The Keys To A Happy Marriage I have glimpsed my future and it is absolutely terrifying. At some point in your life a sentence will come out of a parent’s mouth that your brain cannot quite make sense of. There is that phone call that leaves you at a loss for words. You are following the bouncing ball of words and then, out of nowhere; you are left trying to figure out what to say. I was doing yard work on a Saturday, preparing for the winter, when my dad called.  My parents are enjoying their golden years snowbirding in Arizona, which, to paraphrase James Petigru’s wonderful line, is too small to be a nation and too large to be an insane asylum. He loves the warm weather, not having to shovel snow, and daily rounds of golf.  It is a world of tricked out golf carts, estate sales, and  truckloads of black market Viagra. It is where all technology after the buggy whip goes to commit suicide. My parents have been married for over sixty years. Greatest parents a person could ask for. Still, I thought it strange when my father asked me if I could find his backup car keys and FedEx them to him overnight. Last year my dad had major heart issues, he was days away from having what they called “the widow maker,” and the doctors warned him not to make any major decisions. Being the good Norwegian that he is, the next day he went out and bought a brand new SUV or, as I call it, the spaceship. It has every piece of technology you could ever want in a vehicle and never use. I opened the hood once and am still not sure where the battery is. It has a butt warmer, a video screen, a satellite radio, cameras, and, instead of a key, it has a key fob.  I have never understood the whole key fob thing. It is technology for technology sake, kind of like a smart frig or Pauly Shore having a Facebook page.   I understand it for opening locked doors and the like, but for a car’s ignition, it just seems like a good way of losing your car key fob. Eventually you are going to stuff it in a purse or a pocket or a bra, and through the washing machine it will go. With keys you can do that a time or two. Computer technology not so much. So, I naturally assumed that dad had left his key fob in his pocket or had misplaced it someplace.  Easy to do. No, his next words were, “Your mother flushed the car keys down the toilet.” Your. Mom. Flushed. The. Car. Keys. Down. The. Toilet. Yes, it was a complete sentence, but for some reason my brain could not wrap itself around what it could possibly mean. I knew it wasn’t like something out of an episode of Cops, where in a fit of a rage, the wife is flushing her husband in the wife beater t-shirt’s wallet and keys down the pipes. Norwegians don’t fight like that. It is not passive-aggressive enough for my people. When we want to get back at our spouse, we tell Ole and Lena jokes, think cargo shorts are stylish, and invite our mothers over to visit.   Maybe it was one of those toilets with the motion sensor and automatic flushers? It is easy to understand accidentally dropping your keys in the bowl, standing up to retrieve them, and away they go. No, that is not what happened. “Dad,” I asked, “How did she flush the keys down the stool?” My dad replied, “I don’t know.” My mother is a bright, intelligent woman, not flighty in the least bit, serious as a heart attack, but she does these things from time-to-time. Once, we went to the grocery store, she went to the back of the station wagon to retrieve the basket of pop bottles she was returning for a refund, and discovered she had mixed the pop bottles up with the family laundry. Another time walking out of the mall she discovered that she mad mixed up her shoes and had been walking around all day with a blue shoe and a white shoe. Seems like an easy thing to do, except there was an inch difference in the heels. I once got a new suit and needed the pants hemmed. My mother is magical with a needle and thread.  For some reason on that day, I returned home with a suit jacket and a pair of matching shorts. Mistakes like these were easily shaken off by her simply pointing to the number of children and dogs she had to endure daily.   Last year she lost her telephone, not her cell phone, but her landline. I later found it packed away in the cupboards with the punchbowl. Again, easily shaken off as the stress of the holidays and my father’s health problems. And maybe everybody does these things? I knew a woman who was dropping a neighbor off at her house. She pulled into the driveway, my neighbor started to get out of the car, and the woman somehow got the brake and throttle mixed up. She punched the car through the garage, out the back wall, across the yard, my neighbor still half in and half out of the car, before finally coming to a stop when all four wheels became suspended in the air when she hit the ditch. The EMTs were putting my neighbor on a gurney when her husband arrived home. My neighbor looked up at her husband, sighed, and said, “Nothing against you, honey, but that was the most exciting fifteen seconds of my life.”   I had a schoolteacher who got lost in a snowstorm. If you have ever been in a snowstorm, you know that traffic can be reduced to a crawl. It can take you an hour to go merely a mile or two.  