Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sheri and Jim, sitting in a tree... 23 years later

The moon has a face
And it smiles on the lake
And causes the ripples in Time
I'm lucky to be here
With someone I like
Who maketh my spirit to shine

Warren Zevon

On Aug. 8, Sheri and I will have been together for 23 years. Maybe it brings to mind the old vaudeville joke (I know how you love 'em): Guy- My wife and I have been together for 15 happy years. 2nd guy- That's wonderful. 1st guy- Yeah. Fifteen out of 27 ain't bad. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

We had known each other for a couple of years before we started “going together,” but Aug. 8 was our first official outing. We couldn't call it a date. We were both 44 and hadn't dated since we were in our teens; to call it a date was not possible. She was going through a divorce and I had seen the end of a long-term relationship. Myself and Judy (not her real name, of course) mutually agreed the relationship was no longer working, and that it was probably more because of my behavior than hers. Fair enough.

So, Sheri and I started and here we are 23 years down the road, still together and still extremely happy. After all this time, I do sometimes ask myself: “Why do you still like her?” Not love, you'll notice, but why do I still “like” her? Two entirely different, yet valid, I think, questions.

I think there is some mandatoryness to loving someone, especially after a longish period of time. Sort of “In for a penny, in for a pound,” although that might be a little cold. But, liking someone. That's entirely up to you. If someone casually asks about your relationship- “Gosh. The two of you are still in love after all these years, huh?” You say yes, brothers and sisters, and “like” isn't even gonna come into the picture.

So, why do I still like this amazing woman? Well, she's beautiful. I still look across a room sometimes and think, “Wow! Who's the chick with the brilliant smile?” and semi-blush when I realize it's my wife. She is really smart. Incredibly loyal. Wait a minute... I'm making her sound like “Lassie.”

“Go get Jim, Sheri. Go get him. He fell down the well. Go on, Sheri. Get him.”

And maybe there is a bit of that in it. But, she's also good company, fun to be around, and generous with her heart. She is a great friend to her friends. Ask any of them and I'll bet they say that about her.

Me? I know a lot of people. They are my friends, but I make that a more difficult proposition than it should be. Somebody says to me: “Jim, go get Toby. He fell in the well. Go get him.” I'm just gonna say, “Hey. He got himself in there, he can get himself out.” Or, more likely, “Sheri. Some jackass named Toby just fell down a well. Go get 'im. That's a good girl. Go get Toby (the jackass).”

We've been through an incredible amount of stuff in 23 years, but so have you. Right? If you're going to take your marriage vows seriously, you are going to be faced with huge amounts of stuff that will, on occasion, seem insurmountable. And when you are, you have a choice. Go on and get over it together, or stop, thank each other for a nice time, and go your separate ways, leaving the huge amount of stuff where you found it.

For 23 years, Sheri and I have chosen to deal with the stuff, one pile at a time. Of course the toughest challenge right now is our roles as Man With Cancer and Wife of Man With Cancer. That, boys and girls, is a tremendous amount of stuff to have to get over. And it's really two different piles. I think I have the easier job. I'm ill, and I deal with it. I have to. I can't say, “Well, maybe I'll skip this one.” Not gonna happen. This is my life and I need to do what it takes to keep living it.

Sheri, on the other hand, has to look at someone she loves suffer day after day, wishing she could do more to help, but knowing she can't. There's no well to pull me out of. I'm sick and her love for me requires her to stay here day in and day out, when many days we know she couldn't possibly feel like it.

She does take good care of herself and that's where her wonderful group of friends comes in. They go to the beach together, they get together and talk about stuff, they have coffee and donuts. They help each other. But at the end of they day, it's Sheri's best friend who is sick and only she can do much about it, after all.

She can't even really get mad at me, poor guy with cancer. Weep, weep. Well, actually now she can become upset with me and does! I think it costs her emotionally to be angry with me, but she is willing to pay that particular price and I'm very happy that she does.

So, 23 years after our first outing, here we are- Man With Cancer and Wife of Man With Cancer. It's become a real study in the power of like. Audiences are hailing it on two continents. Or, maybe they aren't. It doesn't seem to phase Sheri and Jim, either way. They get to spend every day together, and at that, 23 years doesn't seem like anywhere near enough.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere