An Anniversary, An Eggplant Plan

After the phone calls, after dinner, we settled into our comfortable spots.

During a commercial, we started talking about where we’d go for our 5th anniversary dinner. There was no contest, really. Sal’s Italian Restaurant in Tecumseh. Close to our almost-in-town townhouse, it had been a great favorite Friday night, take-away spot for us.

It was the first place outside of New York, I’d ever had a good Italian Wedding soup. The garlic bread was perfectly garlick-y, beautifully buttery and sublimely sprinkled with parm. The red sauce was perfectly saucy, from an East Coast perspective.

Sal’s eggplant parmesan was wonderfully and deliciously authentic, too.

Not so long before Jeff brought me to Sal’s, I made this dish for him. We’d been dating about a month, and it was supposed to be our first stay-in, dinner-in, at my Okemos apartment.

It was awful. Bitter and mushy; with raised forks, we watched each other watching gooey, grayish globs weeping through the tines.

He asked me how long I’d salted it before cooking. I accompanied my dumbfounded look with the teary explanation that I had just winged it. “Gotta salt it,” Jeff sagely advised. “Even then, it’s not so great, sometimes.” We went out for Mexican.

I was so enthralled by Sal’s version, that Jeff happily tried a bite. Even though he’d been down that road before. Even though he wasn’t fond of that particular nightshade. Even if it had been salted, fried and layered with cheese, his aversion to eggplant rivalled my aversion to cauliflower, even if it had been salted, fried and smothered in cheese.

Sitting in Sal’s, I watched Jeff contemplatively chew for a bit, and laughed when he decisively summarized, “I’d rather have the chicken.”

Jeff mentioned Evans Street Station as an alternative. Because we’d already be dressed up for our church photo, I considered that. It was so sweet of him to mention the fanciest restaurant in town. A few years after opening, it was still on our to-do list. We just hadn’t made it there, yet.

“Maybe, some other time,” I smiled. “I’m really missing Sal’s. It’s the first place we ever went to dinner in town. So, that kind of makes it ‘our place’, too.”

“You won’t get any arguments from me!” Jeff grinned.

Quote for the Week: 2019 07 16 The best celebrations aren’t always the most expensive jakorte

 

Not, yet, we haven’t!

Before I made it back to the kitchen, the phone rang, again.

Jeff grabbed that call, too. Another one-sided conversation commenced.

“Oh, hi! How are you?” he greeted, warmly.

“When’s that?”

“Oh, on the 6th? Well, that’s our anniversary. Let me check…”

“Hey, they’re takin’ pictures for the church directory,” Jeff shouted out to me. “They wanna know if we can get our photo done next Friday. We don’t have anything planned, do we?”

“Not, yet, we haven’t.” I answered. “What time is the latest appointment? Probably can’t get there before 6.”

“Didja hear that?” Jeff asked the caller. “Ok. 6 o’clock, it is. What’s that?”

His voice swelled with happiness and pride; his answer booming out of a mile-wide smile. “We’ve been married 5 years!”

“Not, yet, we haven’t!” I shouted back.

“Didja hear that?” Jeff guffawed. “She said, not yet, we haven’t.”

I wonder what the other person’s impression was of my retort. To Jeff and I, it was a silly, humorous complaint and retort. A full-swing, fast-paced verbal dance, we often threw at each other. It stemmed first from frustration, and later, my fear.

Years before, Jeff had either done something I had asked him not to, or hadn’t done something I had asked him to do. Whichever it was, my ending escalated to, “You keep that up and we’re not gonna make it to our 5th anniversary!”

I continued to use it, after that. Sometimes, joking. Sometimes, not.

I used it when he’d come back from the kitchen with a bowl of ice cream, never having asked me if I wanted some. I used it when Jeff accidentally said something that could be hilariously misconstrued as a complaint, but very much wasn’t.

I used it after philosophical discussions, when we could not find a common ground. I used it when things didn’t quite go the way I wanted. I used it when he’d joke with a waitress that I needed a whole ‘nother day to look at the menu. I used it to emphasize the damaging stupidity of chewing tobacco. I used it, creatively, in countless ways.

No matter which way it went, though, Jeff’s reply followed formula, too. It always started with, “You wouldn’t be so lucky!”

It always ended with a variation of a good-natured, extended promise. “I’m gonna live ‘til I’m 80! You’ll see.” “I’m gonna live so long, you’d wish you’d gotten rid of me.” “I’m gonna be botherin’ you for a long, long time, Wort.”

I don’t doubt the person on the other side of the phone knew we were kidding. I just wonder if  our conversation ever crossed their mind, again.

Quote for the Week: 2019 07 02 Some inside jokes are easy to explain jakorte

Cards, Stacked

There were obviously more cards from Jeff, but those were the ones I kept.

There were obviously cards going the other way, too – from me to Jeff.  Two at a time. Always, one funny and one serious.

When it came time to move out of our home, I pared down. I waded through our shared stacks. I discarded most of the me-to-him. My thought process was that he would never be reading them again, so there was no point in keeping them. However, I found two of them in the card box, amongst the him-to-me.

For our first anniversary, I handmade the serious one. It was just one simple sheet of plain red cardstock, plainly folded in half. The only embellishment added was a left-over gold foil, double-heart seal we’d used on our wedding invitations.

I wanted the message to stand on its own. The outside read, “I meant it when I said….” On the inside, I’d re-printed the vocal vows I made to Jeff on our wedding day.

I do not know which anniversary the second card was for. We only celebrated four of those, so it was either the second or the third or the fourth. Store-bought, it reminds me of the snowman card; same subject. Another way to answer to Jeff’s rote retort, “I don’t know why.”

The last two cards I saved from Jeff were life lessons for me. The subjects aren’t all that happy.

The first one came from an incident where I was once again harping about his health and bad habits and chewing tobacco. Jeff stood on one side of the bed; I was on the other side. “You must not love me very much,” I’d snarked.  “I’m trying,” he mumbled back. I shouted, “Stop TRYING and just do it!”

” I’M … TRYING…” he snapped back at ramped up volume. Stomping his feet and throwing his arms wide for exclamation, his eyes filled with frustration and failure.

That look broke my heart. He wasn’t a failure. He was just unfairly up against some highly stacked odds.  I knew no matter how much I nagged, Jeff quiting the killing tobacco wasn’t going to make him ‘get better.’

I just couldn’t understand why he’d choose to exacerbate and accelerate with vile chew. Hindsight, I know now it wouldn’t have mattered. We’d have argued a lot less if I’d realized that, then.

“Come sit with me,” I said. We sat on our bed, and held onto each other. “I don’t want you to die,” I whispered. “You wouldn’t be so lucky,” he teased, with quiet laugh. “I’m gonna live ’til I’m 80. You’ll see – I’m gonna be a grumpy ol’ man, just like my Dad.”

As unusual as it was for Jeff to have the last word in an argument, that was the end of that. He’d emphatically expressed he was trying, so I backed-off and let it drop.

Three days later, he handed me a card.

Quote for the Week:

2019 01 29 if someone says it better than you jakorte

That time when someone said it better; perfectly.

2019 01 29 if someone says it better than you slide 2 jakorte 01 28 2019