I Love Lovie

me and my lovely girlfriend, Lovie, 2005.

Many of you may be surprised to learn that Lovie and I have known each other since the Carter administration. We went to school together from 1980 until 1987 when Lovie, a year ahead of me, graduated and went off to college. For the better part of those seven years, I had a crush on her. But I also considered her to be out of my league, so during our school days, I remained nothing more than a distant and respectful admirer.

Me and Lovie on her 40th

In 1988, it was my turn to graduate. I went to college at Vanderbilt, then, after earning my degree, I moved to Seattle to begin a ten-year career in the world of finance. Aside from a wedding we both attended in Telluride, Lovie and I would not spend any significant time together for nearly seventeen years. When our paths finally crossed again, Lovie was a single mom going through the final stages of a divorce, and I was a single moron, carrying on a dysfunctional relationship with someone ten years my junior.

I fell for Lovie almost immediately. Two years later, we were married.

With Valentine’s Day mere hours away, I’m giving Lovie a special shout-out by posting a poem I wrote for her, a poem that I read to her on March 3, 2006–a poem that served as my proposal to her.

Thank God she said yes. Why? Because I love Lovie. And here’s what I read to her on that cold night nearly four years ago to prove it…

*  *  *

this life of mine has taken turns and proved to have its spots
where things got tough and beat me up and left me with some thoughts.
like could i ever hope to find a more fulfilling place?
upon my quest, i prayed for strength, but all i lacked was faith.

but not the faith i have in God–His grace provides me that.
but faith that love like yours exists was something that i lacked.
eventually i told myself to thank my lucky stars
though deep inside, my soul believed no love would fill my heart.

and then you finally crossed my path as pretty as the days
of saddle oxfords, pleaded skirts, and all your high-school ways.
at first i held my guard up high to keep my heart on track.
because you seemed too good to me to ever love me back.

but now it’s finally safe to say my skeptic thoughts were wrong.
your love has come into my heart to sing the sweetest song.
because i thought i’d never find a girl as pure as you,
it’s time for you to hear the things i promise God i’ll do.

i promise God to hold you dear and keep you safe and sound,
to love both you and pookie, too, like nothing else around.
to put you two where you belong, the center of my life.
to make you live inside my heart as daughter and as wife.

to signify this vow i’ll make, i ask you now to have
this special, priceless, brilliant ring  your mom got from your dad.
i’ll love you true, and promise you the pain is all behind.
so marry me, my baby, please, my lovie, caroline.

jco
03.03.06
cfo

Get Real

Lovie and I got married in 2006. She was a thirty-seven-year-old single mom to Pookie, and I was a thirty-six-year-old, semi-professional bachelor. Despite our relatively advanced age, we knew before we even tied the knot that we wanted to have a child together.

A child, mind you. At least that was my thinking. Lovie thought that more than one might be nice. “Let’s just focus on having one,” I offered. “Then we can see how we feel about having another.”

Obviously the news that we were expecting triplets tabled any future conversations concerning more children. Or so I thought. One night, when our trio was just six months old, Lovie casually mentioned to me that sometimes she thought it would be “funny” if she were to get pregnant again.

There were many adjectives that came to my mind with such a scenario, but funny was not among them. After all, in trying for a simple addition to bring us just below the national family average, we had somehow become the Waltons in one fell swoop. I wasn’t convinced that my potent brand of semen could be trusted to produce only one more. With my luck, I’d knock Lovie up with quintuplets. Then we’d be burdened with our own reality show:

John and Caroline Plus Nine

I don’t know about you, but one-upping the Gosselins didn’t sound like anything that I would ever consider even remotely “funny.” What if she wanted more after that and we duplicated our inaugural effort with yet another set of triplets? Talk about reality shows.

Our Good Lovin’ Made a Dozen? I don’t think so.

In December, I read that Kate Gosselin has a new show in the works. Frankly, it scared the hell out of me. After all, America needs more Kate Gosselin like Lovie and I need more children. If TV execs could possibly think that such a show was a good idea, I knew it was possible that Lovie just might relapse and again ponder the hilarity that would ensue with the addition of more children to our brood. Accordingly, I thought it would be prudent if I armed myself with TV show titles that would discourage such insanity.

Even If We Tried, Her Tubes Are Tied

But her tubes aren’t tied. So that didn’t make sense.

No More Trips ‘Cause John Got Snipped

Only I haven’t been snipped. And I never will get snipped. I’m scared of the knife, and I certainly don’t want to duplicate my good cyber-buddy Ron Mattock’s recent procedure. Besides, I hate frozen peas. The last thing I wanna do is sit on them.

Lovie’s Bod Will Not House Quads

Not bad. But that title left a little too much wiggle room for my liking. Technically, it allowed for the possibility of Lovie’s petite frame housing fewer than four. And then I came up with it–the perfect title for the only reality show I would ever consider when it came to our family—no matter what Lovie had to say about it.

