Beve called me yesterday afternoon. "Hey," I said. I was outside throwing tennis balls for the dogs, to keep them from barking. In the five days Lacy's been living with us, she's picked up some alarming habits. I'm not sure her owners will be very pleased to discover nine years of training has been undone in a single week, but what are you going to do? She now barks when Beve comes through the door at night, barks at people walking their dogs up the block, and joins the other two in barking for now reason whatsoever. Along with the barking, she's no long simply slinking up onto the couches but simply climbing up along with the other two. Yep, we have her very well trained. But at least the tension is gone. As long as she doesn't infringe too closely on Jackson's personal space, everyone stays pretty happy.
But there does seem to be a whole lot more poop in the yard, and a lot more tennis-ball throwing. I don't do a thing about the first (thank God for Beve--though our neighbor did have to move a bag this morning when the wind changed direction; sorry about that!), but I'm chief ball thrower. So I was out throwing balls for them when he called right in the middle of his day. "What do you need?" I asked.
"I just called to tell you that I love you," he said. I was silent for a moment.
"No, really," I finally answered. "What do you need?"
He chuckled. "I'm not surprised that you'd disbelieve me, but I realize I haven't been very present to you lately and I want to change that." I was, frankly, dumbfounded. Beve and I have a good relationship. We communicate well, agree more often than we disagree and enjoy life in largely the same ways. He makes me laugh every day, even on the days when I've been close to tears or ready to explode or want to bury my head in a book or my pillow or all of the above. He's easily my best friend, the person I need to tell all my stuff to, and I know I'm that for him. And we've been friends a long, long time...since we were nine and ten years old, actually. About 18 years longer than we've been married, actually. So, in some ways, our default setting is friendship. And friendship as a default setting for a marriage isn't a bad thing. In fact, I think it's the best, healthiest foundation there is for a lasting relationship. Twitter-pation, as we call it around here, comes and goes, but friendship lasts.
However, I sometimes miss romance. I'm a woman. OK, I'm a grown-up girl. And I still get a little gooey-eyed at romantic gestures and sweet words. I like them when I see them in movies, when I see them at weddings, and when I see them between long-married couples. But Beve, my practical, size-fourteen-feet-to-earth Beve, isn't very romantic. Not by a long shot. Not by a half-court-at-the-end-of-the-game-to-win-it-long shot. He's just not. Years ago, when I'd ask, "Why do you love me? (I was sooo young and foolish in those days!)", he'd say, "Because you're fun." Really? Fun? Or we'd be driving along and I'd ask, "What are you thinking about?" hoping that maybe he'd say something profound about us (You should hear me chortle as I write this!), and he'd say, "I was thinking about buying a new mailbox."
So forgive me--Beve!--if I don't quite believe it when he calls me up right in the middle of an ordinary Friday to say he thinks he hasn't been present enough in our marriage. I mean, I believe it. I don't think he's lying. I'm just surprised. Then he told me last night that one of his buddies at school asked him what the one thing he'd change about his life, and Beve said, "I'd be better in my marriage." So his friend said, "What are you going to do about it?" So Beve called me up. Just like that.
Our 26th anniversary is this coming Wednesday, so he's thinking about it (he never forgets our anniversary, which is, after all, a pretty romantic thing of itself!). But what I know is that just his call, just his telling me that, and his telling me what his conversation with his friend was--that was about the most romantic thing he's done for me in a long time. That, and the conversation we had last night as a result. Just the kind of romantic gesture I need--not flowers that will die in a week, not chocolate that I don't actually even like (sorry world, I'm one of those strange, few women who don't like chocolate!), not words that he hasn't the faculty with. Just his earnest, true self sharing his heart and dreams with me--that sweeps me away. It always has!