Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Edge of Reason

It was sunny out, which was strange in itself. There was little context against which to compare the brightness after so many months of winter. Odder still was the fact that The Partner was standing on the edge of our property, staring at the roof of our house. He held a hand-visor to his forehead, the shadow falling in a rectangle over two scrutinizing eyes.

I watched him from the doorway until his thoughtful confusion conveyed to my own raised eyebrows. "What are you doing?" I asked him. I stepped outside. There was a towel wrapped around my just-showered head.

"I think I've developed a fear of heights." I'm sure his balls shriveled into themselves just a little bit as he said it. He fancies himself a man's man, afraid of nothing. Able to jump tall buildings in a single bound, repairing faulty chimney construction mid-leap.

"I can't make that step from the ladder to the roof." He shook his head. "I stood up on the final rung for five minutes, but I can't make that final move onto the roof. I'm mentally ill."

I opened my mouth to speak, but no connection with my brain was made. In almost ten years of knowing this man, I never once heard him articulate weakness. Everything was out of kilter.

"It's like my balance is all off," he said.

"I don't know about that. Maybe you were on the right track with the mentally ill thing." Finally, the switch in my cold, hard brain kicked in.

He just shook his hanging head again.

I should've expressed some sort of empathy for him, but my emotions had not had enough time to filter through to the more feeling parts of my torso. "So, what are you going to do about it?"

If I know The Partner (which I thought I did, but which, in light of this most recent event, I am questioning) there is no way in H-E-double hockey stick that he would allow anyone else to do something he should be capable of himself. This is the man who single-handedly removed the engine from inside the maze of my German-engineered car and replaced it with another (without a lift). But I guess, for him, the fear of being crushed by a wayward transmission pales in comparison to falling off a roof. The way I look at it, he'd be more likely to survive the descent from the top of our story-and-half Cape Cod.

I waited for his answer but got none. He just stood there, staring his foe in its shingled face.

So I switched my weight from one hip to another and readusted the soggy towel on my head. Inside that 100 percent cotton enclosure, my mind reeled as I tried to comprehend a world in which The Partner wasn't always, without fail, the strong one.


Mrs. Chicken said...

Mr. Chicken has recently been expressing doubts about his career and what we are doing with our lives here in Illinois.

It is shocking to know he isn't 100 percent sure of himself.

Isn't it funny when we realize the ones we love are failable?

slouching mom said...

It's funny. I turn out to have much more gender bias than I think I do. Because when my husband expresses vulnerability, anxiety, or fear, my first instinct is to feel a tiny bit of revulsion. (I'm being painfully honest here; I know how bad that sounds.)

But then my frontal lobes kick in, and I'm able to bring forth the appropriate, loving response.

I think maybe because I grew up with no dad around (he was in the foreign service, and my parents divorced before I was one), what I internalized about the male gender came entirely from The Brady Bunch.

And did Mike ever, ever show anxiety or fear?

Jordan said...

This is beautifully written and poignant. It's a great view inside a different marital dynamic for me; I'm more accustomed to a spouse who expresses anxiety and vulnerability frequently. I'm sitting here trying to imagine what it would be like if he never did and then suddenly had a moment like you've described. I can imagine the shock and loss of equilibrium all of a sudden.

Jerri said...

I've never heard my husband say "I can't" either, but lately he has been hinting at it...maybe it is his age....erm....nope, probably not, I don't know what gives

Lawyer Mama said...

My husband is the same way. I'm the one with all the doubts and anxieties, he is the rock. When he does express a doubt or fear I really take notice.

Beautiful post. I can't wait to see what you have tomorrow.

jen said...

oh. wow. it's amazing, isn't it, when we are able to step back far enough and see them in the 3 dimensions they actually have.

wow. what a great post.

Michele said...

Great post.

I am with Jordan. I am married to someone fraught with self-doubt. I am more like The Partner. Hopefully our hybrid children have a fighting chance.

Redneck Mommy said...

A man capable of showing weakness.

This is very valuable. Cherish it.

My He-Man would rather rot than admit a fear.


Lauren said...

Chris is so cute. It is nice when they get a bit vulnerable now and then.

Mrs. Chicky said...

Oh, that's rough. I'm perfectly okay with my husband expressing emotional weakness (misery loves company and all that) but physical weakness? That's harder for me to take. But that doesn't seem to be your husband's problem. Maybe his mortality, and the fact that he has a lot to be responsible for, is blocking him. Nothing wrong with that.