You Want Fruit?

  
“You want fruit? I’ve got all kinds of fruit. I’ve got apples, pears, watermelon, grapes and bananas.”

It’s the same every day. R and I smirk at each other and silently mouth the words as they are spoken with our eyes rolled up. 

R says quietly to me, “It will be his epitaph.”

The old man talks banana, fish, ice cream, Snickers bars, BK hamburgers, pizza and spaghetti and meatballs, the gustatory language of care: communing in eating words.

On any given day, each member of the family undergoes the same interrogation upon first notice or first entering the house:

“You hungry? I’ll get you something to eat. What do you want?

“No thanks, I just ate.”

“No, really, it’s no problem. It won’t take me long. I can go right now. What do you want?”

“No thanks, I just ate.”

“Are you sure? You’ll be hungry later. You want me to get you something for later?”

“No thanks.”

“You’re going to be hungry later, you know.”

“No thanks.”

Like a song on repeat, he echoes an unstoppable refrain, worse than an ear worm. The first words of the litany dull my brain and my mood instantly. Even if I am hungry, I reactively reject the offer out of sheer negation, the will to make it stop, and discourage the behavior.

But I breathe, blink and behave: he only knows this way. He means well, and even if he doesn’t, he just does this, utters these syllables like a tic, an eye twitch or knee jerk when the rubber mallet hits the reflexive sweet spot. 

Because we will laugh at his eulogy reciting a thousand and one inanities, even as we cry the quiet of the house into our eyes, awaiting the ticking off the names of fallen fruit.

“The 9 Most Overlooked Threats to Marriage”

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Kelley M. Flanagan’s Huffpost article isolating the most threatening issues to a long lasting marriage is interesting, hopeful and thoughtful, even if somewhat obvious and common sensical. I especially like the introduction as she reminds me how humans are short cutters and labelers in nearly everything. She comments that communication always takes the rap for failed marriages, which is untrue.

When I have my students write an essay on marriage and counseling, the parroted mantra is marriage breaks down for lack of communication. Counseling helps couples communicate better. Well, that always seemed to be broad to incomprehensibility as well as reductive. Whenever two people show up in a room it’s more complicated than that let alone show up to a supposed life-long commitment.

I particularly like the point she makes about marriage and loneliness:

Marriage doesn’t take away our loneliness. To be alive is to be lonely. It’s the human condition. Marriage doesn’t change the human condition. It can’t make us completely unlonely. And when it doesn’t, we blame our partner for doing something wrong, or we go searching for companionship elsewhere. Marriage is intended to be a place where two humans share the experience of loneliness and, in the sharing, create moments in which the loneliness dissipates. For a little while.

As a 34-year marriage veteran, I can speak to the greatest advantage of marriage, regardless of the perceived strength or quality of the union, which is the frequent haven from loneliness even as couplehood sometimes increases loneliness or at least puts that human condition in sharp relief. Flanagan reminds her readers that marriage is neither a panacea nor a merging. When she goes on to point out the shame baggage marrieds bring to a marriage, she hammers home that point that–and I’m extrapolating a bit–the union is of two individuals not a solitary unit.

The rest of the article underscores the more obvious and familiar about boredom, blaming, not taking responsibility and the like. She does mention another item that resonates with me, two actually: marriage is life and empathy is crucial to survive and thrive in both. True?