Recently, I walked into my husband’s home office. I stood at the door and watched him for a moment. His eyes were glued to the screen, his fingers poised over the keyboard. A look of intense contemplation played around his eyes. That’s his usual look when working on—well, whatever it is he’s always working on. Those of you with Type-A, work-a-holic mates know that look. I’m positive every one of the wives down this street would recognize that look.
“Honey…” I came closer, stood next to his brown leather executive chair.
“Hmmm?” He flicked his eyes at me and then looked at the computer again. His attention clearly went back to whatever life-and-death situation he dealt with on the screen. His fingers began to tap out what I can only assume to be something that circumvented the threat of life as we know it. Uh huh. I choose to believe this. It keeps me sane.
“I want a baby.”
He continued typing as my words swirled around his head, flashed out into the ozone, circled the planet at twice the speed of light and then slammed into his brain like a heat seeking missile.
He pushed back on his office chair, mouth agape, and eyes wide. “What?” He whispered it as if he couldn’t get enough air into his lungs or make his vocal cords work.
“I said I want a baby…”
His mouth twitched. His brow wrinkled with anxiety. He shook his head—probably to shake out the frightening images. Colic, teething, diaper rash, tantrums, orthodontia, homework battles, driving lessons. Judging by the gigantic swallow he took, I’m positive that visions of the two cars our teens have wrecked in the last year flashed through his mind.
I smiled. “All right…maybe a puppy instead.”
He scoffed, no doubt full of relief. “Yeah, well, I was going to say you’re a little too late to ask for the first one. I can’t help you there.”
“Yes, but what about the second? You could do something about that. That requires no surgery whatsoever.” I grinned at him.
“Well, I could help you with that…that is, if I actually wanted another dog.”
“But I want one. I miss having a dog.” I stuck out my lip in a teeny tiny pout.
Hubby sighed and leaned back in his chair. He clasped his hands in front of him. “So…what brought this on? I’m thinking one of the kids didn’t kiss you good night?” He smirked.
“Well, he didn’t, but…that has nothing to do with this.”
“Oh! Now this makes sense. My wife needs a new baby or a new puppy. These here kids are gittin’ too big to cuddle,” he said doing his best redneck accent. (If that sounds familiar to you, he got that quote from one of our favorite movies Raising Arizona. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. The writing is very good and Nick Cage is hilarious.)
“They are too big to cuddle and the cat hates me.” I looked down and traced a pattern on the carpet with my toe.
“The cat hates everyone. Don’t take it personally.”
“She only likes me in the morning before I feed her.”
“Then don’t feed her until noon. Make the love last longer.”
“Ha ha. C’mon. Don’t you miss having a dog?”
He smiled at me, shook his head. “No. I don’t miss having a dog. I miss my dog, of course. But, all the work that goes with it…not so much.”
My brow wrinkled in confusion as I considered this. “I don’t know what you could possibly be alluding to. Your job with the dog was easy. Playing with the dog, petting the dog, having the dog look at you like you’re a god. I mean, c’mon. I was the one that dragged a quivering 70-lb dog into the vet twice a year. I had to coax the dog out of the car at the groomer every four months. It was I who cleaned bits of chewed-up and partially digested garden hose from ten different spots on the Persian rug that couldn’t be professional shampooed–which meant it required lots of hand-to-vomit contact. I was the one who had to chase the dog down the street in the scorching heat of a desert wasteland called Arizona or chase her through blizzards blowing in the tundras of South Dakota after the kids left the gate open for the millionth time. And might I add…if you remember, your dog thought that was a great game. She’d wait until I got so close I could almost grab her collar and then she’d take off like a jackrabbit. Oh! And who cleaned all mud off the floor when she came in after the rain or snow? Who scrubbed the red clay of Texas from our cream colored carpet and who continually cleaned nose-prints from the French doors? Who battled the ticks, dealt with her hip problems in later years? But let’s not forget the coup de gras, my love. Who changed her diapers for the last six months when she became incontinent?”
