with the kids and I was at home! :)

Dorothy said...

Great story, my first visit..I'll be back.

Dorothy from grammology

Jimmy said...

Hey Betty,

Loved the post, this is my first visit and I will be adding you to my list of must reads.

Anonymous said...

Ah! Go Betty! I am so proud to read that you got the gear back in place! Go girl!

Marlene said...

Excellent piece of writing. MEN. GAH!

DrSoosie said...

Great post as usual betty. My car is currently having a slipping transmission so I might just have to read your post again to know what to do!!

Jennifer said...

Great story! I agree with Julie, the way you tell a story is a big part of what makes yours so great! Sharp toothed monkeys..hehe how funny. I do get your irritation at your husband though, I went on vacation once without him and he had this tone of voice like talking on the phone with me was interrupting his happy ME TV time. When I got back after a week the house was a wreck, it was quite clear he did nothing but watch TV and nap the whole week I was gone. It still annoys me when I think about it. LOL

Lidian said...

What a great story! I would have been mighty irked, too (and that's just for starters)...

And now I want a week off too :)

Nicolasa @ {My}Perspective said...

That was a great post... I love reading your writing.

We don't have kids but I can tell that hubs gets in that relaxed state you speak up when I have class over the weekend... something about being alone.

Alexandra said...

That was fantastic!!!!

Truly beautiful.

Loved every word, Bossy Betty.

Especially the one about being released from the hellish prison of marriage.

You are so quick to forgive, must be the secret to a happy marriage.

Wonderful. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I love this one so much - makes me wonder what Hubby would be like if he ever had time away from our wild bunch! :) Have a great week and Congrat's on your 200th follower - WELL Deserved! :)

KLZ said...

I'm really tempted to call my husband and hang up on him. Because I know he'd do the exact same thing.

Except he'd slip in a question about why I was being so cranky. Because he was "concerned".

Shan said...

Of course this was a great story... and I'm glad to know that something as simple as slamming the phone down may have helped resolve his "issues," haha. Mostly though, I'm glad to know that gears can get put back into place.

notesfromnadir said...

I guess he was really enjoying his "alone time" until reality hit him. Hope he read a lot of good books while you were away.

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