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Question of the Month: Partners

by Susan Henderson on October 3, 2016

Tell me about your partner.

We talk so much here about ourselves and our writing lives. But who’s that person (or animal or drug or ritual) you go home to, or that person you rely on to balance out your life? I want to hear all about him or her.

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Mr. H and I met our second year in college. He was a drama major reading Einstein. I was still a science major reading Oliver Sacks. We traded books. He read mine and I pretended to read his.

Our first date was to an August Wilson play.

He grew up in Honolulu, Singapore, and London. He had a British accent when we first started dating, but now you mostly hear it in his syntax or in his funny choice of adjectives.

Mr. H teaches, paints, designs and builds sets, designs and builds costumes, creates cool scar make-up, writes songs when he’s in the shower, and plays guitar in a punk band.

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When our first dog was dying, he carried him up the stairs every night so he could sleep in our bed and carried him down the stairs every morning. Our boys were the first babies he ever held.

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He played Lego with the boys and sewed costumes for them. And when they got older, he taught them games like Magic Cards and Glory to Rome.

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How is my life better because of him? Because we talk about anything and everything. Because we’re both constantly curious and constantly learning. Because we laugh. We laugh a lot. Because we know life has ups and downs, and he’s the person I want with me on this great rollercoaster of life.

I’ll end by sharing the books I read since my last post:

Ocean Vuong, Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Max Porter, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers: A Novel

Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

Aimee Bender, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

Yukio Mishima, Death in Midsummer

Helen Simonson, The Summer Before the War

Jessica Anya Blau, The Trouble with Lexie

Thelma Adams, The Last Woman Standing

Natalie Baszile, Queen Sugar

Don DeLillo, Zero K

Anand Giridharadas, The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas

Sari Wilson, Girl Through Glass

Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars: Poems

Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven

Paula Whyman, You May See a Stranger

Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project

Gina Frangello, Every Kind of Wanting

Akhil Sharma, Family Life  

Joyce Carol Oates, The Gravedigger’s Daughter

Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad

 

And some re-reads:

Elie Wiesel, Night

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities

John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

 

So that’s it for this month. But jump into the comments section and tell me about your partner. I want to know that side of you.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

GC Smith October 3, 2016 at 11:39 am

My partner Mary Ellen Oliver (Mimi) and I have been together for fifty six years, married fifty-four plus. It’s a wonder that we ever had a date, much less a second date.

Mimi and I went to the same high school but our paths did not cross. She was a merit scholar and leader of the debate team. I was a renegade who spent much of his time in the town pool hall. Our paths crossed later when I was a college senior, A friend took Mimi to our senior dinner-dance. I and my date rode with them. Mimi came from parents who cared and had a curfew. I told my friend to take the “little child” home and my date and I would find a ride.

Some time later I ran across Mimi and asked her out on a date. She accepted. In a college bar I asked her if she drank alcohol and she said no. “Good,” I said. “I have a buck twenty so you can have two seven ups and I can have ten beers. Then, I told her that we were using my Father’s car and a condition was that I fetch my mother, a nurse, at eleven o’clock and drive her home. So, on our first date she was subjected to my mother, an Irish banshee.

Somehow she accepted a second date and we were married in 1960, February 17. We raised two lovely children, made a few bucks along the way, retired early, and to this day consider each other the best friends we could possibly have as well as lovers. It has so far been a wonderful ride and will continue to be so.

So, there’s a partner story.

I recently read, as you know, Bad Lands, eastern Montana homesteading around the turn of the twentieth century. A fascinating book.

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Susan Henderson October 3, 2016 at 11:48 am

I love this story so much! Wow. (Also, I bought Bad Lands and it’s third down in my to-read pile.)

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Gerard Smith October 3, 2016 at 10:41 pm

Error, we were marries in 1962 not 1960.

