Don't call it a comeback

Shrop and I had our first date on April 21, 2016. The timing was not ideal. I was married and also in a triad with two other people. My husband was in denial about his terminal cancer; we were barely getting along. Several people hated me. My parents and I weren't speaking.

A month later, I curled up on the ground in the parking lot of the cancer center. The next month, I left the triad and Shrop tore his quadriceps tendon. Things were hard.

Daddy says there are three things you will never understand unless you experience them firsthand. The first is war. The second is sex. And the third is depression. No matter how many times someone explains those concepts, it's like Plato's cave until you live it.

I don't have a name for what I went through. Many times it felt a lot like war/sex/depression.

When Shrop met me in 2016, I was functioning at 20%. Be clear. My 20% is pretty damn high functioning. But still, I was Not OK (tm). Even after the immediate danger passed, there was a long period of recovery.

Someone recently said that for every day you spend in the hospital, it takes a week to recover. I think any trauma has a similar timeline, depending on the person. I spent almost five years as a cancer caregiver/spouse. It was going to take me a bit to get better.

That was hard for Shrop. He wanted to help, to speed the process. I couldn't move fast enough. I was woeful and obstinate about it.

By the end of 2017, Shrop and I couldn't stay together. We were damaging each other. I called it quits on December 7. While the final argument on December 6 was unpleasant, the closing exchange on the 7th was full of love, grief, and resignation. I went back and reread it recently (because I keep everything), and it's heartbreaking.

As Daddy said, we looked great on paper. And as Shrop says, he and I are both "top shelf" people. It should have worked.

For most of 2018, we avoided each other. We unfollowed each other on Facebook. We didn't text or call or drive anywhere we might see each other.

Throughout 2018, I did a lot of work. I got ghosted by dudes. I learned to say no. I solo parented. I got healthy. I screwed up a few things, and I learned from them. Things got easier. I had space to breathe.

And then there was the sporty. Early in our relationship, I bought a 1993 Harley Sportster from Shrop. It was a "basket case," a pile of parts on the back of a flatbed trailer. Like C-3PO being carried around by Chewbacca. It had a lot of promise. It could be a beautiful bike.

We both struggled with a lot of things in the 18 months we were together. It wasn't all just war/sex/depression on my end. Shrop had to finish his mechanical engineering degree. His leg exploded. He had to honor his commitment to his best friend and get to Mount Everest Base Camp on that leg. He had to start an engineering career. He had to figure out how to pay for all that.

The bike didn't make much progress. When we split, the idea was I would get the sporty from Shrop relatively soon. We hardly spoke, but if we ever did, it was about the sporty.

Shrop had an update for me about the bike in early February. Getting wheels to fit the frame had been a laughable amount of trouble. Mounting a wheel on a motorcycle should take minutes. These wheels had taken months. He learned a lot, not the least of which how to be zen about things that were way harder than they "should" be.

We talked. We met for lunch. I sold him my Suburban (the Suburban he helped me buy). It felt right. We kept interacting, tentatively and hopeful. There are a lot fewer tears than back in 2017.

Over a couple of weeks, we've talked about a lot of hard topics in a very short time. Those talks have gone amazingly well. We discussed gender issues in a restaurant, and no one flipped the table or even got upset. We covered a lot of the past. We both felt heard.

I told Shrop that one of my favorite things about him is how patient he is. He's patient with children learning things. He's patient with his friends being ridiculous. He's patient with troubleshooting things. He's patient with analyzing how to get a damn wheel onto a 1993 Harley Sportster. It's a fantastic quality and one not many people have.

I also told him that one of his qualities I find most vexing is his impatience. Developers and engineers will attack a problem like a honey badger, and once they see the solution, they want it implemented immediately. The problem is only a problem until the nanosecond they figure it out, at which point it becomes obvious. Those of us still catching up because we haven't finished reading/processing the content cause significant upset. "I already read this part. The answer is X. Just do X."

When I was crippled from war/sex/depression, I couldn't keep up. My "reading comprehension" was shit. I couldn't get to the same answer he did. I was so damn slow. I doubted everything. My doubt landed as a dismissal of him. Cue doom spiral.

We talked about it recently. I told Shrop that in 2017 I was hurting because my hand was too close to the fire. His solution was, "Move your hand." I would move my hand a millimeter, barely perceptible to the human eye. I cried the whole time, both from the heat on my hand and the pain of moving it. It was maddening for him to watch the woman he loved suffer needlessly.

By the end of 2018, I did eventually move my hand. It took forever by some standards, and the blink of an eye by others. I'm not crying about the heat anymore. I don't move my hand to safety and then plunge it right back into the flames the next day. Not everyone can do that. There are lots of people with hot hands out there, some going to their graves without relief.

