Cross Words

We had a fight the other night. Now, in 20 years of marriage, I’ll bet Mary and Shop Boy have had an average of one to two quarrels a year. It’s always over something stupid.

This time took the cake:

Scrabble.

And suddenly, Shop Boy needed a seven-letter word for “sorry but there’s a lot on my mind — my mom died five years ago this week and we just watched a play, Our Town, where our neighbors were the stars and the people of the cemetery are dealing with their lot and I’m wishing Mom wasn’t in the ground still and we worked a triple shift and the house is a wreck and I’ve no idea where the bills stand and we’re behind on menus and we’ve had a cocktail — did I mention I’m fat? — and it’s 1 a.m. and now you want to play Scrabble? I never liked Scrabble …”

Like I said, stupid.  Cue the Golf Channel’s British analyst:

“Badly done, Shop Boy. Badly done …”

Now Mary was mad — all she’d wanted was to physically play Scrabble, touching the wooden tiles for real after playing so much of the video version on her iPhone. She’s a killer, FYI, having scored seven “bingos” — clearing all your letter tiles for the win on the first play — in, like, 65 games against the computer. I always warn people against playing Mary in Scrabble for this reason. She goes all Rain Man on you, then does an end zone dance on your fallen figure. At least, that’s what she usually does.

But she could clearly tell Shop Boy was upset about something — OK, everything — and tried to help me, poor suffering word fool that I am, keep the game going while the X’s, Z’s, Q’s, P’s and frustration piled up on my tray.

“This game is stupid,” said I, “and I’ve always hated it because it’s stupid.”

Well.

An old golfing buddy of my dad’s, upon hearing that Shop Boy was getting hitched, offered a piece of advice for married couples that I’ve never forgotten. I’ll clean up the language a bit, but it’s essentially this: Never go to sleep back to back. You know, don’t let the anger linger into the next day. Kiss and make up before bedtime. It also helps if you have a tiny, tiny bed, as Mary and Shop Boy did in their apartment-dwelling days — it leaves no room for anger or bad feelings.

There’s no room for bad feelings in the printshop either, a notion that Shop Boy was testing pretty severely at the moment. See, Mary’s funny. She gets upset, lets it all out, and moves on. See it? Say it.

Shop Boy? You might not know it from reading this blog, but the “big lug” — Mom’s pet phrase — has trouble expressing his opinions and feelings sometimes. It usually goes like this: Something’s bugging me, so I think about it, and think about it, and the more I think about it, the more I think I shouldn’t think about that right now. So I try to bury it, and it tries to claw its way out. Mary doesn’t understand, naturally, and wants to help me reach inside and put a balm on whatever’s hurting in there. This has led to some fairly funny — in retrospect — standoffs.

Shop Boy: “I’m going to have to opt out of this conversation.”

Mary: “OK, then … tell me what’s wrong and the conversation’s over. Talk.”

Anyway, Mary and Shop Boy make a good team. Working silently on separate projects? Not so effective. So we made up, Shop Boy clumsily trying to explain why he was a jerk, and we moved on.

Besides, life’s way, way too short for pigheadedness. Ask my mom and her cronies at the cemetery. She’s been with them five years now. I sure hope they’re better company than the stiffs in Our Town.

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