Diary of a Marriage: The Worried Wife
When it comes to worrying about the health and safety of my husband, I guess I have it pretty easy. He’s not a firefighter, or a policeman, or a military guy. He’s a teacher and tennis coach at a private, all-boys Catholic high school, a place where students have to wear blazers and ties and aren’t allowed to sport weird facial hair. The school is a mere 20 minutes from our house—a quick shot down 95—and J. leaves well before morning traffic gets tricky.
Still, if I think too much about it—and I usually do, in the quiet moments just before falling asleep, or during my hour train ride into Philly every morning—I start to worry. What if another car on the road smashes into his? What if an angry kid storms into school with a gun? What if he has a heart attack at the gym? My mind easily wanders to dark, scary places. It gets hard to breathe.
What would I do? I think. And then, more seriously: What the hell would I do? I can’t stop myself from thinking about it. I’d have to move; I couldn’t stay here, in our house, in this town, in this state.
“I’d probably move to someplace like India,” I say to my friend at work one day. We’re talking about these irrational fears; she has them, too. I immediately think of a girl I worked with years ago. When her long-term boyfriend succumbed to cancer, she moved to Dubai. She’s still there, I think. I wonder if she’s ever really gotten over it. How can you?
I was checking my emails on the train home one night when I saw an email from a local hair salon I’d once gone to. It was an email sent to the salon’s mailing list, to notify us that one of the guys who worked there had been killed in a car accident. He was young, about 25, and the accident had occurred during the freak snowstorm we had back in October, at 10:00 in the morning, on a quiet road. His passenger, also only about 26 or 27, was killed, too. They’d lost control, smashed into a tree.
It really hit me. I spent the rest of the train ride searching the obituaries for more information. I stumbled across the obituary of the passenger. It was headlined: “Beloved local teacher and coach killed in car accident.” I felt sick. I kept rereading it, over and over, until my eyes got cloudy with tears. That’s what it would say for J. By the time I got to my car, I was sobbing. I called J. immediately, just to make sure he was home safely, even though I knew he was. I spent the car ride home bargaining with God: If it’s between the two of us, just don’t let it be him. J. didn’t understand why I was so upset—“Hey, think of all the shopping you could do!” he joked—and I didn’t even really get it myself. But the fear that something could happen and in an instant, everything would be horribly, awfully, terribly gone, is paralyzing sometimes.
“If my boyfriend is out with friends and doesn’t call or text for a while, I immediately think he’s been hit by a car. Or shot,” another friend said. Still another relayed the story of her friend who actually began calling local hospitals when she hadn’t heard from her husband—whom she knew was out to dinner with colleagues—by 9:30pm. “We joke that she just went crazy one night,” my friend said. “Her husband came home to find her crying, paging through the phone book. He thought she’d lost her mind.”
When I sit J. down and tell him that, if anything ever happened to me, I’d want him to get remarried, he tells me not to worry. He has a list of potential ladies to take my spot, he says. This gets us laughing. He tells me that if something happened to him, he’d want me to remarry, too. “Make sure he’s nice to you,” he says. “’Cause if he’s not, I’ll get him. I’ll haunt him, ghost-style.” We laugh about this, and I keep it to myself that I probably wouldn’t ever get remarried. J. can tell I’m starting to worry again, I guess my eyes are clouding up, so he starts making funny jokes and doing his odd little dance moves that always make me giggle, and then we’re both laughing and we forget about our depressing conversation. We’re both safe at home, we’ve promised one another that we’ll drive carefully and try to keep from getting shot and having heart attacks, because we’ve got a long life of worrying about one another ahead of us.
What about all of you? Do you ever have sometimes-irrational fears about something happening to your guy? How do you talk yourself down from freaking out?
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