Uppermost House: In search of spousal pith


PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

I’ve been married just long enough to know that some decisions should be vetted.

For instance, I would never buy a used bulldozer or a box of mallards without my wife’s knowledge and consent. (And yes, you can buy ducks online.) So it was with a sense of both duty and prudence that I ran the idea of writing another installment in the Wife Wit and Wisdom series past my sweet Karen; but when I cited some recent examples of spousal pith, she said, “Oh, for goodness sake, people will think we don’t like each other.”

To set the record straight, I like my wife and she likes me. A lot. For the last 37 years a lot. I’ve often told people that if I were tied to Karen with a hundred feet of rope for the rest of my life, I would be a deliriously happy man. But I also think that I shouldn’t be selfish, and that her fine Germanic sense of witty pragmatism should be shared. Why should I have all the fun?

The following conversation snippets will demonstrate my wife’s dizzying intellect, directness, and her sense of humor (she would deny the first, admit the second, and claim the third is inadvertent). For brevity, I will use our initials. And remember, we really like each other.

While watching a movie where a widow talks about falling in love again.

KL: “I wouldn’t even bother.”

PL: “No chance of hitting another home run?”

KL: “Not enough time to train him.”

While watching Karen pour muffin batter into a pan.

PL: “Are those the wonderful muffins that you make?”

KL: “I’ve never made these before, so I guess not.”

While getting ready to go to church and choosing to wear my Indiana Jones hat and feeling particularly rugged.

PL: “Maybe I’ll rescue a damsel in distress. ‘Excuse me, ma’am, do you need help with those wiper blades?’ ”

KL: “And then you won’t even be able to fix them.” (This was followed by the kind of laughter that would cause a less pragmatic wife to fall right off the couch.)

Right after I turned the lights off and told her that I was too tired to converse and can’t we just go to sleep.

KL: “I just want to say a few things and then trail off.”

She teasing me for my often self-deprecating comments.

KL: “I’ve never met anyone who makes fun of themselves so much.”

PL: “Oh, lots of people are like that.”

KL: “Not in the Midwest.” (She’s from Indiana, where she says that everyone is “sensible.”)

She scolding me for a particularly disgusting habit of mine, the details of which I won’t divulge, out of common decency.

KL: “Don’t do that! You’ll get toothpaste in your armpit.” And then, rather threateningly: “You’ll regret that!”

She during a discussion of priorities regarding things to be done to our old house.

KL: “I’m a short-term person. I like to see projects finished in my lifetime.”

Explaining why she doesn’t like to buy birthday cards.

KL: “The ones in the store are so dumb. They cost five dollars and they don’t even have music. I’m not spending five dollars on anyone.”

And so I live with this barbed serendipity every day. Karen means only to be precise and clear, if perhaps a little blunt (but never perfunctory), but she is so often hysterical and obscure (even though she doesn’t always recognize it). And it annoys her a bit when she sees me hop up and run for my notebook. “Oh no, don’t write that one down!” she’ll shout.

She perused my notebooks once, just to verify accuracy, I suppose, and confronted me with this terse little explanation: “I don’t even know why I say what I say until it comes out.” See what I mean?

To reiterate, I adore my wife, and find her endlessly fascinating. And she feels that same way about me; she even agreed that she would also be happy tied to me with a hundred feet of rope for the rest of her life, “Although I’d want a knife, just in case,” she said.

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