My husband David is out of town at a dealer show for business. I miss him when he’s gone. I was thinking about calling him this morning just to say “Hi” when I noticed my cell phone had a text. Surely he was going to tell me, in one sentence or less, how much he missed me, that it was boring without me with him, that he couldn’t wait to get home. I pushed “view text” on my cell phone. His text read, “Don’t forget the garbage!” How sweet. No, I mean that. Today is garbage day. Last week when he was in California I completely forgot to take out the garbage. His note saved me, or should I say our garage, from stinkiness and perhaps wild animals trying to intrude. After all, eleven people’s weekly refuse (we have nine children) is quite a pile. Can you imagine what two weeks’ worth would be? What a sweetheart to remember, and all the way from Kentucky!

I can sense some newlyweds rolling their eyes. Yes, I still love to receive wine and roses. But I can say with all sincerity that I hope some day it will come to this for you, too. You’ll love it. Learning to live with and love each other in nitty gritty daily living is wonderful. It’s the helpmate part of marriage, which balances the more famous and romantic soul mate vision of it.

Somewhere past 10 years and before 20, it just seems to happen. You’ve spent so much time together that your internal clocks synchronize in a way, and you become aware of the other’s needs often before he is. You can read every upturned lip, every cock of the head, every deep meaning behind every casual comment. This can be bad, but most of the time it is very good. You might pick up the phone to call him, only to have the phone ring in your hand with your beloved on the other end.

My husband and I have come to this comfortable point. We’re so at ease in the fabric of the other’s self that we can literally ESP interstate. (Hence, the garbage text. David knew full well it was Tuesday and that I was likely, in the commotion of a household minus him, to forget the menial task.) My husband knows, without me even saying a word, when I’m uncomfortable in a situation and he rescues me. He knows from a distance, radar on full-speed, for example, when I’ve been talked to death at a friendly meeting and can’t escape. He will swoop down and become suddenly interested in the talker, asking pointed questions so I can politely excuse myself to refresh my ice water or make a trip to the restroom. He knows how to interject a playful comment when a conversation becomes too intense between me and one of my siblings. He’s even been known to bluntly say, “Sorry, but we just gotta get going,” to the hostess of a lively party that has run just a bit too late for us. He doesn’t even mind if I roll my eyes apologetically to the hostess because he knows I will thank him profusely once we get in the car.

Like most married couples, we’ve come a long way since we married 21 years ago. We’ve been through five miscarriages, the births of our nine children, the death of my brother in an automobile accident, a life-threatening illness for me, the death of a young brother-in-law in an airplane crash, the diagnosis of a parent with Parkinson’s, kidney cancer, and other parents with multiple surgeries. We’ve moved three times, if you count out of our parent’s homes. We’ve launched careers, dreams, and now, in a bittersweet experience, some of our children.

We don’t have to have every minute be one of divine dreamy love. Good grief, most days we have barely a spare minute to share, and we literally have to carve out our couple time by sneaking out the back door to enjoy a half hour walk up and down our long, country drive way.

Oh, we have had romantic times together. I remember one lovely walk along the beach at Lake Michigan in the setting sun. (OK, so he decided to give me a piggy back ride, tripped on a hidden log and broke his toe while we both tumbled flat into the sand, but it was romantic before that happened.) Over the years, we golfed together (waiting until evening when most of the serious golfers were gone, with a baby in the cart and kids in tow behind us.) We took a trip to Florida (well, the drive down in a too-small van with the children was NOT romantic and Disney World was NOT romantic, but I did get to sit next to him in the boat in “It’s a Small World” ride for four minutes in the semi-dark and in a weird sort of way realized poetically it was good that we were ‘in the same boat together’.) He holds my hand when we sit together, and he helps iron the kids’ clothes before Mass which means I can actually do my hair and make-up. And I love the way his strong arms carry our sleeping children up to their beds.

We like to pour ourselves glasses of wine and snuggle by the fire for a romantic Valentine moment, but inevitably one of the kids will whisper from the stairs, “Mom, the baby’s poopy.” You just gotta love a guy who says, “Stay put. I’ll get this one and be right back.”

So today I sit by my computer keyboard, waiting for David to come home from his trip. I miss my husband and can’t wait to see him. I miss his jokes. I miss his smile. I miss the way his hair curls up on the side of his head. I also miss his help in giving the kids their baths, filling the car up with gas and taking out the stinky garbage. He’s a very passionate man but also very practical. The latter is what I am thinking about when I realize the children used up the last of the dairy products at breakfast. I decide I should try to reach him before he passes the grocery store on his way home. It’s not very romantic but I’ll just have to text him “Pls stop & brg home milk.” I’m sure he’ll understand.

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