We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog to bring you fond birthday wishes for Joe.
Dude, seen here being so hip it hurts, celebrates an undisclosed number of years on the planet today and I, in usual harlot form, will tell you why I’m going to get him a present, some cake and maybe something else he will like.
Joe changed. All the time everyone says you can’t change people and you need to just look at your spouse and say “Ok. This is it. This is who he is and I can’t change him.” This is absolutely true, very good advice to give people who are engaged and I’ve always completely accepted that you can’t change anyone, not even a little.
Imagine my surprise then, that it turns out that if the man in question really loves you, and really respects your goals and your happiness…then they will change themselves. (This was not a possibility that my mother explained to me.) This time last year was a mother, wife, writer and doula working from home. This had the benefit of providing our family with an almost seamless supply of warm dinners on the table and clean laundry that appeared suddenly in drawers. Joe did his stuff around the house (though I can’t remember right now what that was, only that I told him on more than one occasion that “No man has ever been shot while doing the dishes” and by way of encouragement, that I find men sorting laundry “really hot”.) but mostly it was my domain.
Then, encouraged by Joe, my first book was published and everything changed. I was gone a lot. When I wasn’t gone I was working. I had another book coming out and a third one to write and there were all of these planes and meetings and millions of knitters and yarn and…..I must have looked like I was having the time of my life this year. (Mostly because I was.) It was a lot of work, but when it’s the work you have always dreamed of doing, then writing until 4am has it’s rewards, you know what I mean?
The laundry stopped. I left on trips. The house exploded, the kids got disorganized. I came home from yarn crawls the book tour to discover not just that things were sticky, but that things were falling apart. I remembered that people don’t change…and I spent quite a lot of time wondering if this was too much for my family. I would come back and there would be no food, no clean dishes, homework abandoned…people wearing really strange outfits because they were at the bottom of the clean clothes supply…and on one historic occasion, a large hairball greeted me at the front door because there had been an executive decision by “Team Lord Of The Flies” to let it dry (!!!??!!) before making an attempt to clean it up. (It had dried. They had forgotten.) I admit that I wept as I pried it off the carpet. That night I lay in bed wondering if I could have this career, or if I needed to wait until the kids were older. It wasn’t just the hairball…it was the chaos.
Then it happened. Joe changed. Not all at once, and I admit that the change was subtle at times…but it was there. He started to understand how much toilet paper three teenaged girls need and that there’s nothing he can do about that. He started wiping things. He washed the kitchen floor and did a load or two of laundry when people had no underwear. (I’ll admit that the first time he did it, he was the one out of underwear, but change is a process.) He admitted that he could see how it might be upsetting to me to return from 8 days away and find the living room was not only trashed, but now contained a “patch bay” two “console channels” and a large editing system. (He didn’t move it, but he admitted that he could see why I might not like it.) He started making the bed. He did homework with the girls. He kept up with their activities…He bought fruit….and more than all of this..
He never, ever…not once, not for a second, no matter how much I was gone, no matter how much slack he had to pick up, even though he was doing a lot of work and a lot of change and lots of men would be bitter about their underwear-washing, dinner cooking, schedule coordinating mate just packing up and leaving all the time…(especially leaving them with three high-drama teenagers with advanced certificates in hostile behavior and guilt-trips) not once has he ever said anything to me except for “What’s the stuff you use to get gum off the bathtub?” “How many carrots can they eat in a day?” and …”I’m really so proud of you Steph.”
The wonder doesn’t end here. As if it were not enough that Joe has demonstrated that he can learn and change to support his family in their endeavors, better than that…he did something remarkable.
He didn’t change the stuff I already liked. He’s still funny, and charming and sweet and mourned a hamster. He’s also still late, sometimes annoying and not yet someone who can own a cell-phone, and I don’t want to pretend that he is now some sort of tidy, Vim-loving clean-freak … but these are the spices in his personality. The things that keep him from being milk-toast bland, the things that tell me that he’s never going to get boring, or mundane or ordinary. A year after his last birthday, I have a changed man, and a better one.
Happy Birthday Joe.
(I’ll do the groceries today.)