Thursday, July 28, 2011

the softness of a man

First posted on September 13, 2010:

Yes, he's a redneck.  Steve is a man's man.  He's always been the tool carrier, the meat provider, the one we all know we can count on when ANYTHING breaks down.  He's gifted that way, a genius with anything mechanical.  Not only do I know that, but everyone in the family knows it, and in the community too.  He always has a running list of things to be fixed.  He's been called on to fix things for elderly community residents, or just to trouble shoot when something stops working.

He spent most of his adult life a couple thousand feet underground, mining coal.  Many of those years were spent as an electrician.  I am not sure how much most of you know about coal mining, but it is one of the hardest, most dangerous jobs in the world.  Steve has had third degree burns on both hands from an electrical burn, lost friends in underground mining accidents, and at times literally had to crawl on his knees to get to what needed to be done.  He's been burned, cut, bruised and scraped over the years and never really complained.  He's tough and strong.

Why am I telling you all about this?  Because I have also seen another side of this tough man.  The soft side.  It surfaces at odd times.  And sometimes I just observe when he thinks I am not aware of what is going on around me (I am an airhead legend in my family).  He likes soap operas, has traded recipes 2,000 feet underground with his fellow miners, won't watch Old Yeller EVER because it made him cry when he was a kid.  He can make a story about anything that has happened to him funnier than anyone I know. 

I first saw the soft side of Steve when I was 17 years old and we were dating.  He came over to pick me up one Friday night to go out, and asked if we could stay in.  He told me he had just found out that his grandmother had died.  Steve worshiped his Mama Jones and I could tell he was devastated.  So we stayed in and that night he told me all about her.  Every memory he could remember.  We talked for hours, laughed together over those memories, and occasionally we were quiet while we both fought down lumps of tears in our throats....and that was the night I realized how much I loved him.  Because he shared his softness with me....

Over the past 40 years we have had our share of fights, some of them real doozies.  Like the time we went camping with the kids in the middle of nowhere on a local lake, and were both so tired we snapped.  I lobbed a Coke bottle over his head, or thought I was, only he raised his head about the time I lobbed it, and it smacked him in the middle of the back of his head.  He smacked me in the top of the head with the flat of his hand, I got mad (I have quite a temper) and took off in our car with the boat trailer still attached, headed for the house.  As I drove, I cooled down, and realized I was going to have a tough time explaining to my in-laws (who lived next to us) what I was doing at home with a car and empty boat trailer, and no husband, kids or boat.  So when I found a place in the road big enough to circle like a buzzard (no way did I know how to back that trailer up), I headed back to camp.  When I got about half a mile from camp, there was Steve walking down the road, with our two babies on each side of him holding his hands.  Seems he didn't know what he was going to do either....they all climbed in and we went back to camp, and the fight was soon forgotten.

The kids are grown now.  Steve didn't get to spend much time with them because he was always working.  And don't even give him a baby, he wouldn't know what to do with it.  Until the grandkids.  Then all things were new....he handles the babies with ease and has enjoyed every second of time he has with them.  I see the love in the looks he gives them, in the way he holds them, and in the stories he has to tell about them.  All four of the grandkids have their own stories, and he remembers them all.  This is the softness I love, the tenderness, and what really defines him as a man to me.  He doesn't fear showing his emotions, he loves to hug and be hugged, and I still see things about him that surprise me and make my throat lump up...

Like today.  I asked him this morning to tape Oprah's last season opener for me.  He watched it live, and couldn't stop himself from spilling the beans about what happened to me, until I reached a point and told him to shut up so I could watch it and see for myself.  He was so excited about me watching it that he turned it on and watched the whole program again with me.

Which was a surprise to me, because Steve never watches anything twice.  He always says after he has seen it once, he doesn't want to see it again.  But I know different.

Because today he watched Oprah.  Twice.  In a row.  My throat is lumpy again, thinking of it.  He's such a marshmallow, this man I love.

He's still the one...Music by Orleans...
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