I’ve changed my position on business travel. My very first post described the hardship I endure when Matt takes a business trip. I don’t get a break from Rose and we get very bored by ourselves. But this last trip was just what we needed.
Last week, Matt went to Hong Kong. It was his first trip to Asia and he got very excited. I was excited for him. Sure, he was leaving us again, but things have changed. For one thing, we now have a housemate so Rose and I have someone to keep us company while Matt’s away. Eric gets home early and breaks up our afternoons. He helps with dinner, dishes and trash. He babysits. Everyone should have a housemate like that. I don’t know how we got along without him or what we’ll do when he’s gone.
The other thing: before Matt left, his charms were wearing thin. The Tuesday before he left, Rose woke up and vomited on the rug. “Do you want me to stay home?” he asked, quickly adding, “I don’t want to get sick before Hong Kong.” Well, shoot, if you don’t really mean it, don’t say anything. “Come on, I’ve got to catch the bus,” he pushed. Even though it was month-end and I desperately needed to work, I let him go. He obviously didn’t want to stay home and if he did, he’d be angry all day. Come to think of it, every time he stays home sick with Rose he’s angry about it. I don’t need that.
But I did need to stay mad. Someone explained to me that offering to stay home with Rose then quickly taking it back was a typical guy thing. He wanted credit for offering without ever having intended to follow through. That pissed me off even more. If he’d led off with, “I’m sorry, I can’t get sick before my trip,” I could have accepted it, never having the prospect of help dangled in front of me. But he didn’t. So I was mad.
I intended to stay mad at him until after his trip, but we wound up talking about it. He told me that he did mean to volunteer, but quickly thought about the prospect of getting sick, and then didn’t have time to make a decision because he had to get to the bus. Just like it sounded that morning.
By the time he left, I had forgiven him, but his guy stuff was still grating on me. The recycling was stacked high atop the can. The pile of cardboard and plastic from the new couch sat in the driveway, to the assured delight of our neighbors. I was ready for him to go.
Right before he left, he found out his phone wouldn’t work overseas. He was going to get a new one but time got away from him before the trip. So once he left, he had only email as a means of communication. He tried to call from the hotel but the call wouldn’t go through. So every day around 5 p.m. we exchanged emails. Matt’s much more of a talker than a writer, so I got three-sentence descriptions of Hong Kong. I wanted to hear more and see pictures. But I had to wait until he returned for that. He did call, three days in, from his office. Chatty as ever, he told me about the high-speed train he took from the airport, how he ate frog uterus for dessert and how dense and busy a city Hong Kong was. I had really missed talking to him. It was the first time in five years we hadn’t talked every day.
Then the day before he left Hong Kong, I got an email. It said that his life really started when he met me and without me, his job, his trip, his expanded view of the world, would not have been possible. He said everything he ever wanted – a beautiful wife, a great kid and a good job – was because of me. I melted. I sent him an equally sentimental response and couldn’t wait for his return.
Matt got back yesterday and I couldn’t have been happier to see him. The break from that guy who let the recycling go and faked an offer to help made me realize that he was the same guy who planned an elaborate marriage proposal three years ago. The boat rocked too much for the band to play, it was too dark to see and someone handed me a beer right before he did it, but he got down on one knee and told me how much I’d changed his life and how he wanted to spend the rest of his years with me. He’s the same guy who’s taken on “diaper and jammies” because he knows that by bedtime, I’m exhausted from taking care of Rose all day. He’s the same guy who brought me a Blues Brothers shirt from Chicago, even when I was mad at him for ruining our holiday weekend.
He’s the same guy I married. Day to day life can make the pile of recycling and the redneck garbage in the driveway seem like the most important issues in our relationship, but they’re not. Our time apart taught us that remembering what we’re doing together in the first place is most important. And when we suffered from limited communication, we still managed to communicate the things that mattered most.