Monday, April 02, 2007

F-U-N and Wisdom from Robert Frost

Today's Post by Andy

So the silent male finally speaks. Hasn’t it been this way since the garden?

I guess it would be pretty easy for me to ride the wave of Michelle’s last post and lay it on thick with some self-promotion. My goodness—her words combined with that picture make me seem like prince charming. I could boast that I’ve always been that attentive and tuned in to my wife’s needs. I could explain that sensitivity just comes easy to me. But that wouldn’t be the truth.

In her last post, Michelle referenced Genesis 3 concerning God’s punishment of Eve. There is something else about that story that’s always intrigued me though: Adam’s silence. There’s no protesting as the serpent hoodwinks his wife. No indication that he even participates in the conversation. It’s bizarre—we don’t even hear Adam speak until God comes looking for the couple in the garden and addresses the man specifically. And even then, when he finally opens his mouth, Adam’s answer is embarrassingly deflective:

“The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Translation: “It’s her fault. It’s your fault. I was just an innocent bystander!” Lame.

Unfortunately, I must admit that, like my father Adam, I’m a little slow on the uptake.

During the first year or so of our struggle with infertility, I was in la-la land. Obviously, I knew the facts of what was happening, but I wasn’t really invested in them. Here’s the thing: when you first start trying to have a baby, it’s a pretty fun process. Lots of fun, lots of the time. Then, when you don’t get pregnant in that first month, it actually gets even more fun for a little while. Then the fun suddenly gets very regimented and becomes a little less fun. Then all of a sudden there’s one perfect day to have fun amidst a bunch of other days when it’s not as opportune to have fun. At this point, the twenty something male (who’s overwhelmed with career stress and so has very little patience for un-fun things) checks out.

Maybe I wasn’t fully ready to have a baby when we started trying. It’s very likely Michelle’s enthusiasm was the only thing driving that train for the first year. I kind of wanted kids, but she really, really wanted a baby. Really. And so, passively and without protest, I complied. After all, it was fun.

The problem with all this was that a chasm was developing between the two of us that could have ended up disastrous: she wanting a baby with every fiber of her being, and I kind of wanting a baby but really just along for the ride. I was not exactly "with" her in the struggle, and it was only by the grace of God that I snapped out of my emotional coma before things got really ugly.

There is a Robert Frost poem called “Home Burial” that is basically a dialogue between a husband and wife whose relationship is disintegrating. The details are a bit fragmented, but it’s clear that the wife’s frustration with her husband is linked to his response to the death of their child. Throughout the poem, he is emotionless and matter-of-fact. He speaks of the child’s grave as if it’s just another mound of dirt. The poem ends with the wife on her way out the front door while the husband threatens to follow and bring her back by force. I was in college the first time I read this poem, and it has haunted me ever since. I think it’s because, deep down, I know I have the potential to be that kind of husband—I carry the curse of my gender.

Thankfully, much as He clothed Adam and Eve in the garden after their sin, God had mercy on me. The story of that process will come later.

So we didn’t end up like that couple from “Home Burial.” It’s funny though—I told Michelle recently that I’m probably somewhere around two years behind her in the grieving process of all this. She agreed, quickly. She didn’t even have to think about it. Ouch.

Next Post: 4/5/07 by Michelle

1 comment:

Leigh Ann said...

Love to read your writing Andy...
I really do. You have always had a way with words, though I realize right now that I really never read anything that you write - only hear your words in songs... in any case - they bless me friend.