It can be nerve wrecking. After a few hours, nature came a rap, rap, rapping on her bladder. Getting out of your car is an easy way to get killed in such weather, especially in traffic. So, after awhile, what happened, happened. Exhausted, she got home and told her husband what had happened. Totally understanding, he went out to the car to clean it up. The problem was in freezing temperatures things that get wet freeze. He came back into the house, got the portable heater, and returned to the car in the driveway. She took a long, hot bath, wrapped herself up in a warm robe, and thought about what a wonderful husband she had. Returning to the living room, she found her husband sitting there. He simply said, “On Saturday we will go buy you a new car.” What a perfect man, she thought. He then finished his sentence, “’cause I just set the car on fire and I am not going to call the fire department out in this weather.” There was a girl in my hometown whose parents proudly let everyone know how bright their daughter was. One day, she ran out of gas. She walked a couple of blocks to her friend’s house to get help. Her friend and her spent about an hour talking, waiting for her friend’s brother to get home. Her friend’s brother pulled into the driveway. They told him about her running out of gas. “Where’s your car?” he asked. “On the railroad tracks,” she said. “Well, you won’t have to worry about that,” he said. “Listen.” It was the sound of a train whistle. So, I know these things happen to everyone. It just seems the margin of error gets a lot smaller when you get older. I sat down on the porch. George the bulldog laid his head in my lap. Rather than waste my data minutes checking my smart phone, I called my brother to find out if FedEx was open on Saturday. He wasn’t answering. So, I left a message, and called his twin. Both of them have been married forever. He answered. I told him that mom had flushed dad’s car keys down the stool. Strangely, he did not ask me why mom had done what she had done. He simply replied, “I don’t think FedEx is open on weekends.” His brother called me back a few seconds later.  Same thing.  Three successful, happy marriages, three men not asking why.  Call me crazy, but maybe there is a pattern here. Going inside, I told the seven-year-old that grandma flushed grandpa’s keys down the toilet.  She expressed a seven-year-old’s greatest concern, “Will grandma remember my birthday next month?” The doorbell rang. I went to the front door. It was then that I noticed that George the bulldog, while resting his head on my lap, had slobbered and drooled all over the front of my pants. I had a dark circular stain all over the front of my jeans. The seven-year-old laughed. Maybe these things happen to everyone.  I even know a guy that quit a good job to start a cartoon newspaper!   I have glimpsed my future and it is absolutely terrifying.
The Keys To A Happy Marriage I have glimpsed my future and it is absolutely terrifying. At some point in your life a sentence will come out of a parent’s mouth that your brain cannot quite make sense of. There is that phone call that leaves you at a loss for words. You are following the bouncing ball of words and then, out of nowhere; you are left trying to figure out what to say. I was doing yard work on a Saturday, preparing for the winter, when my dad called.  My parents are enjoying their golden years snowbirding in Arizona, which, to paraphrase James Petigru’s wonderful line, is too small to be a nation and too large to be an insane asylum. He loves the warm weather, not having to shovel snow, and daily rounds of golf.  It is a world of tricked out golf carts, estate sales, and  truckloads of black market Viagra. It is where all technology after the buggy whip goes to commit suicide. My parents have been married for over sixty years. Greatest parents a person could ask for. Still, I thought it strange when my father asked me if I could find his backup car keys and FedEx them to him overnight. Last year my dad had major heart issues, he was days away from having what they called “the widow maker,” and the doctors warned him not to make any major decisions. Being the good Norwegian that he is, the next day he went out and bought a brand new SUV or, as I call it, the spaceship. It has every piece of technology you could ever want in a vehicle and never use. I opened the hood once and am still not sure where the battery is. It has a butt warmer, a video screen, a satellite radio, cameras, and, instead of a key, it has a key fob.  I have never understood the whole key fob thing. It is technology for technology sake, kind of like a smart frig or Pauly Shore having a Facebook page.   I understand it for opening locked doors and the like, but for a car’s ignition, it just seems like a good way of losing your car key fob. Eventually you are going to stuff it in a purse or a pocket or a bra, and through the washing machine it will go. With keys you can do that a time or two. Computer technology not so much. So, I naturally assumed that dad had left his key fob in his pocket or had misplaced it someplace.  Easy to do. No, his next words were, “Your mother flushed the car keys down the toilet.” Your. Mom. Flushed. The. Car. Keys. Down. The. Toilet. Yes, it was a complete sentence, but for some reason my brain could not wrap itself around what it could possibly mean. I knew it wasn’t like something out of an episode of Cops, where in a fit of a rage, the wife is flushing her husband in the wife beater t-shirt’s wallet and keys down the pipes. Norwegians don’t fight like that. It is not passive-aggressive enough for my people. When we want to get back at our spouse, we tell Ole and Lena jokes, think cargo shorts are stylish, and invite our mothers over to visit.   