Down Home: To her, I’m a useful ‘church shawl’

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Joanna scooted close to me, wedging her right shoulder between my left arm and the back of the pew, as our pastor, Larry, launched his sermon.

“Awww,” I thought. “Isn’t it sweet of my wife to show a smidge of affection here in church?”

I looked over at her and smiled.

She looked back and shook her head oh so slightly. I recognize a shiver when I see one.

“I’m freezing,” she explained.


Welcome to the real world of utility husbanding. Even in church.

‘Hunsbanding’ not ‘husbandry’

(For the record, please note I used the word, “husbanding,” which I made up, rather than “husbandry,” which sounds similar but is worlds apart. If I chose “husbandry” to describe “husbanding,” I’d be consigned to sleep in the barn. We do not own a barn.)

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Sometimes, the purpose of being a husband is to serve a utilitarian purpose. Husbands are good for something, and it’s up to wives to decide what “something” means.

In my case, it’s opening pickle jars and pulling stuff down from high storage spaces. I figure I’ve got “job security” as a husband as long as I can pop open jars and fetch things.

Of course, I’ve told you this before. And some wiseacres responded—perhaps correctly—that I can be replaced by a jar-opening machine and a stepladder.


In my dotage, I guess I’ll have to rely on the qualities that won Jo’s heart in the first place. That would be humor and charm. They worked back when we still lived in separate dorms at Hardin-Simmons University. Back when she didn’t need me to open pickle jars and retrieve serving trays from high shelves.

Let’s see if a pickle-opening machine can make her laugh or a stepladder can get her to grin.

Don’t think so.

But back to utility husbanding. …

The church shawl theory

A couple of evenings after our near-snuggling-in-church episode, I told Jo I was kind of disappointed when she said she was freezing.

“For a second there, I thought you scooched over because you love me and want to sit so close to me,” I admitted. “But then I realized you wanted to use me for a shawl.”

She laughed, but she didn’t say anything. Sometimes, you say the truth when you say nothing at all.

So, I reminded her of my utility-husbanding theory.

“I guess I’ll have to add ‘church shawl’ to my job-security list, along with pickle-jar-opening and top-of-cabinet-retrieval,” I added. “I want to be the object of your romance, not just your utility husband.”

Jo laughed again. (See? If I can keep her laughing, maybe she’ll keep me around when I don’t have the oomph to do the hard stuff.)

Sometimes you’re both

“You can be both,” she said. “Sometimes you’re both.”

That’s great to know. In fact, it’s pretty realistic. As long as we’ve been together, we know marriage isn’t all fun and games. In fact, lots of times, it’s neither fun nor games. It’s work.

But when I get to pick, I’ll choose romance. Even “church-shawl” romance.

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