WHAT DOGS KNOW ABOUT WOMEN

Marilyn Armstrong:

Today’s a perfect day to reblog this one. It made me laugh. It made me laugh a lot and I have to admit, it did not make Garry laugh nearly as much.

Sometimes I think there is only one husband in the world. He comes in a variety of packaging options — size, color, age, ethnicity — but underneath, it’s the same guy.

Originally posted on Stuff my dog taught me:

woman and dogThe other night I had an argument with the husband so I harrumphed up the stairs and went to bed early.  (Actually, I harrumphed up then back down then back up, since I had forgotten the ipad in the living room.  This took away a fair bit of the effect from my initial harrumph but it also allowed me to watch a new season of The Vampire Diaries in bed, so…).

Buster the Schnauzer did not have even a moment of angst over what to do in such a situation.  Without hesitation, my loyal friend followed me up the stairs, AND back down, AND back up.  As I settled under the covers, he sat upright on the bottom of the bed with a look that clearly said, “You are everything wonderful and perfect in the world and HE is an ass.” (Buster has a very expressive face).  As we shared…

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LIVING IN SILENCE

A while ago, I had the flu and my ears were blocked. One day, Garry removed his hearing aids and kept turning up the television until we could both hear it. 

“That,” he said, “Is my world. That’s how much I can hear.”

I have never forgotten. Which is good because it’s all too easy to forget when it’s not your problem.


Many people don’t consider hearing loss a “real” disability. Is it because it’s invisible? I can’t walk much, can’t lift, ride a horse or bend. I am usually in some kind of pain ranging from “barely noticeable” to “wow that hurts.” None of which are visible to a naked eye. I once had a woman in the post office lash into me because I had a handicapped pass and she didn’t think I looked handicapped. Years later, I’m still angry. How dare she set herself up to judge?

People make assumptions all the time about Garry. They assume if they call to him and he doesn’t answer, he’s a snob. Rude. Ignoring them. If I’m with him I take them aside, explain Garry cannot hear them.

“You need to make sure he sees you and knows you are talking to him,” I tell them. I consider it part of my job as his wife. It’s rough being deaf in a hearing world. Parties are the worst. With so many people talking at once , it is impossible for him to hear one voice.

Mostly I can hear. Most things. Not as well as I did when I was younger. Background noise is more intrusive and annoying than before, but I hear well enough for most purposes. I depend on my hearing to catch nuances, to interpret underlying meanings of what people say.

Garry used to be able — with hearing aids — to do that too. It was important in courtrooms, while interviewing people and of course, in relationships. It’s not only what someone says, but how he or she says it. Body language, facial expressions … it’s all part of the communications package. But his hearing is worse now and much of this ability to catch the subtler part of speech has been lost.

The silence of the woods after a heavy snow

The profound silence of the woods after a heavy snow

When the hearing part goes, other senses have to compensate — but nothing quite fills the gap.

I am forever asking Garry if he heard “it.” Sometimes “it” is me. He often behaves as if he heard me though he didn’t — but he thinks he did. Sometimes, he didn’t hear exactly what I said. Or notice I was speaking at all. It takes him a while to process sound, to put words in order and make them mean something. It isn’t instant, the way it is for someone with normal hearing. He has to pause and wait for his brain to catch up. Sometimes, he puts the puzzle together wrong because he heard only pieces and what he missed was important.

There’s also the “what?” factor. How many times can anyone say “excuse me, can you repeat that” before he/she feels like an idiot?

Human speech is not the whole story. There is music, soft and loud. The funny noise coming from the car’s engine, the scratching of a dog locked in the closet. Birds singing. A cry for help from a distance.

Garry can’t hear any of that. He could, years ago. So he misses it. He doesn’t hear the beep of a truck backing up. Or the sound of the water in our pipes which means someone’s using the shower. The little grinding noise of a hard drive going bad. Or an alarm ringing. The hum of the refrigerator.

All the little noises are lost to Garry.

