How to Change a Tire and Other Lessons of Marriage

Well yesterday was quite the morning.  About four blocks from home, on the way to drive my boy to school, a flashing red panel came up on the dash board.  Looks like the rear passenger tire had a pressure reading of 6.  Um.  This could not be good, but I was a mom late for school and thought it might be able to wait a few miles.

BUZZ!  Wrong answer.

I called home and was so grateful to hear my husband’s voice.  I explained the situation and he immediately told me to pull over.  “Where are you?” “By the 7-11,” I said.  Mary Tyler Dad gave me clear directions to pull the car over again.  In my head I was all, “Pffffft.  Don’t take that tone with me, Mister.  I need to get this kid to school.  I’ll deal with the tire afterwards. ”  I had driven on a flat tire before and this did not feel like a flat tire.  I honestly thought it could wait until I got to a service station.

By the time he convinced me of the seriousness of the situation, I was a good four blocks from the 7-11.  I asked what needed to be done.  “Change the tire,”  was the answer.  Are you kidding me?  I can write a kick a$$ blog and run a charity and raise money for pediatric cancer research, but change a tire?  Nope.  Not me.  I know my limitations and changing a tire rests on the other side of that line.

Clearly frustrated, my man told me to sit tight and he would come and help me.  Part of me was all, “Damn right, you will.  I do not change tires.  Are you kidding me?”  But the other part of me was holding my head in shame.  I was beholden to a man, reliant on him to get where I needed to go, even if that was our kid’s school, because I did not know how to do something every adult who drives should probably know how to do.

Within minutes, my dear man found us and got to work.  With a few swears, a little sweat, and lots of jumping on the thingamajig to get the lug nuts to budge, we were back in business.  Kisses were exchanged, hugs all around, and we both went our merry ways.

Then I did what any self-respecting mom blogger in the universe would do.  I wrote about it on Facebook.  You know I did.  Bam, that thread took off like the papparazzi chasing the first bump shot of a Kardashian.

Turns out, I am not alone.  Turns out, the vast, vast majority of the 414 folks who responded in the thread also leave it to their man or other such qualified individual (AAA ring a bell, anyone?).

Sigh.

Why, then, do I feel disappointed in myself?  I believe I should be able to change a tire.  I watched it once before, when my Dad and I took a father-daughter trip to Ireland in 2000.  The tire blew on our rental as we were driving up a cold and rainy mountainside.  That blew in more ways than one, but basically, I just stood there and watched my Dad.  Exactly as I did yesterday with my husband.

I hate feeling helpless.  I hate playing the damsel in distress card.  I like to exercise knowledge and skill.  I do.  I like to be independent and self-sufficient.  But I’ll tell ya, ain’t no way in freaking hell I was gonna get those lug nuts off.  And honestly, I didn’t know those thingamajigs were called ‘lug nuts’ until yesterday’s Facebook thread.  And again, another sigh.

The truth is, my marriage looks eerily similar to my parent’s marriage.  They wed in 1958.  There is truth to the adage, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  I am home with the kids and my husband earns the money and changes the tires.  And sometimes, I need him to rescue me (and vice versa).  And every time I need it, he is there (and vice versa).  And I am grateful for that.  Shame be damned.

For those wanting to solve the age old mystery, “How do you change a flat tire?” Click here.

Winning the Daddy Lottery

Daddy Mountain
Photo courtesy of Anne Geissinger

When each of my two kids were born, moments after they were placed in my arms, I said to them, “Congratulations, child, you won the Daddy Lottery!” Mary Tyler Dad doesn’t especially like this, but truer words have never been spoken.

On Father’s Day I think about what it means to be a good dad and how lucky me and my kids are.  Gratefully, it’s not nearly as loaded for me as Mother’s Day, nor is it for Mary Tyler Dad.  He doesn’t get tripped up about holidays or significant dates like I do.  He’s calm like that.  But it’s still hard to celebrate Father’s Day when one of your children is not with you.

I knew shortly after I met him that he was different.  We had been out on a few dates, but it wasn’t until our third or fourth date when he talked about a hard time someone close to him had gone through that I stood at attention.  Ding, ding, ding!  The compassion, generosity, and concern he expressed made me take a second look.  He was always handsome, but his eyes became softer after that talk, his hands sturdier, his shoulders broader — this one, I knew, was a keeper.

I was the first to know and understand that we would be husband and wife.  It took Mary Tyler Dad a few years to catch up to me.  I snared him with my wily ways after five years of dating.  He, though, was the first to know and understand that we would be parents together.  I kept putting it off and putting it off and putting it off.   We were in our mid-thirties, both invested in our careers, and had a great life together.  He never pressured me, just gently and persistently brought it into our conversation.  Repeatedly.  Kind of like he’s doing right now with me procrastinating making a dentist appointment.

As I type these words, I am looking out the window, watching him walk up the street with Mary Tyler Son, returning from a morning trip to the park.  Mary Tyler Dad puts in the time.  When he’s tired, he puts in the time.  He understands more than most how fleeting it is.  When he’s busy, he puts in the time.  When he’s got bills to pay and chores to do and projects to manage he puts in the time.  I love that about him.

Donna Running to Daddy
Photo courtesy of Joel Wanek

From day one, bringing Donna home from the hospital for the first time, he proved himself to be the prince among men I knew him to be.  While I nursed both kids through their first year, Mary Tyler Dad would sleepily wake to change their diapers before handing them off to me in the dark for the one thing he could not provide our kids — mother’s milk.

He does laundry and dishes and sews Halloween costumes.  Sews Halloween costumes, people.  He watches too much basketball in June, but that is forgiven as he is not a fan of baseball, hockey, or football.  He sings sweet songs to Mary Tyler Son, remembering all the correct lyrics, rather than the made up ones I cobble together.  He doesn’t flinch when I teach the little one the words to bad pop songs and we have kitchen dance parties to LMFAO. He brings our boy to the sitter on the days I work so I can get in early or do my hair.

Last week Mary Tyler Dad had a business trip to St. Louis for a few nights. He came home and said that sitting all alone in the hotel suite made him sad about how empty his life would be without us.   That broke my heart and filled it to brimming all at the same time.

He is the best father I can imagine for my children.  It is criminal that his daughter was taken from him.  Criminal.  Our world needs clones of Mary Tyler Dad — millions of him putting in the time, sharing their wit and love and generosity and parenting and partnering.  What a world that would be.

Mexico Joy
Photo courtesy of MTM

Happy Father’s Day, Mary Tyler Dad!  I love you more than Coca Cola, cheeseburgers, and chocolate — combined.  xox.