Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Flying Checkbook

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, October 4, 2015

I moved out of Mom’s house and straight into Paul’s. That took some getting used to. I had a checking account for awhile prior to getting married, but when your mom buys the groceries and pays the bills, the only money that comes out of your account is gas money and shopping money. Suddenly I was a wife and the adorable checks with Holstein cows on them (we also had matching return address labels!) were being used for things like food, electricity, phone, insurance, and oil for my car that was burning a quart a day. Paul was the only one working and I was having no luck finding a job. Things were tight and kept getting tighter.
One night, I had tried paying the bills and it just wasn’t working. I had always heard the phrase “Robbing Peter to pay Paul," but it finally rang true for me just what that meant and I didn’t see my Paul reaping any benefits of this so-called “pay.” I was frustrated at my inability to find a job to help out, Paul was working long hours to try to help, we were both tired of eating dishes made with canned beef and dehydrated eggs. He walked through the door after a 14-hour day and I unloaded on him. I had been crying and then it turned to flat-out anger. I was complaining and he stood there with this blank look on his face. How dare he?! So I started yelling. Still he stood there looking at me, blinking. Then he shrugged and turned to walk into the living room. And before I knew what came over me, I lobbed the checkbook at him. Now, in my mind, it was going to really make a point. It was going to get his attention and make him see that I was justified in my tirade. Have you ever thrown a checkbook? They just don’t make good missiles. They kind of flutter… and then flop to the ground. I wanted to hit him and hurt him like he had just hurt me by walking away when I needed him to just listen. Instead, the noise of the fluttering checkbook made him turn around. It landed behind him at his heels. He looked at the faux leather case that showcased my neat handwriting and color-coded register entries, looked up at me, looked back down….then yelled, “DID YOU JUST THROW THAT AT ME?”

Oh, it was on, brother and sisters. I stood up prepared to fight. Or run. He threw it back. And even though he threw it much harder and faster than I had, it still only managed a flutter and a flop. And then we both just laughed. What else were we going to do? The bank balance hadn’t changed one penny in all of our screaming and throwing. We were still broke and we were still going to eat canned beef smothered in cheap bottled barbecue sauce for dinner that night.
“A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” (Proverbs 15:1 NLT)
This past week Paul and I commemorated the 23rd anniversary of meeting and our first date. (Commemorated as in “Hey, 23 years ago today you met me and asked me out.” “Oh yeah? Cool. G’nite, dear.”) There have been times when we’ve spoken more harsh words than gentle answers. There were plenty of times when we simply chose to not speak at all because harsh words were all we had for each other. Not every season of a marriage is full of sunshine and roses. Sometimes it’s full of empty bank accounts, sick kids, tired spouses, and other rotten things. But the times where it’s got some “I believe in you” and “I love you madly even though you’re a slob and apparently physically incapable of replacing an empty toilet paper roll” are the times that keep us going.

Happy 23 years of knowing me, babe. And thanks for asking me to go bowling.

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