A funny thing happened to Camo Man and me on our way to our first anniversary. We didn’t make it.
I mean, we made it — we got to the day and all, but not in one piece. Certainly not in the way we anticipated, what with dreams of living it up on our first cruise — first true vacation — and all.
Life is just the funniest thing, readers. You look ahead as far as you can, readying to jump over obstacles in the road and veer around sofa-sized roadblocks. Then, WHAM, you get broadsided by something invisible coming right at you from the sidelines.
So it was in our case. While we had been creating a unique family tapestry with shared experiences and new traditions, it turned out one of the people we were knitting in was not, how shall I say, “feeling it.”
Instead of weaving in with the other threads, one kid decided to be a stick — poky sharp, unbending. And determined to be in a chronic snit, it felt like.
This was not unexpected. We might be stupid in love, but we’re not actually stupid people. We knew our marriage would force a period of adjustment for all our kids, grown and otherwise. Camo Man and I worked to mitigate the situation with counseling and community resources for Martha Stewart, Jr., Hunter Boy and Miss Tall and Blond, the three teens still at home and most impacted by the change.
Still, we didn’t have nearly enough tools, it turned out. And the warranties expired on those we had all at once, about 72 hours before we departed for that long-anticipated anniversary trip.
I’m determined not to “out” which kid decided to plunge us into chaos, so bear with me. There’s going to be a lot of irritating ambiguity here, but the end will make this worth your time. Hopefully.
It was the very end of May, and Camo Man and I were rushing to get a crazy number of details nailed down for our cruise through Alaska’s inside passage. You know why people say cruises are relaxing? Because you do an insane amount of work just to set foot on the ship; everything that follows seems laid back.
Nonetheless, I was excited to show my husband the stunning scenery I had enjoyed for 20 years in that state — like God had a bucket of special effects left over after creating Earth and decided to use them up all in one spot.
Then, at the height of frenzy, one of our kids did something awful. For the purpose of this column it doesn’t matter who or what, but take my word for it — it was bad. So much so that we could hear the walls of our universe falling in. Which had to be pretty loud to be noticeable over the sound of my screaming, sobbing and general destruction of property.
In all my not-finest moments as a human being, this was the king of not-finest moments. Thank goodness no one took video.
Camo Man and I had no choice but to depart for the prepaid cruise, flying to Seattle in prepaid seats. My eyelids on that morning were the thickness of pencil erasers from all the tears of the night before.
We spent a week being sad on the seas (someone please write a country song here) in a quite expensive manner. We tried to have fun, but mostly we didn’t, fully aware of that every passing minute.
The thing about being in the middle of the ocean during crisis is that you’re in the middle of the ocean. You can’t get in the car and squeal out of the driveway. You can’t have a big, fat hissy fit, surrounded by people enjoying themselves way more than you.
On the other hand, that kid is still alive, thanks to nearly 2,000 miles between us.
We came home to face the rest of summer. As hot days flipped by we ranged from outraged to depressed to fearful to depressed. Did I mention depressed? Like underground-cave-with-no-sun depressed. We got help, of course, hoping someone could write a counseling prescription for broken dreams. But mostly we simply slogged on, wondering how our glowing joy could so quickly be tamped out.
Gag if you must, but that is exactly how it felt.
Finally we decided we’d have to live apart for awhile, to give the troubled teen a simpler setting and to rebuild familial trust. Well, truth is, Camo Man never agreed to that, but I was sure I couldn’t retain my sanity without a breather. Slowly we headed toward a path neither wanted to take.
Damn, we were a sad-slash-mad lot. No one laughed at our house. In the midst of an Eastern Oregon summer, we lived under a black cloud.
I stopped writing about us completely and you all noticed, judging by the emails I got. I’m grateful other people had interesting stories to share in my column space.
At last I had to offer the whole sloppy mess on a cracked and crusty plate to God. I couldn’t fix another single thing, not even the smile on my face. I just asked Him to help me hang on with enough strength to work and care for my family. Including the dogs, who seemed as unhappy as the rest of us.
So there we were, my man and me, just over two weeks ago, sitting on a park bench. Saturday morning was barely born and we had no place to be, since we couldn’t plan our way past the next meal.
As the sun began warming our skin, we moved from stiffly formal to opening the floodgates. The crossbars we had nailed over our hearts — to hold pain in, away from harming each other — popped off in a matter of minutes, the sound ricocheting in the hiccup-y words between tears.
It took two hours, but we got it all out, including that neither of us could bear the thought of living apart, even temporarily. That this marriage we had been promised by God beat out any ick our kids could dish out. We agreed we’re headed through several tough months, but together, with extra care and attention to this precious relationship we were handed as a heavenly gift just over two years ago.
That God ... does He deliver or what?
Shortly after we began dating, I said to Camo Man, “I write about the people in my life, you do realize that?” He assured me he did, the poor innocent. He couldn’t guess at much I depend on readers to help me process. I knew you would have to hear about this difficult chapter before I could move on. It’s how I roll.
Hey, look? Is that blue sky?
Sheila Hagar can be reached at 509-526-8322 or firstname.lastname@example.org.