It will be momentous for several reasons. One, we will all be together. Two, we will (fingers crossed) watch the fruit of my husband’s labor launch into unknown worlds. And three, afterwards we will do what all national heroes do.
Amid all this, the good Zen folks in Cocoa, Florida have invited me to come over on Sunday morning and talk.
And because of all that, it seems a good time to speak a word about a topic that for me is downright unspeakable. Since some people think I have something to say about “Zen parenting” (not that I do) they naturally want to press me for some advice on “Zen marriage.”
I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know about marriage. I can’t tell you anything you don’t know about relationship. Except perhaps this: true relationship is not based on desire or feeling, not on dreams or goals, but on proximity. And it seems few marriages have very much of that these days. No one is in the same place at the same time.
Discovering unknown worlds requires my husband to travel about 50 percent of the time. Since I’m exaggerating, I shouldn’t be so stingy. Make that 60 percent. To me, it seems that everything happens during that margin: things break, babies fall, fevers rise, tires blow out, bronchitis thickens into world-class pneumonia, a little girl grows up. The known world keeps going. Sometimes, my husband comes home to a resentment so chilling, so deep, that it takes days for me to see clearly. Not that we have days.
He is not a religious sort, not a spiritual kind, but rather sentimental and secretly superstitious. No matter what hour of night he lands at LAX, no matter how staggering his exhaustion through multiple time zones, he always stops on the way home at a funky landmark called Randy’s Donuts near the airport and buys two: a frosted, sprinkled kind for Georgia and a plain cake one for me. Mind you, this is usually about 10 or 11 at night that he does this, after 8 or 12 hours of travel. Gone 7 days and he takes the time to stop for a stupid donut? This is me, stiff and brittle, screeching silently into my pillow as he tiptoes into the darkened house.
For all the lessons my daughter gives me in open-heartedness, in acceptance, my husband gives me more.
And so, tomorrow, all his outer searching and all of my inner searching comes together in the most ordinary way. Orlando. And on this eve, I realize that perhaps he is a hero after all. Not for managing forays to faraway planets and stars, but for managing to return, again and again, to an even more foreign and hostile place. For coming home, over and over, to a new and dangerous world – our house – with nothing more than a donut.
Which, in the end, I always eat.