He studied me. Tented his fingers under his chin. “Annnd…you want a dog, why?”
“Okay, good point.” He had me. I had no choice but to confess. “Because Greg went to bed without kissing me goodnight.”
“Aha! I knew it.”
“But that is not the point! Greg has one more year in our house and then he’s out the door to college. I’ll be all alone. All day. Every day. When you work your crazy hours and when you go away for business, I’d have a companion.”
“Don’t forget the cat.”
“She doesn’t interact. It’s not the same.”
“Now, honey…the boys haven’t really interacted since they reached their teens.” He chuckled. “And we didn’t get new ones when that happened.”
“Ugh. You’re not listening.”
“No, I hear you. You want a dog because Greg didn’t kiss you goodnight.” That statement came from an obviously over-educated man. He has attended many classes, written several papers and attended countless seminars on ‘Critical Thinking.’ Yes, I said (and meant) he’s over-educated. Winning an argument with him is almost impossible. He’s just too darn logical for my own good. His critical thinking often works against my whimsical, flighty, irrational and sometimes unreasonable mind.
“No! I want a dog to…”
“Teach the cat to be grateful?”
“Make Greg kiss you goodnight?”
“C’mon, Bergie…” He used my pet name and rolled forward in his chair. Grabbing my wrists gently, he pulled me to his lap. “What’s really going on?” I have to hand it to this man. After twenty-three years of marriage he knows me too well. He can (and does) melt my heart with the right look at the right time. “What’s behind all the need for a puppy?”
“It’s the neighbors. It’s their fault.” I put out my lip, tears welled in my eyes.
“The B.’s? They have that little Dachshund?”
“The McR’s with their little white fluff ball?”
“Well, then…what neighbors?”
“The M’s. down the street.”
“What? I didn’t know they had a dog.”
“What are you talking about?”
“They have a cat.”
“OH! You mean the strange one that walks on a leash?”
We’d lived down the street from the M’s for over a year, but one night last week I saw them walking what I thought was a little dog. However, when they got closer, I realized it was not a small dog, but a big cat.
I loved that.
Even my husband was amused by the spectacle. The M’s cat, however, did not think it was a dog. It knew it was a cat since it had a very cat attitude.
Thrilled by this scene, I bent down to talk to this clever animal. It looked at me as if I had no right to study its particularly unusual talent.
That cat looked me in the eye and I swear if it could’ve flipped me the bird it would’ve. I could almost hear its thoughts, “WTF are you looking at lady? I’ll walk my people on this leash if I damn well feel like it.” It had a sneer only a cat comfortable in its own skin could give. At that moment…I WANTED THAT CAT!
When I came inside after that remarkable experience, I found my own cat on my bed lounging lengthwise and cleaning her face with slow deliberate licks and swipes. She looked up at me. She stopped for a second, deemed me unworthy of grooming disruption and continued to bathe as if I wasn’t there. Right then I knew for sure, I’d never get that cat to walk on a leash. I couldn’t even get the entitled animal to sit next to me while I watched TV.
So anyway, there I sat on my husband’s lap… I put my arms around his neck, rested my head on his shoulder.
He says, “Let me get this straight. You want to adopt a dog because Greg didn’t kiss you goodnight and the M’s walk their cat on a leash?”
“Well…Yes. Honey…can’t I have a dog? A little one?”
He opened his mouth to answer me. At that moment his Blackberry rang. I sat up. My man held up one finger as an indication to wait, a “this will only take a second” gesture.
I knew better. As I said…twenty-three years of marriage…
I stood up. The answer to my new dog question stayed on his lips. My husband has been trained in evasive maneuvers. I know this because he’s managed to evade the question ever since. When he gets home this Friday, I’ll try again. Maybe this time, I won’t ask for a baby first. I’ll start with, “Honey…I want a new car…”