Down Home: How to be your wife’s hero

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OK, husbands, here’s the key to gaining your spouse’s approval and affirmation, as well as possibly even “You’re so great! I thank God I married you!”

Do something your wife believes is absolutely necessary, but also dangerous, and preferably gross. Just don’t cross over the line and do something she thinks is unnecessary, but also dangerous and possibly stupid.

Let’s take the latter first. (Getting the bad stuff out of the way as quickly as possible usually constitutes the better part of achievable wisdom.)

On the very day this column is distributed in the Baptist Standard, Joanna and I will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. Across three and a half decades, I’ve done my share of deeds Jo deemed dangerous, unnecessary and stupid. They were not endearing.

Dangerous and stupid are close cousins

From her perspective, if dangerous and stupid are not twins, they’re at least close cousins. She believes—and in my semi-sane moments, I see her viewpoint—most actions that court danger are stupid unless they involve saving small children, keeping the car operational and … well, I’m sure there’s a third reason, but it doesn’t come to me.

Items of danger typically involve (a) electricity, (b) ladders, and in my particular case, (c) sporting equipment and sometimes (d) food.

So, no matter how grand, noble, excellent or heroic the completion of said tasks may seem to me, they’re categorically incapable of rising above dangerous and stupid.

I could elaborate, but if I cry into my keyboard, it will short out, and I’ll never get around to telling you how to become your wife’s hero. And for a shining moment several nights ago, I was Jo’s hero. Really.

It all started after dinner, while I did the dishes and she cleaned out the fridge.

To my consternation, she sat a Tupperware thingy of pinto beans and ham by the sink and told me to run them down the disposal. She read my forlorn look like the headline on that day’s Dallas Morning News. “They’re too old. You didn’t eat them fast enough,” she explained. “They may have germs. Eating them would be dangerous and stupid.”

So, I turned on the water, flipped on the disposal, and started dumping beans and ham.

About three seconds later, Jo hollers, “No, no, no!”

An unusual grinding sound

She’s the one with the good ears, not to mention uncommon common sense. She reflexively picked up on the slightest unusual grinding sound.

“A bone,” she interpreted. “A ham bone must’ve been in the beans. I’m so sorry.”

She handed me the flashlight, and I traced the arc of light around the outside rim of the disposal. Sure enough, a partial ring of ham bone, down in the darkness.

We looked at each other.

I shoved my hand down through the rubber flange-grommet dohicky, into the disposal. Meanwhile, I kept my eye on the switch on the wall beside the sink. Jo stood across the room, and I kept my free hand in my pocket. But when you’ve got your hand down a garbage disposal, it’s impossible not to think about queasy possibilities. Even if nobody can touch the switch.

I wrenched my elbow backward and fished around blindly with my second finger, following the edge of the disposal. In case you’ve never stuck your hand in a disposal, it feels like the inside of a can, but with sharp, spinnable cleats on the bottom. After a few seconds, I felt a slender slice of a ham bone.

When I yanked my hand out of the disposal, I held up the bone like an Olympic gold medal. Except I didn’t kiss it, because my hand was slimy. Gross stuff clings to the bottom of rubber flange-grommet dohickies.

“Lucky for us, I’ve got small hands,” I said. She smiled.

Then I turned on the water and flipped the switch. Same bone-grinding-on-metal sound.

Water off, switch off, hand back down in the disposal. Three more times.

Finally, water on, smooth grind, beans gone.

“You’re so great. I thank God I married you,” Jo told me—from across the room. Because even if you’re a hero, if your hand’s slimy and you stink, you stand alone.

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