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RIc Marion October 5, 2016 at 3:33 pm

I met my life partner 39 years ago – and depending on whose story you believe, she says I met her at the restaurant where she was a waitress – I say she picked me up at the bar next door, – that’s fine, we don’t agree on everything.
She is the Yin to my Yang. She is empathetic while I tend to stand back and observe. She is outgoing against my reserve. She is the sports fanatic – I do the political stuff. She is a morning person, I am a night owl. She inhales romance novels, I’ll read anything but. I love my flower garden, she seldom goes outside.
Together, we raised four children, who by combining traits from both of us, are blazing their own trails through life. Now, in our little house along the Flint River, we are getting to know each other again, a great new adventure, that includes grandchildren, trips to the West Coast to visit our youngest, and experimentation in lots of other things.
She manages the biggest restaurant in town, takes too long to shop at Kroger’s because she always runs into someone she knows, and everyone loves her.
Together, we work. Always available for a hug, reassurance, or a smile. Life is good.

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GC Smith October 5, 2016 at 4:15 pm

A fine love/friendship/partnership story.

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RIc Marion October 5, 2016 at 4:20 pm

Thanks, Gerard. I enjoyed yours as well.

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Susan Henderson October 5, 2016 at 6:09 pm

I am so touched and stunned by these testimonials to love and friendship, both of your stories. And I’m so glad to know more about these women. Lovely.

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Ric Marion October 10, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Susan,
Is it just my imagination? I can’t believe, among all your readers, Gerard and I are the only ones who rely on our partners for support. I’ve always been struck by the comments when you posit a domestic arrangement. Still haven’t gotten over the ‘family’ ‘mother’ ‘dad’ debacle. Perhaps I’m only thinking about this because last week we took my 93 year old Mother to a “place for Mom”. Having a hard time with that – but it would not have happened without the support of my partner.

Susan Henderson October 11, 2016 at 11:32 am

I’m surprised too, Ric. And sad not to hear the stories, even stories of NOT have someone to share this journey with.

How has you mom settled in to her new place? That must be so hard coming to that decision and leaving her for the first time.

Aurelio O'Brien October 12, 2016 at 9:15 pm

I don’t know where to even begin to explain my partner, Chuck. Our history together in brief: we’ve been partnered for 34 years and were finally able to be legally married for the last 8 of those.

Chuck is truly “The Most Interesting Man in the World”—the invented guy in the beer ad doesn’t stand a chance next to him. He has a degree in botany and has written two books on plants. He’s done everything from chasing a solar eclipse in Jakarta to traveling across the nation by train in private varnish with Mickey Mouse when Mickey turned 50. As a child, he attended the opening of Disneyland (and met Walt.) He has been everything from an auto mechanic to movie studio executive. He has collected and re-built antique cars—we now have a 5 car collection with their origins dating from 1906 to 1965—for which he is the primary mechanic.

He is my best friend and favorite person. He is odd, witty, brainy, and handsome.

Since I have known him we have traveled the country and the world together, lived in Taiwan for a while, New York for a while, and created a home life full of fun and comfort here in CA. Thanks in large part to his moral support I made award-winning movies and have finished two novels, with a third on its way. He is my primary reader/audience and editor. He has helped me feel comfortable in my own skin and allowed me to never to hesitate to try new and challenging things, no matter how ambitious.

As I get older now, I try not to think of my life without him.

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Susan Henderson October 12, 2016 at 10:12 pm

So love this story and all the ways your lives and travels and creative passions have knitted you two together.

I think you said the most important words here, too, about being with someone who makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. What I’m hearing in all of these stories (and I share it) is the sense of friendship and safety to be yourself. Good stuff. And glad you’re here.

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Aurelio O'Brien October 13, 2016 at 3:13 pm

Yes–you and Mr. H have that comfort level too, so you know exactly what I’m talking about. It allows you to try stuff and fail and still be okay about it.

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Susan Henderson October 13, 2016 at 8:52 pm

It’s probably the greatest gift we give to people we love, the chance to dream big and the safety to fail and still be fully loved.

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