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Romance Counts

My fiancé Steve and I see the world differently. He likes to tell the story of how, when we were trying to remember whose toothbrush was whose, he determined ownership by recalling his brush was on the left, mine on the right, whereas I identified our respective implements by color: his green, mine blue. A similar scenario occurred trying to recall which mug belonged to whom—I checked the colors of the teabag tags, remembering Earl Grey was yellow, English Breakfast red, while he’d noted he’d placed his mug to the left. He relies on spatial relationships for identification and cueing. I inevitably register color first.

Colorful blooms caught my eye at the Grove Park Inn

Colorful blooms caught my eye at Grove Park Inn

The point here isn’t that we middle-aged folk keep forgetting things; the point is the differences in how our brains work. Steve has a mathematical, map-guy mind that tends toward a linear, laser-point focus; I’m a creative, crafty type, with a heightened aesthetic awareness, my attentions more diffuse. More than once while traveling, we’ve passed some wacky, hard-to-miss building or sign, or a group of deer hovering on the side of the highway. Each time, Steve was so focused on the road in front of him that he missed anything not represented on the GPS. (Note: generally speaking, a driver’s ability to keep eyes on the road is a plus!) And of course, there’s shopping: if Steve’s targeting shirts, he looks at shirts, and nothing else registers. I am almost incapable of filtering out all the pretty items on the periphery, especially those in my favorite colors.

Our minds clearly process information in wildly different ways, and while this is true for all couples to some degree, our obvious disparity carries the distinct benefit of preventing romantic relationship pitfall #11: believing that true love creates magical mind-reading powers.

To whit: we don’t even see our toothbrushes the same way. Any expectation that the other could consistently and accurately conjure up (and then fulfill) our deepest thoughts and desires borders on absurdity.

But it’s good intel. Because that knowledge reinforces the importance of romantic relationship lesson #23: you have to ask for what you want. Continue reading

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Steve Speaks: FsSTG meets FsFTB

FsFTB readers: Every so often my fiancé Steve will be chiming in with a post of his own—this is his first! 

Hello. My name is Steve, and I’m a fifty-something second-time groom.

I’m honored but somewhat intimidated to be invited to guest-blog here. I write a lot as a member of the forestry faculty at a state university, but what I write for work is mostly scientific and technical stuff about maps and carbon sequestration. Don’t worry—there won’t be trees or maps in this post! For balance, my forty-something first-time bride, Sandee, has invited me to tell my story, that of the fifty-something second-time groom. With two grown sons. And a dog. So to start: how can I discuss what the “second time” means without acknowledging the first time?

I was married in 1985 to Karen, a forester who worked in South Carolina when I worked in Georgia. We became engaged less than a year after we started dating, and there were fewer than six months between engagement and marriage. Quick, huh? I’d gotten a job offer in Alaska, which meant a compressed schedule for the wedding. We married in March in upstate New York, and our honeymoon consisted of a cross-continent roadtrip in a pickup truck with her golden retriever, followed by a three-day ferry ride from Seattle to Haines, Alaska, and a two-day drive from there to Anchorage. (Sandee and I don’t know yet where we’ll be going for a honeymoon, but let me go on record here as promising it won’t involve a dog and a pickup!)

Karen and I had twenty mostly very happy years together. The last twelve were under a slowly darkening cloud after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She died in January 2006, closing a chapter in my life and changing the nature of the family that remained: I became a single dad raising two teenaged sons. As it tends to do, time has healed wounds and filtered memories, so that most that remain are the good ones, and I look back on what we had with fondness, love, humor, and gratitude.

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With oldest son Tucker

Fast forward: there’s this house on the end of my street. The yard is not very well kept. Holiday decorations appear only sporadically. Three guys, plus one canine (born male but subsequently modified), live there. Two of the guys are recovering adolescents; the other has gray in his beard as a result. It’s a testosterone-rich, estrogen-deprived zone, and you can tell it by the décor. And the state of the bathrooms. So, who is the guy who owns that house?

Well, I guess that would depend on who you ask. My neighbors see the guy with the unkempt yard. My students see a professor. My sons see a father, and my dog…well, judging by his greeting, I think he sees me as the center of the universe!

As I left my teens and progressed through adulthood, I tended to identify my “self” with the primary role I was playing at the time. I was a flannel-shirt-clad forestry student during college and graduate school. When we moved to Anchorage and our initial friends were all from Karen’s recreation-league soccer team, I became “Karen’s husband.” To those in the forestry company, I was the guy in charge of the number-crunchers in the technical department. When my boys started playing sports and joined scouts, I became identified as “Tucker’s Dad” or “Dusty’s Dad.” Returning to academia as a professor, I was the guy going up for tenure in his forties. Later, I became the guy who lost his wife. Continue reading