What does silence sound like? When you hear only the very loudest noises, but none of the soft, little sounds? The explosion, but not a murmur? To be in that silence — always — is a different world.

- – – – -

* Answer: Three.You can ask someone to repeat something 3 times. After that you are too embarrassed to try again. This is true for everyone, not just people with hearing problems. We all encounter accents we don’t get, mumblers, and people who speak too fast or too softly.

JUST SHOW UP IN A TUX

We just celebrated our 24th  wedding anniversary. As I ponder the upcoming 25th, I hear distant bells. I remember the wedding. The thrill of ultimate victory, the agony of getting there. How, by the time I got to the altar, I was a nervous wreck, but Garry was cool as the proverbial cucumber and looked dashing in his tuxedo.

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Photo by Bette Stevens

After it was clearly established that we were definitely, unquestionably, without any doubt, getting married, it came down to details. Dates. Rings. Caterers. Bakers. Flowers. Music. Photography. Videography. And (trumpets) a ceremony.

I had been married twice before — okay, three times, because I’d been married in a registry office in London, then the whole Jewish medieval ceremony in Jerusalem. Having been there and done that. I wanted to elope or maximum, go to city hall, have the mayor marry us. He would have. We knew the guy. We could have been married at City Hall, I’d toss a bouquet, someone would throw some confetti, and voilà. Married. After that, us and our actual friends could all go out for Chinese.

Garry wanted a Real Wedding.

He was 48 years old. Never married. This would be his one and only wedding and by golly, he was going to Do It Right.

“I want a real wedding. In the church in which I grew up. In New York,” says Garry. “And I want my old pastor to officiate.”

“Pastor G. is retired … like fifteen years ago.”

“I’m sure we can work it out.” When he said we, I thought he meant he and I would do this thing together. Because where I come from, that’s what we means. I was deluded.

“Why can’t we just have something here in Boston? New York is 250 miles away. You haven’t lived there in nearly 30 years. Everyone you know except your parents are up here or in another part of the country entirely.”

Garry’s face is set. Stony. He wants a hometown wedding in the church he attended as a child. With the minister he had when he was a kid. Did I mention my husband is stubborn? He is very stubborn.

“This is going to be a lot of work. It’s hard to plan a wedding long distance,” I point out. “And I have a job too, in case you’ve forgotten.” Garry is unfazed.

“We can,” he repeats, “Work it out.” There was that we again.

“Fine,” I eventually agree. “We’ll have a wedding. In New York. At your church.”

There were caterers to hire. Music to be arranged. A bagpiper (don’t ask). Battles over the guest list. A cake to be designed. The cake was my favorite part. It went like this. Having settled on a vanilla cake with lemon filling, we needed to decide on decorations.

“Do you want the bride and groom in white or black?”

“Can we have one of each?” No, we could not. In 1990, they do not have a mixed couple cake topper. I offer to take a marker and paint the groom black, but inexplicably, Garry finds this objectionable. I suggest they take two sets and cut them in half, but it is deemed too complicated. In the end, I opt for wedding bells, the DMZ of wedding cake toppers.

So, Garry got his wedding. It was (for him) as simple as simple could be. Marilyn arranged the wedding. Garry showed up in a tux.

You see? We worked it out.

JUDY COLLINS, AMAZING GRACE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Marilyn and I had been looking forward to the Judy Collins concert for months. Marilyn bought the tickets last January before her complicated heart surgery. At the time, I wondered if she was being extravagant given our tight budget. I was very wrong. Marilyn figured the concert would give us something to look forward to in the months while she struggled to recover from the surgery.  It’s taken a toll on her body and spirits.

The concert? She was right.

