On being married to D

by Elouise

I like to think I have no illusions about myself. Nonetheless, this past week proved otherwise. It was all about cleanliness in the kitchen D and I share every day.

I’m an expert from way back when it comes to cleanliness. After all, I was Mother’s Big Helper, her #1 Daughter trained to know and do everything the right way.

Not only do I know how to do cleanliness, I can tell you horror stories about what will happen if you ignore my gentle ‘reminders.’ I can also show you exactly how to do tasks in a way that maximizes efficiency and cleanliness.

So this past week D failed to live up to my standards, and I failed as well. With flying colors.

In the still-hot aftermath, I hit my journal, trying to vent and turn a corner in what felt like anguish and despair. I found myself wondering, not for the first time, why I married this man more than 51 years ago.

The venting wasn’t productive. So I began thinking about the kind of man I married and the kind of woman I am. And perhaps, just why some things are so difficult for us.

D was raised by his mother. She and his father divorced when D was about 3 ½ years old. His father lived far away and wasn’t present in D’s everyday life. The relationship between his parents was never easy or without anger. At home with a single mom and three children, the kitchen was clean; it was not, however, a classroom for doing things the right way.

I grew up with parents who not only stayed together, but never once had open conflict about anything. Furthermore, though I had a father present in the house, the house was my mother’s domain. She was responsible for keeping it clean, neat and orderly. He was not.

The kitchen, in particular, was a hub of activity with four daughters to feed and train as good housekeepers. The emphasis wasn’t on cooking; it was on cleanliness and doing things the right way.

Despite being a polio survivor with significant health issues, my mother was an expert housekeeper. She made sure her #1 Daughter was trained as expertly as possible.

Why? Because she didn’t want me to grow up as she did, without anyone to show her how to be a mother, much less a housekeeper. When my mother was 8, my grandmother left with another man and filed for divorce.

My mother routinely redid my work in her kitchen. I wasn’t as efficient or neat as she thought I should be. No matter what I did, it seemed something was not quite right. I felt frustrated and humiliated.

As I got older, I felt angry. So when I became a wife and mother, I made sure to soften my mother’s approach. Yet I still came along after D, insisting that my way was the better way. Especially in the kitchen.

Just realizing this softened my heart and got me ready for yet another difficult conversation with D. Not about my mother, but about the two of us and how to manage differences that trigger conflict between us.

It’s never easy. Yet going back to my childhood helped unlock some unfinished business that still spills over into our marriage.

Today I’m grateful I can make choices based on our happiness instead of my mother or my father’s expectations. Or my own.

Thanks for listening!
Elouise 

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 June 2017
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