The Common Good
January-February 1998

Shocking News: El Nino Causes Hair Loss!

by Ed Spivey Jr. | January-February 1998

Whew! I was afraid it was hereditary, since my grandfather on my mother’s side had
a cousin who looked like a pool cue.

Whew! I was afraid it was hereditary, since my grandfather on my mother’s side had a cousin who looked like a pool cue. (Come to think of it, I look like a pool cue...only with hair.) But now that scientists have proven that baldness is weather-related, I only have to worry about it during hurricane season.

And speaking of El Niño, how out of touch are the weather doofuses (doofi?) who came up with that name? "A global weather phenomenon with the most destructive potential of anything on the planet? Hey, let’s call it ‘the little boy.’" You’d think there’d be a more appropriate name for something that causes tidal waves, hurricanes, and massive flooding. Such as "Green-Eyed Monster" or "Here Comes Death." Or maybe "Trent Lott."

Ironically, those same scientists have also discovered that El Niño causes temporary memory loss. Which accounts for my forgetting to buy a gift for our 20th wedding anniversary (although, at press time, she wasn’t buying the El Niño excuse.)

I can be forgiven for thinking that a whole weekend together at an ocean-front bed and breakfast WOULD BE ENOUGH, THANK YOU! But apparently something in a decoratively wrapped box was also expected. Which is another reminder that after two decades living in a state of Indiana (oops, I mean marital bliss) I can still get it wrong.

Like the other day, when she asked me to let the cat in and did not know the cat had a mouse in his mouth. (He was standing at the door going "meowfth, meowfth.") I let him in anyway because she asked me to. That was a mistake. Or maybe just a difference in perspective, which is often the source of tension in a marriage. That’s why a long time ago we took one of those personality profile tests which show couples that, in marriage, it’s not a matter of right or wrong, but the simple fact that some people just see things differently. (I, for example, usually see the glass as half full. My wife, on the other hand, sees the glass as very dirty and why didn’t I vacuum the living room last night when I was supposed to?)

The result of our profile tests revealed my wife to be a reflective, intuitive, and sensitive woman. My test revealed that I should have pressed down harder on the No. 2 pencil.

After 20 years of marriage, I have learned to accept differences, affirm strengths, and only rarely resolve conflicts by threatening to go to a Promise Keepers rally. And then come home...different.

Before Promise Keepers rally: "Honey, I’m home."

Wife: "You’re late."

After Promise Keepers rally: "Honey, I’m home. Forgive me."

Wife: "Fine. You’re late."

we had high hopes for our anniversary weekend, which was spent eight miles off the mainland on a small island accessible only by boat. And not a big boat. A little tiny boat designed by sadistic craftsmen who wanted tourists to experience every wave, every dip and yaw and surge that little tiny boats feel on the open sea.

Of course, eight miles only takes about 10 minutes in a car with solid highway beneath you. But on the ocean in a little boat (did I mention it was a little boat?) that same distance takes almost an hour. An hour of dipping, and yawing and surging, and dipping and yawing, and that was on a calm day.

On the way back we sailed through a storm, which meant the YAWING and DIPPING and SURGING were in capital letters. It also meant that halfway across I got so scared that I violated several commandments by praying to any god within the sound of my voice just to get us through. As wave after wave tossed us onto the floor of the boat, my life started to pass before me: all the joys, all the fears, all the lies my parents told me about me being a little teapot. And in the midst of the storm I realized, finally, that I am not now, nor have I ever been, short or stout. I have no handle. I have no spout, despite my being forced to sing otherwise, and...."Okay folks, we’re here," said the captain, ending my hallucinatory near-death experience with a solid bump into the dock.

Ironically that boat ride resulted in the most romantic part of the whole weekend: We both kissed the ground when we stepped onto the shore.

But the bed and breakfast was beautiful, a perfect place for a weekend of romance, and togetherness, and rain. It rained all weekend. But that was okay, because we brought a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese author who writes about the mindfulness of the moment, about living in the present and seeing each second of life as a gift to be savored and appreciated. It was a great book and we couldn’t wait to finish it.

The first night (before the rain started) provided a picture-perfect scene: my wife sitting comfortably under the folds of a warm blanket, reading a book on a porch that looked out over the bay. She might have been pondering the bliss of her marriage, or reflecting on that moment in her life when she thought a weak chin, thick glasses, and a stutter were attractive on a man. (Be honest, you once had a crush on Don Knotts, didn’t you?)

But mainly she was just trying to ignore her husband who was a few yards away, leaning over the edge of a wooden dock, attempting to return a crab cake lunch back to the sea from which it came. (Note to seafood restaurants: Mayonnaise should be refrigerated periodically to prevent customers having to spend the first night of their anniversary prostrate on a dock-—albeit a romantically moonlit dock-—making sounds that frighten the waterfowl.)

But as we move into the third century of our marriage (Oops. Hah, hah! I meant third decade...), we look forward to our twilight years together, enjoying long walks, and good books, and a time to talk about things, such as how to get our pampered and ungrateful daughters to move out of the house since they’ll be almost 50. "But Dad, we like it here," they’ll say as I hobble by on my cane. "By the way, have you finished our laundry yet?"

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