My darling wife is the master of the imperative sentence. Indeed, there are days when I worry that unless she tells me what to do, I might just descend into a motionless trance, doing nothing whatsoever.
Change your shirt. Or tie. Or shoes. Buckle up. Use the turn indicator. Brush your teeth. Wash your hands. Comb your hair. Close the garage door. Take out the trash. Call your sister. Write the check. Turn down the thermostat.
I usually make an effort to comply cheerfully. After all, the woman is a teacher. That’s the profession for which she was educated. Teachers are instructors. That is what they do when they teach. They instruct. They give instructions. Do this. Do that. Read this. Study that.
From my earliest days, my parents taught me obedience. I never resented it. Indeed, I loved them without reservation; whether in spite of being obedient or because of it.
I feel the same way about Polly’s imperatives. Father Norbert Clemens always taught that love is desiring what is good for the person we love.
Elementary and secondary school teachers are almost universally remembered by their students with good will if not actual affection. That’s because as we mature – indeed if we mature at all – we realize that what they told us to do was for our own good.
And so it is with the wonderful teacher who has shared my life and my fortunes for more than two thirds of a century. I never tire of her instructions. She is, as I often say, the best person in the whole world, and she wants me to be my best self … all the time.
I don’t think that my wife is a whole lot smarter than I am. I would guess that our IQ scores are about the same. But the fact is that she knows a lot of things that I do not know. She notices things and she remembers things. And she has instincts about things that never occur to me.
Example. Some years ago we were visiting friends in a house they had rented. Early one morning Dave and I were planning to play golf and leave the girls to sleep in.
Unhappily, I could not figure out how to redirect the flow of water from the tub to the shower. Neither could Dave. Try as we might, pushing, pulling, poking and prying the fixture every which way, the shower wouldn’t work.
Finally, in exasperation, I told Dave that I would have to wake Polly and ask her how to do it. I knew she would know instinctively how to work the thing, and I dreaded the embarrassment our ineptitude would demonstrate.
Still, I had to take a shower. So I woke her up. She stumbled into the bathroom still half asleep, and turned on the shower. How does she know these things?
Just yesterday, in a state of frustration, I wanted to demonstrate how stupid the manufacturers of hanging files are. As evidence, I showed her a little plastic thingamagig that is supposed to identify the contents of the file and I defied her to explain how it could possibly be affixed to the file.
In about thirty seconds she had it attached, leaving me feeling like a complete oaf. No wonder she doesn’t want me loading the dish washer.
Truth is, I just don’t notice things. What’s hanging over the fireplace?
I don’t know. Something. A Picture? A Mirror? She shakes her head in disbelief. It has been there for twenty-five years.
That’s a pretty blouse. Is it new?
I’ve had it since 2009.
You should wear it more often.
I wore it last week.
She never gives up. Last night she hosted a fabulous dinner party at a beautiful restaurant at which my 88th birthday was celebrated with the four of our six children who live in Michigan and their spouses.
Even for me, it was an unforgettable celebration.