Ain’t No Maybes—No More Babies

Luckily, it’s been nearly two years since Lovie has mentioned anything about the humorous act of adding to our family roster, so my clever title has not been necessary.

But you never know.

That’s why I’ve got it. Just in case.

Momma-palooza

All three of our toddlers are currently going through a no-one-but-Mommy phase. Though I do perfectly fine with them on my own, the second Caroline enters the room, I magically turn into chopped liver. With mold on it. This is way more than a mild preference for Mommy’s soft touch over Daddy’s two-day stubble. It’s a primal feeling deep within their souls—one that usually manifests itself in Daddy rejection and Mommy chasing, the onset of which is marked by screaming, flailing, even spasmodic rolling as if I’d just doused them with a cauldron of scalding water.

Honestly? I’m starting to develop a complex. During such tirades, I’m frozen with insecurity. Seeing the three of them fight for position as they scratch and tug on Caroline with six needy hands makes me want to intervene and pick one of them up. But I know such an effort would be futile, for if I dare approach, the screaming, scratching, and tugging would become even worse. Scalding water, remember? So I remain frozen, a living, breathing second fiddle; Robin to Caroline’s Batman–the man of the house reduced to a mere boy wonder.

Boy, wonder what I should do?

“Get over here!” Caroline wants to scream like a mind reader, and often does. Like me, she knows it would make matters worse, yet her desperation is sometimes powerful enough to trick her into thinking that maybe this time will be different. But it won’t be, as upon my approach, the babies will wail louder than seems possible, causing aircraft engines to run for their earplugs, and me to retreat back to my frozen insecurity. The wails will then relent (a little), but the non-stop pawing is just beginning, and poor Caroline will be unable to find even a moment’s respite for at least an hour.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Sam, Jack, and Kirby are like fussy paparazzi chasing their favorite rock star longing to be held by the celebrity of her soft, safe love. I’ve officially named this phenomenon Mommapalooza, and truth be told, I’m a little fed up with it. Where’s the love for Daddy? I mean seriously, I’m money on the grill not to mention the fact that I build one hell of a fire. And where, exactly, do at least two of these three little monsters think they’d be without my potent and relentless brand of semen? Hmm? It’s time I got a little attention around here my-damn-self.

After some brainstorming, I finally figured out how. If I wanted to be appreciated like my wife, then I had to act like my wife.

I could drive with a quarter of my normal ability, making other drivers wish my SUV was made of nerf as I barrel down the road while I simultaneously check my lipstick, chat on my cell, and hand Jack his blankie.

I’ll also make preposterously delicious meals, then lament that they’re no good.

With little or no effort, I’ll emerge from the bathroom looking smoking-hot, before complaining about my weight.

I’ll be the one able to decode ANYTHING our triplets utter, successfully translating nonsensical words like bobbie into real words like pacifier, all the while remembering to feign ignorance when it comes to understanding even the simplest things my spouse says.

I’ll leave the grilling and fire-building to her. She’ll also take out the trash, change the light bulbs, and stuff like that. After all, for this plan to work, not only do I need to start acting like her—she has to start acting like me.

Oh shit. Wait. Does that mean she’ll leave crumpled-up paper towels all over the place? Will she walk aimlessly throughout the house on a never-ending quest for her car keys? She better not be constantly watching football. After all, for me to be like her, there’s bound to be some bullshit CSI I’ll need to fall asleep to. How can I do that if she’s locked into Monday Night Football? She’s not even rooting for either team. She’s on the under.

What if she becomes neurotic? Surely she won’t think of sixty different ways to ask me how the smoked turkey turned out, will she? She won’t demand that I rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being high, right?

What if she starts asking me to categorize everything in terms of enjoyment? “Honey, was that not as fun as you thought it would be, as much fun as you thought it would be, or more fun than you thought it would be?” Oh NO! You don’t think she’ll start losing hair (rather ungracefully) on her pate, do you?

I suppose it wouldn’t matter–I’d love her anyway. But if she starts obsessing on whether to use “which” or “that” in any given sentence, I just may have to call this damn thing off. After all, I can barely stand it when I pull that kind of shit. Think how frustrated I’d be witnessing someone else doing it!

Caroline marched into our room in the middle of my brainstorming session as if she had something important to say. “Honey,” she began, “I’ve had it up to my ears in babies. I’m leaving town.”

Holy shit! That’s terrible. Where could she be going?

“Holy cow! That’s terrific. Where will you be going?”

“To the mountains with my Bible study group. I’ll be gone for one night. Think you can handle it?”

Puh-lease. Caroline may be the headliner, but when it comes to understudies, I’m as capable as it gets. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how great I did the last time she left town.

This afternoon, I went upstairs and woke the babies from their nap at four. We played for a while before heading downstairs where they sat on the potty and I waited for Alli to get home from school. My four children and I went through the same evening routine we always do, just not as fluidly. I fought through the inevitable disappointment that came when the trips realized that Mommy wasn’t home. I tried not to be upset when their tempers flared. I tried to not be heartbroken when our baby girl gave me a forlorn look while repeatedly asking “Mommy, bye bye?” in a disbelieving and barely-audible voice. Together, the five of us muscled through the best we could, each of my children all too aware that the star of the show was not on stage with us.

