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Just a Kid at Heart: For better or worse

By Steve Maanum

Someone once said that true retirement is when you wake up in the morning with nothing to do, and by the end of the day, you only got half of it done. We are at the point of life when schedules are not what they used to be. If we don’t get something done today, it can wait until tomorrow. My biggest chore each day is finding things. I am ‘The Finder.’ Deb and I play a challenging game of hide-and-seek. She loses something, and I spend my day searching for it. My life has become one big never-ending Easter egg hunt. She might lose her car keys or glasses or grocery list, so dressed in my super-hero flannel pajamas, I swoop through the house, searching every nook and cranny until I can triumphantly announce that I have uncovered her missing treasure. Of course, when I locate a misplaced kitchen utensil, Deb informs me that the only reason it was missing is because I had put it in the wrong drawer. Through it all, she knows I have her back, and I know she has mine.

“For Better or Worse” . . . Those words were part of our wedding vows 49 years ago. I am guessing many of you remember that same phrase.

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I want to believe that I have given my wife more of the better than the worse, but I am a little afraid to ask. I do know that throughout almost five decades together she has tried to take care of me, protect me from myself, and mold me into a safe and mature individual. I think I will always be a ‘work in progress.’

I must admit that for the times I have not listened to her advice, I have usually found myself thinking, “Maybe Deb was right.”

I am guessing she could publish books on the subject, but I will just acknowledge her wisdom by offering a few examples.

I have been a deer hunter for more than half a century, and over those years, I have seen opening day temperatures range from the upper 60s to 25 degrees below zero. One of the most miserable season openers that I remember took place in the mid-1980s. We had received a heavy snow and the wind had been blowing the entire night, leading into opening day. Deb told me that only a fool would go out hunting in those conditions. She went on to say that the deer wouldn’t even be moving in such nasty weather. The smart thing to do would have been to listen to her advice and then pull the blankets up around me and go back to sleep. I honestly do not think I even considered that option.

As I climbed into my tree stand an hour before sunrise, I could hear trees snapping off due to the wind and weight of the snow. I was becoming seasick from the continual swaying motion of the jack pine that provided the base for my portable deer stand, and I could envision being buried under a fallen tree and piles of snow until someone discovered my body in the spring.

I clung to that tree until 11 a.m., when three of my brain cells thawed just enough to urge me to follow Deb’s advice from six hours earlier. I trudged back to my truck and drove home to shed my soaked hunting clothes and thaw out over a steaming bowl of chicken soup. Deb did not rub it in. In fact, I don’t think she said a single word, but I could tell she was pleased with the fact that she was right and, although I would not admit it, she realized I knew she was right, too.

In 2004 I had hip replacement surgery. Deb drove me back from Rochester and protected me like a mother hen for the first two days, but then she had to go back to work. She left me with instructions and told me just to stay inside and rest. It was good advice, and I did my best to follow it all the way through the morning hours. After lunch I became restless. The recliner in the living room had become my home for the past two and a half days and I needed a break, so I grabbed my crutches and went outside. Before I knew it, I had the extension ladder propped up against the front of the house and I was up toward the top of it. From below, I heard someone clearing her throat and as I glanced down, Linda our next-door neighbor, was looking up at me. With arms folded, she said, “I don’t think you supposed to be up there.” I told her I was fine, and to that, she added, “Deb isn’t home, is she?”

By the time Deb returned from work, a couple of our neighbors who had driven by while I was on the ladder had already informed her of my antics. I reassured her that I was okay, and that nothing happened. To that she said, “Can’t you just keep both feet on the ground? You were lucky this time.” Again, she was right, although she knew that I seldom had both feet on the ground.

Ten years prior to my hip replacement, I had minor hip surgery, and my surgeon used 26 staples to close the incision. It was during basketball season, and we went to watch our son’s ninth grade game. As usual, Deb was in her caring and protective mode, so instead of letting me climb the bleachers, she placed two folding chairs on the floor next to the bleachers. She said, “I’ll sit on the side of your surgery so I can protect you from any basketball that might come flying in our direction.”

I smiled and thought how lucky I was to have such a loving, caring wife. Two minutes into the game, our son intercepted a pass and headed down court. Deb was so excited she yelled her approval as she slapped my thigh, right next to the 26 staples. I almost went through the roof of the gymnasium.

Sometimes she cares so much . . . it hurts.

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