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It didn’t seem particularly right during the long drive into Boston yesterday. Intermittent heavy rain showers made the usually easy Sunday drive a challenge. Often the traffic looked like something out of “Wagon Train.” Yet, by the time we got to Boston, it was all good. A handicapped parking space was available directly in front of the theater — like on television or in the movies. And the rain stopped, just like that.

judy collins concert

We took a quick scan of nearby restaurants and Japanese got our attention. We chowed down on sushi and tempura with plenty of time to spare to make our 7 pm curtain. Marilyn took pictures and we watched as the crowds arrived for the Collins concert. The audience appeared to be three-quarters casually dressed baby boomers. Our kind of folks.

And suddenly, it was time to pack up the camera and find the tickets. Showtime!

wilbur theater judy collins

The Wilber is an old theatre. Built in 1914, it’s rather cozy inside and they have arranged the orchestra level as a dinner theater. Both of us had been to the Wilbur in the past, though not recently, so it was a bit of a shock to see how it had changed. Instead of theater seats, there were high, padded bar stools. Wait staff brought refreshments.

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Sometimes you anticipate, but are disappointed. The moment Judy Collins walked on stage, the evening turned magical. Judy Collins has — at 74 years old — not only kept her voice, but improved it. I had not realized what a skilled pianist she is, either. Her musicianship was remarkable and it perfectly suited the cozy theater.

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She entertained with a preferred list of her most popular songs. Folk, Broadway and Standards. There was no forced chit-chat but shared stories and memories of professional life across half a century. Most of the audience, including me, were nodding and smiling. It was our story too. The artists and  music of our generation. The music that was the background to our lives.

The songs brought back a flood of memories. “Send In The Clowns” reminded me of my days in TV news dealing with politicians. “Danny Boy,” always a sentimental favorite, took me back to our honeymoon in Ireland where I discovered my Irish roots. I was smiling with tears in my eyes.

theater district judy collins

I thought the concert was over as Judy Collins thanked her pianist-music director while blowing kisses to the audience. It couldn’t be over. Not yet.

It wasn’t over!

Marilyn reassured me as Judy Collins began to sing “Amazing Grace.” Our song. That was the song the bag piper played at our wedding. That our friend sang. Apparently it was everyone’s song because Judy invited the audience to join in and go for the harmony. We sang and filled the 100-year old Wilbur Theater with our voices.

Magic time! We held the last words of “Amazing Grace” for long minutes, the music and our voices echoing through the venerable theater.

A night to remember!

STAY CLEAR OF LANDMINES

Happy Radars – Are you a good judge of other people’s happiness? Tell us about a time you were spot on despite external hints to the contrary (or, alternatively, about a time you were dead wrong).


This is one of Those Prompts which I could answer it in one word. Or I could write book. I’m inclined to be one-word-ish on this. I think I’m an excellent judge of what is really going on if:

  1. I know the people intimately
  2. Spend more than a few minutes with them
  3. I have my radar turned on.

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I’m not a particularly astute judge of strangers unless I have some urgent reason to be. Moreover, I prefer to avoid intruding on friends’ personal business unless I feel I’ve been invited in. Even then, I tread softly. Other people’s private lives are a minefield. You can get blown to pieces if you don’t watch out.

So mostly, I don’t intrude. Most especially, I don’t judge and I don’t take sides.

Taking sides is how you lose friends and body parts.

OUR STORY – 51 YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP, 24 YEARS OF MARRIAGE

I was 18 when I got married the summer between the junior and senior years of college. I was working at the radio station. Jeff, my first husband, was Station Manager. Garry, my now and forever husband, was Program Director. The two were best friends. We all met in 1963 and there it began.

Thirteen years later, I walked away from my first marriage. It wasn’t horrible. Merely empty. A good friendship. As a marriage, nothing much.

Off to Israel I went with my son. I was in Israel for just under 9 years and for all the years, Garry wrote me letters. Every week, two or three letters, always typed in capital letters and mailed special delivery arrived in my mail box. I began to think of them as my fan mail. I lived from letter to letter, carried the most recent one with me until the paper on which it was written fell apart.

