You would think that after being married to someone for forty-six years you would be able to communicate with them – but you would be wrong.

There are times when it seems like my wife and I are talking in two different languages, and neither one of us understands the other.

Of course, my spouse says that we don’t have a communication problem. She claims that I have a listening problem. (At least I think that’s what she said, but I’m not sure.)

However, I am willing to admit that there are times when I don’t give my lovely bride the undivided attention she deserves. And on those occasions, I, invariably, manage to miss out on important information, particularly if I’m watching TV.

Sadly, being as innocent and naïve as I am, I mistakenly thought that once I was out of school, I was through taking tests. But then I got married, and the testing started all over again – but, unfortunately, the stakes are much higher now and the consequences are far greater if I flunk.

The communication quiz that I most often fail goes something like this.

I’m sitting in the front room watching the Yankee game on TV, and I am vaguely aware that my wife has walked in. I can’t say for certain what she is talking about because I am focused on the Yankee baserunner who just stole second and is now in scoring position.

After patiently explaining something that I needed to hear, my wife suddenly realizes that I am not spellbound by the information she is sharing. She pauses for a moment and then asks a question that demands an answer, “Michael, are you listening to me?”

I nod yes.

“Okay. If you were listening, what did I say?”

And just like that, I flunk another test.

Of course, not all communication is verbal. My wife is the master of silent communication. With just a look she can make it crystal clear what she is thinking and feeling.

In fact, my wife has an entire repertoire of looks that she can pull out as needed.

She has her “Don’t you dare.” look. (So, I usually don’t dare.)

And then there is her “I told you so.” look (She has to use that one a lot.)

She also has a look that she gives me when we’re in public that makes it clear that when we get home, we will be having a verbal conversation.

There is even a “What was I thinking when I married you?” look. I got that one when she caught me trying to stop the blades of an electric fan with my tongue. (I had already unplugged it. I was just trying to stop the slowing blades because – oh, never mind……you had to be there.)

My wife even has a selection of looks that she uses to predict the future:

“You’re going to break it.”

“You’re going to regret that.”

“You’re not going to get away with it.”

“You’re going to hurt yourself.”

Unfortunately, that last one is particularly accurate. And, of course, after I’m injured, it is quickly followed with the “It’s your own fault” look.

Because this silent form of communication is such an integral part of our relationship, I once asked my wife why she was so quick to give me one of her looks.

With thoughtful patience, she replied, “They are for your own good.”

I suppose I am fortunate to have someone watching over me since I’m somewhat clumsy and accident-prone……as you will soon see.

Because my wife rightly believes that I, like most men, require adult supervision (I did try to stop an electric fan with my tongue after all) she tries to offer me guidance in a mature adult way.

However, over time, I have developed an innate ability to tune her out while simultaneously leaving the impression that I am not only giving thoughtful consideration to her words of wisdom but that I also deeply appreciate her willingness to share her advice. (What can I say. It’s a gift.)

But I will admit, there was one particular occasion when, in hindsight, it would have been wise for me to heed my wife’s warnings.

Many years ago, she purchased some expensive light bulbs that were supposed to last longer than we would. (Ha!! We’re still here, and the bulbs are long gone.)

One of the many annoying features in our home is the fact that the living room has a cathedral ceiling. (That is an architectural way of saying it’s a royal pain in the butt to paint.) And that ceiling has recessed lighting. And that lighting is way up there, and about the only way to change out the bulbs is to stand on a ladder.

So, my wife eagerly waited for one of the bulbs to burn out, and when that day finally arrived, I was given the simple task of putting in one of the new bulbs. This was something I had done many times before, but on this occasion, I didn’t want to go through the hassle of retrieving the ladder. It was buried deep in the garage, and I would have to back out a car to get to it.

Since my natural tendency is to always try to take the easy way out, I carried one of our tall swiveling barstools into the living room and positioned it under the burned-out bulb.

My wife immediately shook her head and gave me a look of disapproval, but, to my regret, I chose to ignore her. Realizing that I was going to be stubborn about it, she attempted to reason with me. “Please don’t climb up on a barstool. If that thing swivels, you’ll lose your balance and fall.”

I suppose it’s a childlike reaction, but being told not to do something only increased my desire to go ahead and do it. I shoved one of the new bulbs into my pocket and started climbing up on the barstool.

My wife did not understand my defiant attitude. “You are going to fall. Please go get the ladder.”

I brushed aside her remarks because I was filled with bold confidence. After all, I had changed many a light bulb in my day, all without life-threatening injuries. I stood on the seat of the barstool and was somewhat startled by how wobbly it was. That coupled with the fact that it was not nearly as tall as the ladder meant that I had to stretch as far as I possibly could to reach the bulb. It made for a precarious situation.

“Michael, don’t stand on the barstool. You are going to lose your balance.”

Her words of caution washed over me with no effect. I knew what I was doing.

I reached up to unscrew the light bulb, and the barstool swiveled just enough to get my attention. But I was in too far to back out now. I did not intend to give my wife the satisfaction of thinking she was right, and I was wrong. (Although I was pretty sure she had already made that assumption.)

I grabbed the burned-out bulb and twisted, but it didn’t move. I tried again. Nothing. Obviously, this was going to take some muscle, but I was up to the task. This time I latched onto the bulb and twisted as hard as I could. It did not move – but, unfortunately, the barstool did. 

The force of me twisting the bulb with all my strength, made the barstool spin like a top, launching me horizontally across the room. Because it happened so fast, there was not time for my life to flash before my eyes, but I do recall wishing that, just this once, I had listened to my wife.

After briefly being airborne, I landed with a heavy thud, flat on my back. Thankfully, the thick carpet helped to soften the blow, but it still knocked the wind out of me. I was a sad sight as I laid there trying to catch my breath with the room spinning around me.

Slowly my eyes began to refocus, and I could just barely make out the face of my beloved standing over me. I took a painful breath and waited for her soothing words of comfort. Words that would come from the depths of her soul that would ease the suffering of the man she had chosen to spend her life with.

I didn’t have to wait for long.

My wife leaned down, gave me her I told you so look, and then gently said, “You just lay there and rest – I will go get the ladder.”

But as my lovely bride turned and walked out of the room, I distinctly heard her say, “……And that is why women live longer than men.”

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