Many moons ago when Shrop and I were doing everything we could to make things work, we both took the StrengthsFinder test. It was helpful for me to see each of our talents listed out in order of magnitude. We spent a lot of energy trying to get the other to see the world through the lens we had based on our talents. Shrop lamented that we had different world views back then, and I do agree that we were on entirely different planets.

It is so striking as to be comical how different Shrop is from me. We are like a magic user and a warrior.

It's been a little over a year, and we're on the same planet, if not the same zip code. I don't expect him to cast spells. Shrop doesn't expect me to have the same hit points he does. Instead of being frustrated, I'm choosing to find joy in the things he does so very differently than I do. I can't speak for him, but I no longer feel "made wrong" for who I am.

We've reunited our little adventure party. So far the dice rolls have been in our favor.

Shrop's father said that trying was "a noisy way of not doing something." Shrop and I are not trying again. We are doing it. We are IN HERE.

This past weekend, Shrop and I went out to the shop together to get the front wheel on the sporty. Shrop had to fabricate a new axle spacer. The wheel he's mounting is not a Sportster wheel. The Harley dealership said, "What you're doing is impossible. There is no hope for you. Go with God." And while it took longer than a few minutes and we had to pull the damn front fork off to mount the wheel, it's there. And it's beautiful.

"Babe. The wheel is finally on the sporty. You have no idea how hard this has been.”
"See? You just needed me here. I must be your good luck charm."
"Yes. You must be. If you hadn't run off for a year, we could have finished this bike months ago."

I sent this postcard to Shrop last fall. Scuppers the Sailor Dog is one of his favorite children’s books and he shares a lot of qualities with that dog. A place for everything and everything in its place.

I sent this postcard to Shrop last fall. Scuppers the Sailor Dog is one of his favorite children’s books and he shares a lot of qualities with that dog. A place for everything and everything in its place.

The ties that bind

It’s the last day of FUFebruary, and we can see the end of the tunnel! So let’s have a funny story.

Many years ago when life was simple, Rich was in the living room lacing up some boots. I was just casually sitting in his vicinity, watching him and noting how nice his forearms looked (like ya do).

He started talking about knot tying in general. He’s an Eagle Scout, so he knew a bit about knots and rope. I don’t know crap about them, so was relatively intrigued.

He was in full on TED Talk mode, as he worked these laces up the jump boots. Suede elbow patches on his tweed jacket kind of intensity about how to tie a good knot.

He finished lacing the boot and started to tie the square knot before the bow.

“Now, I have this knot I created. It works a lot better than most knots. I call it a Stryker Knot …”

I stared at him. He had just tied a double overhand knot, which Wikipedia says “is simply a logical extension of the regular overhand knot, made with one additional pass.” That’s it. And he had planted a flag in this knot with his last name in it.

Double overhand knot from Wikipedia article

Double overhand knot from Wikipedia article

I threw my head back in laughter and cackled like a witch. His mouth fell open in shock. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t even speak. Eventually, I regained my composure.

“Baby, that’s not even a surgeon’s knot. It’s the first half of a surgeon’s knot. You didn’t invent it. People been tying that knot for thousands of years. This is the sweetest and funniest thing I’ve ever experienced in our entire relationship.”

From that moment on, the Stryker Knot became a running joke for us. I would bring it up any time we had to lash poles to the roof rack or wrap Christmas packages.

“Do you think we should use a Stryker Knot?”

And now I’m gifting it to you all. Feel free to label anything as a Stryker.

Stryker Salad (TM)

Stryker Salad (TM)

Throwing leaves

I suppose I should have posted this yesterday on Valentine's Day, but I wasn't feeling it then. And it's #FUFebruary, so I'm doing whatever the heck I want.

One of my favorite guilty pleasure movies is "George of the Jungle" (starring a shirtless Brendon Fraser). There is one scene in particular where Ape the ape is giving George advice on how to woo Jane. It involves beating his chest and puffing out his cheeks.

George wooing

George wooing

When George returns unsuccessful, Ape regards him over his glasses and says, "Are you certain you threw the leaves?"

Are you sure?

Are you sure?

The scene stuck with me. It was a joke between me and Rich and I've taught to others.

If you are trying to woo someone, it's best to "throw some leaves." If you're not sure if they noticed the leaves, you can point it out. It also helps to clarify if you're not sure if those were leaves.

You can use it over text messages too.

Throwing leaves

Throwing leaves

So that’s my gift to you all. If you’re trying to attract someone, beat your chest, puff out your cheeks. And make sure you throw some leaves.