Gar and Mar in Dublin 1990

No one writes real letters anymore. Email has eliminated personal mail. But those letters were so wonderful. I carried one or two of them with me wherever I went. Garry told me I was wonderful. He reminded me someone thought I was an amazing woman.

I wrote letters to Garry too and when I got back to the States, I found he had saved them all. A drawer full of letters. Obviously something was going on. I’m sure we both had known for a long time, but had not been ready to deal with the implications. Now, we were ready.

I don’t think either Garry or I has written a letter to anyone else since.

August 1987.

I was back.

With a little help from a friend, I got a job in the Boston area. Garry and I became “an item.” The previous decade hadn’t dealt kindly with either of us and we saw one another with new eyes. We’d always been a little in love, but there always a reason why it was the wrong time to do something about it. Garry was 48 and had never been married, though he’d hardly been living a monk’s life. The time had come.

How did I finally get him to propose? It was all him. Really.

I’d been in California for a couple of weeks on business. I’d come back early because I came down with the flu. That turned out to be just as well, because the big earthquake — the one that stopped that year’s World Series — happened the day after I left. If I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under a collapsed highway.

Garry was glad to see me … until I coughed. Then he wasn’t so glad. What is the definition of “mixed emotions?” A man in love who knows that first kiss is going to give him the flu. Definition of true love? He kissed me anyway. And got the flu.

After we stopped coughing, we went to dinner. Our favorite restaurant, Jimmy’s Harborside, was only a mile away on the harbor, but it took nearly an hour to get there. Garry was nervous and kept looping around Leverett Circle, missing the turn off. He was telling me how real estate prices were down and maybe we should buy a place. Live together. Forever. Would that be okay with me?

So I listened for a pretty long time because this was the most unexpected speech I’d ever heard. I never expected Garry to marry me. I never thought he’d marry anyone. Finally, I said: “So you want to buy a house. Move in and live together? As in get married?”

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“All of that,” he said and looped around one more time.

“I definitely need a drink,” I said.

The following morning, I asked Garry if I could tell my friends. He said “Tell them what?”

“That we’re getting married,” I said.

“We are?”

“You said we should buy a house and live together forever.”

“Yes,” he agreed

“So we’re getting married. You proposed.”

“That’s a proposal?” he asked. “I didn’t think it was a proposal.”

“You want to buy a house with me and live together forever. If it’s not a proposal, what is it?”

“Just an idea,” he said.

“It’s a proposal,” I assured him. A couple of weeks later, I suggested a ring might be in order. And setting a date. He moved through these steps looking like a deer in headlights, but eventually, he realized all he had to do was show up in a tux and he’d be married. That he could do. We were living together anyway, so …

We were wedded 6 months later having known each other a mere 26 years.

Garry and I celebrate our 24th anniversary today. We have both mellowed. We know each other so well. We know each others faces. I know when he hurts. He knows if I’m upset. It doesn’t mean we don’t squabble, but it does mean we never stop caring and loving and being there for each other.

The man who was never going to get married has become as close to a perfect husband as a woman has any right to hope for. I often think, with my endless health problems, he’s gotten a lemon and should return me to the dealer. Get a wife with a warranty. But he likes this model, however decrepit.

It doesn’t seem like 24 years. I don’t know where time has gone. Turns out, when you find the right one, time flies.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO US

yellow roses anniversary bouquet

It’s 24 years of married life for Marilyn and Garry. Where did the time go? It seems just yesterday we were newlyweds. Sometimes, I still feel like a newlywed.

anniversary roses bouquet

It’s Monday, September 15th … and we would very much like to go out to dinner to celebrate. But every restaurant (and hairdresser) in Massachusetts is closed on Mondays. Unless we want to celebrate at Mickey D’s place — and we don’t — we’ll have to hold off till tomorrow.

yellow roses anniversary bouquet

Meanwhile, Garry brought me a bouquet of bright yellow roses. They perfume the air, a much better scent than we usually have around our dog-ridden living room

yellow roses anniversary bouquet

Going to make this a lazy day … so see you all tomorrow!