Made it home from Firenze, safe and sound. The only missing ingredient on our trip was the comfort and familiarity of family and friends; the ones you’re reminded of when you see a certain something or who would have loved to have experienced taking a class with you (you know who you are); or the people you miss seeing every single day, because they somehow always find a way to make every moment with you extra special (you also know who you are). The trip home was uneventful and smooth. I watched Shaft and Yesterday on the way over, and Beautiful Darkness, Booksmart and Bottom of the 9th on the way back, which took care of about 6 of our 7.5 hours in flight. Just to prove how shallow I am, the best line in all those movies was the part where Shaft’s ex-wife’s date says, “He’s a bad mother …” and she says, “Shut your fucking mouth!” I laughed so hard, y’all, and everyone on the plane looked at Dane apologetically. Yup, that’s me! Anyway by the time we landed at DTW and got off the plane, my butt was so numb it needed a few rounds of squats just to get the blood flowing in my glutes again.
It truly was a wonderful trip. A delicious way to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. As I’ve grown older, travel has become less about things to buy and much more about the richness of the experience – what we learn about other countries and their people; how the kindnesses of a single individual or the dismissiveness of many can make all the difference. It’s also about what we learn about ourselves – about appreciating all that we have – what we’ve worked hard and fought for – our relationships, our jobs, the challenges – our lives; and how we react to the affects and influences of other forces in our little universe.
Our hotel room – No. 511 at the Hotel Laurus al Duomo – was so cozy. Our queen-size bed was perfectly firm. Even the pillows were remarkably comfortable. The shower was too small for Dane and the water a little to tepid for me, but we made do. A concierge was available 24/7. A complementary breakfast was served each day on the 6th floor from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m., comprising coffee, tea, juices, toasts, jams, fruits, cheeses, scrambled eggs, sausages and cooked ham. The cafe and tea rooms connected to the hotel were quiet and convenient. Throughout Florence, meals were highly affordable and, for the most part, delicious. The sights were incredible – breathtaking and truly mind-boggling. It took 140 years for the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore to be completed. What history and beauty! We saw riches beyond our imagination. And poverty – women – most of them advanced in years – sitting quietly or walking about wrapped in blankets and plastic bags, collecting coins from tourists adorned in high-end, high-fashion jackets or furs. We were approached by several individuals from other countries, “giving” away handmade gifts, then asking for a couple of Euros, and one man who said he has a passport and two young children and was just trying to get home; he promised he wasn’t a drug user or a bad person, he just needed a few more Euros to get home. Poverty, climate control, hunger – we saw first hand that these concerns exist in Florence just as they do throughout the United States.
I learned a lot about myself – my love of language and etymology, both English and foreign; my love of art. If I could afford to do whatever I wanted to make a living, I’d have been an artist and a writer. I have a deeper appreciation for those who chose art as their profession, whether they’re able to make it work or struggle to be true to their choice. It’s not easy.
Our trip affirmed that Dane and I are two very different individuals. Our differences sometimes irritate (me) and exasperate (him), but they’re also what makes us tick. Like most normal couples, we argue about silly little things. After 25 years of marriage, we got to know each other really well. Yet, Dane and I are still discovering new things about each other, which I love. Marriage takes a lot of effort to get right. And patience and understanding. Trust. Honesty. Commitment. Luck. It takes a lot to not lose yourself and to maintain your identity as an individual but to also remain deeply in love and in sync as a couple.
His curiosity; his desire to ponder and understand how things work are so innate to him. What appears to be his aversion to change and perplexing phenomena is prompted by his need to understand the difference, not an intolerance FOR the difference. That’s just how his brain is wired. My big, lumbering, scraggly man of a man takes time to smell and understand the roses, the stars, the universe, people and things. If we don’t get to it all, at least we got to what we did. I, on the other hand, smell the roses and all the flowers, along with the perfumes and foods – down to the precise ingredients – onions, fennel, pancetta and the aroma of coffee – commingled with the horse dung, sewage and garbage. I smell every single thing all. at. once. I am impatient. I want to walk faster, listen harder and see everything, so hurry and keep up, and say what you have to say, because I’m soaking it all in. I’m seeing and absorbing everything before time runs out, and I always feel like we’ve got to finish it all, because if I we don’t, we’ll run out of time and still, I don’t want to be pushed and I don’t want you to interpret what I’m seeing for me, so … shhh. I want to see for myself what I want to see. You could otherwise throw off my groove and once it’s in my rearview mirror, I may never, ever get the chance to see it again. When I ask a question, I’m not looking for an explanation, I’m on the fast track for the answer. If you don’t have it, just say so. Don’t explain to me what I already know; I’m not an idiot, and frankly, I’d prefer to figure it all out on my own. I don’t like being asked questions for which there is no way I could possibly have an answer, such as, “Why is he going that way?” Don’t ask me, ask HIM! I speed through life and you have to keep up or get out of my way. I’ll come back for you but I can’t stop moving forward. If you want to help me, do it well or you’re not really helping at all. Talk less. Don’t tell me what I should see or do. Yes, I readily acknowledge that I can be a difficult person, and I’ll keep going until I or we get it done. If I need to recharge, give me four, maybe five hours of sleep, and I’ll give you up to 36 solid hours. I am disappointed when my to-do list cannot be completed. I’m harder on the people I love than on others, because I expect more from them, but I am fiercely protective of them, and my love knows no bounds.
My brain is conditioned to get shit done. I work in a world where deadlines constantly nag me; where the workload is intense and where there’s little tolerance or margin for error, especially from the perspectives of our customers and taxpayers; where problems arise and I am expected to solve them. I’m sort of like mission control but on a lesser scale. I’m about process – have one that works infallibly, and stick with it. Keep an eye on and tweak it when needed. Dane’s more about the best process. Figuring it out may be a journey. When he became grumpy about not wanting espresso or any coffee with milk; that he just wanted a good dark-roast coffee, I inferred it as an intolerance for Italian coffees and became irritated by what I perceived was an inability on his part to accept that his version of American coffee doesn’t and shouldn’t exist in Italy. He explained that he doesn’t even like American coffee, based on his experience; he’s been searching for the perfect dark-roast coffee that even he has difficulty trying to explain, and for which no one – not even the good old USA – has an answer. But our son, Kiffer (the barista) did. He wanted to call Kiffer and ask for a recommendation.
Dane’s on a different plane. Thoughtful. Deep. Philosophical. Intelligent. He reads for knowledge; keeps up with politics, world events. He doesn’t necessarily want to understand; he NEEDS to understand. I’m more like, ain’t nobody got time for that shit. But the truth is, I wish I could be more like him. He’s everything I’m not. Smarter (like genius-smart). Sweeter. Chattier (way, way, waaayyy chattier). Likable. Lovable. Got a problem? You want this guy on your team, because he’ll find the answer. He’s got people with people who’ll help him find the answer. It might take a few hours, months, years, but he’ll find the answer or tell it to you straight – no one has an answer. If they do, it’ll cost you a ridiculous amount of money, time, resources. Practical. He’s a good person. A great father. He is definitely the better half, and I adore him. My hands were made to fit in his. He tells the corniest jokes – like seriously bad dad jokes. Sometimes I tell him I don’t get it, and then I have to endure his explanation, but when it clicks, I’m howling. And the best part of that is the sheer exuberance on his face. He’ll look at me lovingly (possibly on the verge of tears) and say, “I love it when you laugh.”
I love that something as simple as a smile or a laugh can make this man so happy and that I am the one lucky enough to do that for him.
Here’s to the next 25 years together, babe.