He doesn’t tell me over the phone when I call him on Valentine’s night to ask for the wifi password for the cabin we’re staying at. Not after twenty minutes of Google-Siri-searching for how to share a password so our son can call his real parents at the appointed 8-o’clock time, something impossible to do without WhatsApp or wifi in this middle-of-nowhere mountain town.
He doesn’t make me a card or buy me flowers.
The next day, when three of us return from a bluebird ski day, he tells me he has started the taxes, but that he was tired, his back hurt, and he got discouraged and bored.
I make a list in my head of what he hasn’t done: thought of what to fix for dinner, gone to the store to buy the cheesecake ingredients for our daughter’s birthday, done the laundry, told the remaining-at-home-children to do some semblance of chores that would peel them away from their screens.
I take our son, alone, to the Honduran restaurant for our Valentine redo.
No one else wants to go.
On Sunday, I do all the things while Bruce visits his friend for hours. Walk the dog. Fight the weekend grocery store crowds to buy not only the cheesecake ingredients, but everything else on the list that’s accrued in the three days since we’ve visited, because with six people living under this roof, why the hell not? Start, fold, and finish three loads of laundry. Throw together the soon-to-be-cracked cheesecake and read, appallingly, that it is an eight-hour, not four-hour, cool time. Put raspberry compote on the stove to overflow for forty-five minutes. Scrub the shit out of the glass cooktop for another fifteen.
He won’t take the time to come with me to see Bernie because it took me thirteen years just to convince him to vote and another nine to push him farther left, but he still doesn’t have any faith in the future, let alone a singular politician who has spent his entire adult life fighting for people unlike himself.
He won’t come with me to waste all of our money on indoor skydiving, Izzy’s birthday gift, even though it would have been nice to have a second parent, like all the other families there, to take still shots while I took the video.
Instead he grumbles about how he wished we’d just bought the cheesecake from the New York deli instead of me making it because “You pay so that it’s perfect.”
Because mine is not.
Before he drops me at the light rail, he argues with me before reluctantly agreeing to apologize for the remark.
We go to bed with few words and wake throughout the night to the giggling screams of Izzy’s sleepover, each of us texting and yelling at her to stop.
We wake at the sound of his alarm set two hours too early.
I begin it all again. Walk the dog. Fix the breakfast. Put away the dishes.
Ten minutes before he needs to leave for work, I whimper as I say, “We only have one year left of her childhood,” and wipe tears to walk into the dining room. He follows me and pours out the brutal truth of his three-day grump.
“My boss told me on Friday that they’re going to cut four positions. No more voluntary cuts. Involuntary. Two of the positions include my job title.”
His voice cracks as he continues the long explanation of every possibility, and I see now that he has been carrying this load all weekend, fuck Valentine’s Day, fuck our daughter’s birthday, fuck all that is right with the world.
I think about what Bernie said last night, what I didn’t catch on video: “We all have families. And every family has problems. We are in this together. We are in this to think about and support everyone’s families, not just our own.”
And I know what Bruce carries is more than the likely possibility of him losing his job. It is the weight of this presidency, this evil presidency that plagues our society and keeps us from moving ahead just when we think we can move ahead.
I immediately think of two years ago when this loomed over our heads, and all the bitterness and anxiety entailed in those two months of stress and anticipation.
I think of the four years of ski passes. The six weeks in Spain. The three-four-week family vacations we have taken. The ski weekends. The going out to eat. The boy living in our basement.
And I know that all of those things combined might add up to a year of his salary if only we had saved the money.
Yet, for that one year of safety net, we had five years of living like kings after ten years of living paycheck to paycheck, and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world.
I am so angry at him for not having hope. For trying to carry this weight for an entire weekend when I would have unloaded everything the moment I heard.
I am so in love with him for trying (quite pathetically) to protect me for two extra days because he knew that all I would do is spend most of the day up inside the bedroom trying to hide my tears from the girls.
Our good health insurance will be gone, and we can’t even begin to pay our mortgage on my salary, let alone everything else.
But it’s out there now. He’ll come home tonight to our magical Costco Caesar salad, wish our daughter happy birthday, and act like nothing is wrong.
And we will find a way to make this work. Because twenty-two years in, that is what we do.
Spain-exploring, childbearing, child-adopting, paycheck-to-paycheck, ski-trip, road-trip, voting-and-hoping, working-not-working, accruing-and-paying-debts…
That is what we do.
Tears or not. Silence or not. Apology or not.
That is what we do.