Saturday, October 11, 2008

Autumn Arrives (And Other, Anticipated Arrivals...)

Today is the first dark and dreary day of fall the season has presented. Last night, I rolled out of my cold bed and stumbled down the stairs to turn on the heater for the first time this season. Minutes later, it seemed, warmth billowed around me and I slept. There is no sun visible, the sky is a blanket of cloud from horizon to horizon. I stepped onto the deck, coffee in hand, and could see my breath in a puff of white vapor. The heater is still on.

In this Western state, the leaves do not turn the gorgeous variety of colors that they do in New England. Some turn yellow, others simply hang on for dear life while they slowly turn brown. The latter is the course of action the trees around my house have chosen; not for them to die in a blaze of glory; no, they want the long slow discoloration.

Last night at about three thirty in the morning, Keith called. It is an interesting thing, the mutual management of the household budget. Before he left, Keith managed all his accounts himself, I was in a hazy fog of happy ignorance, a state I prefer when it comes to money matters. Before he left, he assured me he would set up everything on line, so that all I would need to worry about, bill-wise, would be the electricity.

However, he was unable to do this and in the bustle of leaving, things got confused. The first thing he asked me to do was to make a list of everything, how much was due and when, and to pay the most pressing with an electronic check. This I did.

The next step of the evolution was then him telling me he had over a thousand dollars free and I was to decide how to divide the money up, and into which accounts, to call and negotiate percentage rates and explained to me how to read the meters on the house, so I could call in the exact amount. I did this, my confidence growing with each step.

Today, when he called, he explained that he was going to transfer the bulk of his pay from his original bank account to another one, one that I would be able to access, so I could make payments on line and not worry about the electronic checks. This means, of course, that I have almost complete access to his money.

Now, Keith and I got married very quickly after meeting, but it was not without a thorough discussion of important life issues and money was certainly on the table for discussion. We both wanted separate accounts, our next house would be in both our names, but not this one.

It was understood that we would not have access to each other's money. Keith has seen, up close and personal, the many ways in which a military wife can financially screw over her husband while he is deployed and he was absolutely determined, years before he met me, even, that it would never happen to him.

Well, now he has opened himself up to that happening and I was almost speechless with the weight of it.

"I thought you were never going to do this," I said later, in the shadowed kitchen, while the dogs ran around wildly in yard, in the dark of the early morning hours.

"I know," he said in his abrupt, Staff Sergeant voice. "I talk about that in the letter I sent, but... you've done so good with everything I ask. You've done awesome."

Needless to say, this was the hardest won and most prized compliment I have ever received. Now I feel we truly are a team; we will sink or swim together.

"I thought you said you wouldn't call for forty eight hours," I teased him, later.

"I know," he said, I could hear his grin.

"I was hoping you wouldn't be able to make it," I confessed, laughing.

"I just love you so much; I'm addicted to calling you," he said, in a voice that had nothing to do with the army.

"I think that is an addiction you can feed with impunity," I said, laughing.

"Hunny Bunny," he lovingly reminded me, "remember, keep the vocabulary to the eight grade level..." (This comment being one of our oldest private jokes together.)

His mid tour leave most probably will come up in December, though this is always subject to change. However, this means that in a month and a half, or two months, I will see him! My mind is often in a pleasant blur of white Christmas lights and dark, starry nights, of snow and warm windows, of the excitement of the arrivals lobby at the airport and me in my black, polished leather boots and belted, wool coat with a pink scarf.

I try not to invest too much in these fantasies, as beguiling as they are. I've been party to many reunions and partings in airports and I know by experience they never go according to the script my mind had written months in advance. In my case, absence seems not only to make the heart grow fonder, but also the imagination to grow cinematic.

I remember, many years ago, finishing a quaint novel, the kind that describes a woman's decollete as a "shadowy v," and where the first kiss is always the thrilling clilmax.

"When you get married," my mother told me, later that day, "it won't be like those books. It will be better," she finished with utmost confidence; it was the certainty in her voice that so marked the memory in my mind.

She was right. However glittery my imagination may wax, the faulty, unscripted moment has always been far better.

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