Maybe it was one of those toilets with the motion sensor and automatic flushers? It is easy to understand accidentally dropping your keys in the bowl, standing up to retrieve them, and away they go. No, that is not what happened. “Dad,” I asked, “How did she flush the keys down the stool?” My dad replied, “I don’t know.” My mother is a bright, intelligent woman, not flighty in the least bit, serious as a heart attack, but she does these things from time-to-time. Once, we went to the grocery store, she went to the back of the station wagon to retrieve the basket of pop bottles she was returning for a refund, and discovered she had mixed the pop bottles up with the family laundry. Another time walking out of the mall she discovered that she mad mixed up her shoes and had been walking around all day with a blue shoe and a white shoe. Seems like an easy thing to do, except there was an inch difference in the heels. I once got a new suit and needed the pants hemmed. My mother is magical with a needle and thread.  For some reason on that day, I returned home with a suit jacket and a pair of matching shorts. Mistakes like these were easily shaken off by her simply pointing to the number of children and dogs she had to endure daily.   Last year she lost her telephone, not her cell phone, but her landline. I later found it packed away in the cupboards with the punchbowl. Again, easily shaken off as the stress of the holidays and my father’s health problems. And maybe everybody does these things? I knew a woman who was dropping a neighbor off at her house. She pulled into the driveway, my neighbor started to get out of the car, and the woman somehow got the brake and throttle mixed up. She punched the car through the garage, out the back wall, across the yard, my neighbor still half in and half out of the car, before finally coming to a stop when all four wheels became suspended in the air when she hit the ditch. The EMTs were putting my neighbor on a gurney when her husband arrived home. My neighbor looked up at her husband, sighed, and said, “Nothing against you, honey, but that was the most exciting fifteen seconds of my life.”   I had a schoolteacher who got lost in a snowstorm. If you have ever been in a snowstorm, you know that traffic can be reduced to a crawl. It can take you an hour to go merely a mile or two.  It can be nerve wrecking. After a few hours, nature came a rap, rap, rapping on her bladder. Getting out of your car is an easy way to get killed in such weather, especially in traffic. So, after awhile, what happened, happened. Exhausted, she got home and told her husband what had happened. Totally understanding, he went out to the car to clean it up. The problem was in freezing temperatures things that get wet freeze. He came back into the house, got the portable heater, and returned to the car in the driveway. She took a long, hot bath, wrapped herself up in a warm robe, and thought about what a wonderful husband she had. Returning to the living room, she found her husband sitting there. He simply said, “On Saturday we will go buy you a new car.” What a perfect man, she thought. He then finished his sentence, “’cause I just set the car on fire and I am not going to call the fire department out in this weather.” There was a girl in my hometown whose parents proudly let everyone know how bright their daughter was. One day, she ran out of gas. She walked a couple of blocks to her friend’s house to get help. Her friend and her spent about an hour talking, waiting for her friend’s brother to get home. Her friend’s brother pulled into the driveway. They told him about her running out of gas. “Where’s your car?” he asked. “On the railroad tracks,” she said. “Well, you won’t have to worry about that,” he said. “Listen.” It was the sound of a train whistle. So, I know these things happen to everyone. It just seems the margin of error gets a lot smaller when you get older. I sat down on the porch. George the bulldog laid his head in my lap. Rather than waste my data minutes checking my smart phone, I called my brother to find out if FedEx was open on Saturday. He wasn’t answering. So, I left a message, and called his twin. Both of them have been married forever. He answered. I told him that mom had flushed dad’s car keys down the stool. Strangely, he did not ask me why mom had done what she had done. He simply replied, “I don’t think FedEx is open on weekends.” His brother called me back a few seconds later.  Same thing.  Three successful, happy marriages, three men not asking why.  Call me crazy, but maybe there is a pattern here. Going inside, I told the seven-year-old that grandma flushed grandpa’s keys down the toilet.  She expressed a seven-year-old’s greatest concern, “Will grandma remember my birthday next month?” The doorbell rang. I went to the front door. It was then that I noticed that George the bulldog, while resting his head on my lap, had slobbered and drooled all over the front of my pants. I had a dark circular stain all over the front of my jeans. The seven-year-old laughed. Maybe these things happen to everyone.  I even know a guy that quit a good job to start a cartoon newspaper!   I have glimpsed my future and it is absolutely terrifying.