Our Best Anniversary Present Ever

By Bob and Claire Rogers

Bob:

“You don’t fu….. care about me!” It came from a young woman sitting in a car beside Turtle. “You don’t treat me like you did before. You don’t treat me the same fu….. way you did before we got married.” A young man, stood tall beside her window, hands at his sides, outer calm mirrored in his desert camouflage uniform, defending himself in an even tone. “It’s not me. It’s you,” he said.

His tone and demeanor seemed to make her even angrier. The recriminations continued, she shrill and emotional, he controlled, uncommunicative.

Claire and I looked at each other. We both had tears in our eyes. It was our twentieth anniversary, and we were witnessing the beginning of the end of a young marriage. It didn’t take words between us to know what we would do. We held hands and walked around the motorhome to them.

Claire: I was really nervous about this type of encounter; domestic disputes are one of the most dangerous calls for police, but we could tell from the vague, repetitive accusations that they had reached an impasse.

Bob: “It’s our twentieth anniversary,” I said. “And we just had to say something. We couldn’t help but overhear.” I nodded toward Turtle. “I hope you don’t mind.” He acknowledged us, “No.” She quickly put the car in reverse and said “It’s okay, I was just leaving.” But she didn’t.

I looked at him. “You don’t understand her emotions. You will when you are older, but for now, just listen. She’s hurting, and you need to hear her” And to her through the window I said, “You don’t understand why he’s so calm, so unresponsive to your hurt.” She nodded, still looking down. “He’s just doing what men are taught. We’re not supposed to show emotion. Fathers and football coaches,” I acknowledged his uniform, “the military, none of them reward a show of emotion.” I clapped him on the shoulder, there were still tears in my eyes, “When you are 66 you will know that it’s okay to cry, but not yet. I understand.”  “But you have to understand her need to see you show her your love.”

She stole a furtive look at him, her mascara left marks of her tears. “You’re being a man, and she’s being a woman.” He smiled just a tiny bit.

Claire: “It’s what men do, it’s called freezing up, it happens when they are feeling bombarded, so they just clam up. Trust me, this happens to men and women all over the world, but it just causes the women to yell more because they think they’re not being heard.”

Bob: “You gotta work together. That’s the hard part of marriage, but it’s the rewarding part too.” I turned to him. “We travel, just the two of us, on our tandem bicycle all over the world.” His eyebrows went up. “Last year we rode over the Tibetan Plateau, through Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, three thousand miles.” He was really listening now; man stuff I guess. “A few years before, we went from Beijing to Istanbul.” I touched his arm. “Across Central Asia; I hope you don’t have to go there.” I didn’t expect him to be as attentive as he had become; he was really hearing what an old man (to him) had to say. “A couple doesn’t do something like that without knowing how to work together.”  I smiled at what I’d just said. “There’s nothing like it.” “But, it takes some time, and a lot of listening.”

Claire: The writer in me spoke to her: “If you aren’t able to communicate what you need, try writing it down, write what’s wrong and write what you think would fix it, but don’t give up.” She cracked the window a bit more and went back to twisting the beautiful wedding and engagement rings.

Bob: She rolled her window down further and looked up at him, he down at her. “Touch each other,” I gently insisted. They slowly reached out to touch hands and lock eyes. “We’ll go away now.”

We hurried to Turtle, threw things where they wouldn’t fall and started the engine. As we drove away, he was leaning through the window and they were kissing.

We could have gifted ourselves a cruise to Alaska, celebrated at the Captain’s table with expensive Champagne, and seen Alaskans at a safe remove. Instead, we had leftovers and box wine in Turtle in a library parking lot, and maybe, just maybe, made a difference in two young lives. No contest.


Comments

Our Best Anniversary Present Ever — 12 Comments

  1. Beautiful story. Let’s hope that they remember your caring words and keep them in their hearts. I wish that someone had taken the time to offer to intercede when my marriages broke up, but now it is too late. But I’ll remember this story the next time my wife and I have a little tiff.

  2. Thank you Sally. And John, save your tiff for the next time you see us. I smack you boy!

  3. Thanks Bonnie. We love living in a way that puts us in touch with people in emotional need. Too many Americans isolate themselves behind walls of wealth, class, race, even religion. We need to be less fearful and excluding of stranger. We only pass this way once, and touching others once in awhile makes the struggles we all face worthwhile.

  4. What an anniversity!!! The best anniv. we had was our 26th when I came home from southeast asia in 1969 for a quick visit before going back again. Talk about a surprised wife!! Since we met at the rest area near a
    Auburn Calif in the snow, my lung cancer has been cleared up! Latest CT scan shows zero cancer. Heading to Wyo to go hunting on 9/6.
    Enjoy following your travels.
    Bill

  5. Bill,
    What great news! We’re so happy for you. We sure remember our visit in the snow; thought we might be like the Donner Party for sure! Enjoy your hunt. Make some jerky. I made venison jerky a couple of times, and love it.

    Bob and Claire

  6. Just got back from trip to Iowa, Nebraska and Wyo. Got my antelope opening afternoon. Latest CT scan and bloodwork all negative. Wish you could be here for my 80 birthday party 10/15.
    Bill

  7. Bill,
    We were almost home in Tucson by your birthday. Congratulations on 80! Even at my relatively young age of 66, each year is precious. Thanks for keeping in touch. Our visit with you was a highlight of the early part of our trip. We didn’t expect snow, or two great guys and a couple of fine drinks on a cold snowy night, in California no less! Keep on keeping on, and keep in touch.

  8. Thank you Keely. Your comment is really special. It brought tears to MY eyes. We don’t think we should be special, we think everyone should be as fulfilled as we are, together.

  9. Bob and Claire, you 2 are amazing!!!!! Enjoy your travels so much. I read your article in the September/October Excapee magazine. wonderful article.
    Been so busy, haven’t had time to go duck hunting, did hunt pheasant once.. Paul, my hunting/fishing partner is busy having a house remodeled so we haven’t been duck hunting. My cancer remains in remission. Have full body CT scan set for January. Blood CEA holding at 1.7 (normal). Unfortunately have had to have shots in my back for injury falling from a helicopter in SE Asia in 1973. Had surgery twice but nerves growing back again. Shots and brandy manhattans in the snow with a wonderful couple should make it better. May get to Phoenix this winter.
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!!

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