Hurricanes are not good for marriages. Actually, storms that knock out power, trees, roofs and other things we take for granted are not good for any relationship. Neither are long car trips, close quarters, downed trees, seeping water and Miami’s infernal heat.
I write from personal experience. I’m also confessing because the news is filled with wonderful people rising to the occasion and selflessly helping others under trying conditions. Usually these angels of mercy are aiding neighbors. Or strangers. Or relatives across town.
Not their significant other, however. Not the person who knows what buttons to stomp on.
Being courteous and generous to the people who don’t sleep under your roof is commendable, yes, but not half as hard as being gentle with those who share our lives daily. The friction of proximity and the day-to-day can be like steel wool on frayed nerves.
I’ve been irritated by The Hubby for more than a week. To equal the playing field, I’ve been getting on his nerves too. As the saying goes, all is fair in love and war — but love and war become synonymous when Irma (or Harvey or whatever) upsets the routine that gives comfort and security to our lives.
I’ve gritted my teeth so often that my jaw hurts. It hasn’t helped that, before and after Hurricane Irma, both of us have slept fitfully. (And I so love my sleep!) What’s more, we’ve doubled as refuge for relatives, which means every available space in our house is temporarily occupied by coolers, blankets, towels, hairbrushes, snacks, lanterns, battery-operated radios, clothing, shoes and … well, you get the picture.
We’re hardly unique, The Hubby and I.
“I just want to punch him,” a friend groused about her husband when we stopped by two days after Irma had toppled her trees and blown out their pool screen. I found this to be a perfectly understandable emotion. It was 92 degrees outside.
Another friend who endured 23 hours going and 25 hours returning admitted that the road trip, aka evacuation, was punctuated by carping and cross words. And one of my daughters-in-law admitted that she had been an unforgivable shrew during Irma and wouldn’t be surprised if my son headed to divorce court first thing in the morning. I can assure you that my son was no saint either.
Of course hurricanes are not the only natural or man-made calamity that can upset the delicate balance of our closest relationships. The Hubby and I were at each other’s throats when we had a plumbing issue one Christmas night, as I was cleaning up after a daylong party with my family. Turns out the pipes had sprung a leak behind the kitchen wall, a prologu to a months-long conversion from cast iron to PVC.
In fact, any type of construction, whether a simple bathroom remodeling or an entire from-the-ground-up building, can test even the most committed families. For sure, it’s not my happy place.
This is embarrassing to acknowledge, but here’s the unvarnished truth: I’m spoiled by the little luxuries of life. I like my drinking water cold, my shower hot, my coffee brewing first thing in the morning. I like the lights on. I like the air conditioning running and my internet at full speed. I like my cellphone powered, calls and text messages beep-beeping in.
I know, I know: How shallow. All I have to do is read about the horror of the Hollywood Hills nursing home — eight of its residents between the ages of 70 to 99 died after Irma — to remind me that I am being ridiculous, self-centered and obnoxious. The Texas victims of Harvey have it a lot worse, too.
If only it weren’t so hot. And humid. And dirty. And nasty out on the roads.
Last night I drove by a church that displayed this message on its billboard: Love endures storms. Coincidence or a personal memo from above?
I definitely need an attitude adjustment.