FEEL GOOD FRIDAY: Home Improvement

by Dave Markwell

Last night, my wife cussed at me. It wasn’t a big cuss out, but it wasn’t small, either. An “F” word was involved. We were working on a little home improvement project and, as usual, we had different ideas about how the work should be performed. Our difference of opinion provoked some sarcastic comments from me and then the resultant, not unexpected, “response” from my wife.

This is a fairly typical exchange whenever my wife and I work together on projects. She is very linear and organized and focused. She finishes starts and finishes one project, without deviation, and moves on. I do not. I flit from various stages of projects, moving with, to her, a chaotic and illogical order. My contention is always that my order is not illogical. It just seems that way.

No one wants to finish any project more that I do. And in my urgent motivation to finish work, I like to take big bites and understand that leaving some crumbs for later will allow me to get more done, quicker. This does not make sense to my orderly wife. I will disclaim here that sometimes I move too hastily and screw up and, in these exceedingly rare cases, she is right to question me.

Following our exchange, the weather in our household turned cool. I didn’t want to watch her show on TV and so I went to bed. I wasn’t angry, but slightly annoyed and didn’t feel super cuddly. I woke up this morning feeling mostly the same.

As I made a mental laundry list of the things I need to do today, writing a letter for my father-in-law as he appeals to the Veteran’s Administration for a PTSD settlement is near the top. While thinking about my letter, I got sad. My father-in-law is a terrific guy. He served in Vietnam while he was a young man and it affected him. (no duh!)

Last summer, my family and I witnessed him having a nightmare and it was scary. He shook and screamed and cried. This moment changed me. I hope it changed my kids, as they will be responsible for determining which wars we choose to fight in the future and a clear understanding of the cost of these wars is important.

My father-in-law’s service to this country cost him dearly. It cost him his youth and his piece of mind and it is a bill he is still paying on and will continue to pay on until he dies.

While thinking about this, my wife’s and my tiff didn’t seem so important. More than anything, I just wanted to hold her and let her know how much she means to me. Life is funny and marriage is frustrating. There are no easy answers to the complicated questions of both. Having some perspective on stuff that matters is a key to enjoying anything in life or marriage.

With this in mind, I made pancakes for my kids and served them in their early morning sleepy beds. I hugged my wife and very deliberately moved through my day with a right mind. “What’s important” is a moving target and getting a bead on that sucker feels nice once in a while.

Through our lives, we get pulled and pushed in many directions, many of which, that are not ours. We compromise and we concede and we forget. Now and then, a cold hard fact will smack our heads’ straight. Remembering my father-in-law’s struggle shaved the hard edges off of my own battles and put things back where they belong. It is too easy to forget, but very important to remember what’s important. Few things matter, but some things matter very much. And I will choose an “F” word (or two) from my wife over the infinitely worse challenges faced by too many. It’s a small price to pay for having so much and I have happy to foot the bill.

[EDITOR’S NOTE:”Feel Good Friday” is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: “Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!” Also, you can “friend” Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his new exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]

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