Carpenter Needed

The website for my neighborhood where people exchange info on tradespeople (and occasionally gripe about city government) just had a post entitled Carpenter Needed. My first thought was, “I’ll say” because, of course, my husband was a carpenter. He has now been dead almost a year and I still feel his loss as the enormous, unfillable hole that it is, although possibly with less shooting pain than in the immediate aftermath. But my need for him if anything is deeper and greater with the perspective of time; his calm, his patience, his unwavering love, his total acceptance and perhaps most of all his listening ear and wise advice.

Before I met him, when I was in a terrible marriage, I used to gag when people spoke of their spouse as their “best friend”. Blech! Really? Don’t you want a same sex best friend who can actually understand you? I certainly did not fire my best friend when Tom came along, but I think I did whine to her a lot less and maybe gave her a tad more air time in our phone marathons. Tom was someone I could talk to about ANYTHING and we had some wonderful discussions, peppered with laughter and Republican bashing and flat out silliness. He somehow managed to be well informed and smart about nearly everything despite shunning TV and newspapers. But it was his emotional intelligence that I valued most—his ability to see other people, figure out who they were and what they needed and how to get along with them at the very least and often how to help them on their life journey.

I just met a builder and woodworker in my neighborhood who lives just a block from me. It made me sad to think how many of those guys Tom might have befriended if he had spent more than 16 months living here. I think we would’ve had such a fun life, whether we decided to stay here or move up north as we had planned. A friend was just relating her relationship with her introverted boyfriend and how nicely her salesperson personality complements his. Tom and I were the same. I would see him engage some stranger and start to panic a bit at how long we were going to be stuck there, but it was so easy to go places with him and never really have to leave my comfort zone. HE would be friendly so I didn’t have to be. As a preacher’s kid I was always expected to smile and be polite to the old church ladies pinching my cheek and calling me by the wrong name, but after a reasonable time I would look imploringly at my mother and ask “Can I stop being NICE now?”

I went to a grief group last night where they showed a long video with various people sharing things they miss about their loved one. Several women mentioned how lonely it is to get into what seems like a very big bed at night. I remember Joni Mitchell’s lyric in “My Old Man”—“The bed’s too big, the frying pan’s too wide.” Yes, I miss all that. And the comfort of having someone already know all your history and preferences and annoying daily habits and love you anyway. But most of all I miss being part of a team. It is easier to write songs when you are Rodgers AND Hammerstein rather than just Rodgers. It is easier to live life when someone has your back and perfectly balances your personality and comfort zone and skill set in every way.

It’s true that I can’t use a power drill or pound a straight nail or fix anything. So I am all over that ad that says Carpenter Needed. But there’s only one that I want and it’s for so much more than his tool belt.


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