It’s now half past nine, and suddenly it’s me who’s just now realized that Mommy’s not home. It’s me who’s disappointed, and, yes, even a bit forlorn. I hate it when she’s away. It’s so different without her—just a house, not the home she magically makes it.

No wonder the babies carry on and on about her. She is a rock star. And unlike me, they’re smart enough to realize it each and every single moment, not just the ones she’s not around.

At least I’m still money on the grill.

Different Routes to the Exact Same Place

If opposites really do attract, then I suppose Caroline and I are no exception. She’s the picture of well-organized domesticity while I’m the picture of chaotic bachelor dumbass-ticity. She stocks the fridge. I raid the pantry. She’s big on room service. I like cooking over a campfire. She could spend two hours in The Container Store looking for sub-containers to better organize her containers. I could spend two hours looking for my keys. Our dog, Briggs, makes her sneeze. Our dog, Briggs, makes me laugh. And the list goes on and on.

Accordingly we have very different parenting philosophies. She’s a choose-your-battles kind of gal while I’m more of a give-them-an-inch-and-they’ll-take-a-mile guy. Last night, with the bases loaded (all three of our two-year-olds sitting on their respective potties), our conflicting styles clashed. Jack was reluctant to stay on his potty because he wanted the toy computer. I quickly told him that wasn’t an option. “Just let him have it, honey,” said Caroline. “He can play with it while he’s doing his business.”

Feeling strongly that this was a bad call, I did what any smart, self-respecting husband would do. I caved. (After all, my husbanding philosophy happens to be Caroline’s parenting philosophy.) Still, I couldn’t help but to offer up my two cents.

“Fine, but don’t blame me if he turns into a ten-year-old who can’t take a shit without riding his bicycle into the bathroom.”

Dejected, I left the potty-training station and moved on to the homework station where our eight-year-old was having difficulty with her currency-oriented math assignment. If you offered a dollar for an apple that cost sixty-five cents, which two coins would you get back as change, and how many cents would those coins equal? While the answer is obvious—a quarter and a dime totaling thirty-five cents—Alli asked at least that many clarifying questions before eventually figuring it out.

Our math exploits were interrupted by a ruckus from the potty-training station. Jack had taken a whiz on the computer keyboard. I rolled my eyes at Caroline, giving her my best I-told-you-so look. “I don’t want to hear it,” she said. “The only reason why I let him have the computer is because I’m desperate for results! Do you realize that he hasn’t pooped since Sunday morning?”

Two and a half days without dropping the deuce? It seemed like Alli wasn’t the only one having a hard time breaking a dollar. Eventually our academic and scatological endeavors ran their course, and when they did, Alli took little Sammy upstairs to play in her room while Caroline bathed Jack. She felt the chore was beyond my capabilities due to Jack’s legendary constipation which by that time had rendered him a listless, fleshy mass of humanity; one who sporadically shouted Poo poo! while pointing toward his bottom and shaking his head “no.” I gladly took a seat next to Kirby, our baby girl, excited for some one-on-one time with her.

Have you ever felt under-appreciated? The minute Caroline left to bathe Jack, Kirby threw a fit, wailing incessantly as tears streamed down her tiny cheeks. I tried all my usual tricks to make her stop, but nothing worked. She’s reached that age when, every now and then, only Mommy will do. Eventually sanity (along with potential noise code violations) necessitated a mid-bath swap. Caroline took Kirby and I finished bathing Jack, taking particular caution when cleaning near his, um, yes, well, you know, his, um…that.

Minutes later Alli came rushing downstairs carrying Sam, who was in hysterics and flailing wildly in her arms. The back of his shirt was covered in blood that was trickling down from his head. He had bumped it on the neck of Alli’s guitar (which she can’t play) during a three-song Hannah Montana lip-synching bender. Luckily, it looked a lot worse than it actually was, and as soon as we cleaned the little guy off, order was once again restored.

Just before bedtime, the entire family gathered in the nursery. I watched as the triplets took turns kissing each other goodnight, an act which Alli facilitated with comical (and obeyed) commands she issued in her baby voice. Our once strife-laden evening had transformed into a peaceful, tranquil one thanks to four very different children coming together to share an earnest and loving moment. A half hour before, when Alli was filled with questions, and backed-up Jack was filled with something else? When tears flowed freely from Kirby while blood did the same thing from Sam? Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I was left with but one question. How could four kids with such different personalities, each traveling a million miles an hour in vastly different directions come together through all that madness to share such love?

I glanced at my beautiful wife who was busy picking up the toys I would have waited until morning to straighten up, the woman who was not only the truest love I have ever known, but who was also my virtual opposite, and I suddenly found the answer to my question, more than a little disappointed that I even had to ask it.

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