My Closet Romantic

My Closet Romantic

I fell in love. I hadn’t planned on it. In fact, I’d been too busy for the notion to cross my mind. Blind-sided, out of the blue and after more than a decade of marriage, I fell in love that August back in 1992.

Two years before, I had taken a plunge that affected everyone in our family. I returned to school to get my teaching certificate. My husband Phil had been supportive if not enthusiastic. Our kids learned to fend for themselves more that they should have – like even doing their own laundry. I decided if they’d keep the dishes done and the living room presentable, I could live without worrying about their bedrooms. We picked our battles and set our priorities because life as we knew it was over. We were in survival mode.

Though I should have had only a semester of student teaching to go to finish up, a twelve year absence from academia found a lot had changed. Going full time, even through the summers, it took two and a half years to complete my course work. Of course, the change from Secondary Education to Elementary Ed proved the biggest reason.

As of that fateful August, I’d completed everything but the student teaching block. I looked forward to two weeks off before the first of those classes would start. Two weeks of sleeping in until seven, of reading something for pure pleasure, of enjoying my family.

Two blissful weeks. Sigh.

Then I fell in love.

I remember pulling into our driveway that day after my last class. August in Phoenix is sort of like sitting in a sauna wrapped in a wool blanket. Monsoons either fill the overheated air with humidity or drop wild storms with flash flood warnings down on the valley granting a temporary cooling. This day was hot and muggy hosting temperatures in the one hundred fifteen degree range. I gathered my books from the car and dropped them inside the front door, made a beeline to my bedroom and peeled out of my clothes, finally donning a giant T-shirt. After flipping the ceiling fan on high, I inhaled a glass of ice water and collapsed on our bed just as Phil came into the room.

“I’m going to the grocery, taking the kids with me. Be back in a bit.”

I may have mumbled or waved my hand at him. All I know is I was out before he reached the door.

The next thing I remember is the feel of warm breath on my neck as an arm snaked its way around my waist. I rolled into the embrace and found myself in the arms of the dearest man I know. My husband.

“What about the kids? Where are they?”

“Shhh, I gave them away. Come’mere.”

I’ve got to say, the man knows how to make a girl feel good. When we got up, though, I realized he had more planned. The house was too quiet.

So for real, where are the kids?”

“They’re at your mother’s for the weekend. Get dressed, and we can go eat.”

That was the beginning. I didn’t cook or clean once the whole time. We saw three movies. We went bowling. He sat with me through a manicure and pedicure. Phil knew I’d need a more professional image for student teaching so he took me shopping and to get my hair done. Can you blame me for falling for the guy?

I wept from sheer happiness many times that weekend. I’d been mentally and emotionally exhausted. To fully understand you need to know a few things. We have four children, three daughters and a son. Our son, Ian, was born with cystic fibrosis necessitating many hospitalizations. That usually meant I lived at the hospital with him. However, when I was in school, I commuted between the hospital and school and slept in his room at night. If one of the kids wasn’t feeling well enough for school themselves, I brought them with me and they curled up with a pillow and blanket in the corner of my class. That way I could keep an eye on them and stay on top of my studies. All this, while Phil had his own lawn service, working long hours from the first rays of early morning until after the sun went down, just to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. We rarely had time to speak let alone enjoy each other’s company.

That should have been my tip-off. Phil was home that Friday, in the middle of the day, when I dragged in. He’d planned this all out just to give me some pampering and let me know he was proud of me. Oh, and I should mention, he isn’t one for going to the movies. He’d rather wait until they show up on TV. He also isn’t one to sit around while I get my hair done or go shopping in the ladies department. And a mani/pedi? He still can’t see the need. Yet he did all this for me.

It was a great lesson. Ever since, he’s been known as “my closet romantic.”  Seriously, if you ask him about the difference between weddings and funerals, he’d say there isn’t any! It’s the only time you’ll catch him in a suit and tie, if he has to. Phil collects Grumpy memorabilia – T-shirts, hats and mugs – calling the little curmudgeon of seven dwarfs fame his mentor. In fact, when Phil had a heart attack a few years ago, our pastor’s daughter wanted to request prayer for him, but couldn’t remember his real name. She was afraid she’d be laughed at for asking prayer for “Grumpy,” so she just renamed him “Fred.”

But behind all the bluster and lack of mushy sweet-nothings, my Phil is a man of action who demonstrates his caring to those he loves. To him, actions speak louder and are more honest. As the years pass, I’m learning to hear his actions more clearly.

I can’t say that is the last time I fell in love. It can’t be when I’m married to Phil. If I start to doubt because I’m not hearing the words, all I have to do is watch the actions. I’ve learned to see a lot of love in the little things. Phil may not keep the florists in business, but he grows his own roses and leaves me hand-cut bouquets. I never know when he will surprise me with unexpected gifts or thoughtful gestures. He doesn’t like holidays dictating what he should do. Instead, he chooses his time to show his affections. Just because. I am so blessed. His example encourages me to be a better person.

So you might ask, “Is he perfect?” Not on your life. After thirty-two years we still don’t see eye to eye at times, and I don’t think I’ll ever get him to put his dirty socks in the hamper. But he is my grumpy closet romantic and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. Don’t even ask.

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