Let It Rest


My wife, Penney, and I were returning from an outing to the Antler’s Bar and Grill where all the animals are stuffed and those that aren’t are stewed. That’s as close as I wanted to get to wildlife on a bitter winter night. But, wouldn’t you know it, on the road home my car stuttered, yammered and then stalled next to a snowbank on the shoulder.

Now what? I thought. Penney simply stared straight ahead as if waiting for me to tear open the hood and fiddle and squeeze and poke till the only thing I got going was a bad case of the chilblains. And I just knew that when I got back in the car she would calmly say, “Why don’t we just let it rest.” But not this time. I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction.

She always says that. When the toaster doesn’t toast. ‘Let it rest.’ When the garbage disposal seizes up —‘let it rest.’ Penney doesn’t know from thermal relays and reset buttons. But every time I start to tell her about those things she smiles like a mountain-top guru with the answer to life: ‘let it rest.’ And, of course, she’s right part of the time but she doesn’t know why. And could care less. All I know is we have a whole corner of the basement filled with appliances – resting. Been resting, some of them, for twenty years or more.

It was early-on in our marriage—our honeymoon, actually—when I first discovered my wife’s penchant for patience and heard the first chord in the symphony of our life together. During a long stroll through the Charleston historic district, we happened upon a pre-civil war cemetery. Penney noticed the headstones with R.I.P. carved across the top.

“I wonder what that means?” she asked.

“Rest in peace,” I replied.

A slow smile of recognition spread across her face. Other people, in other times, knew her refrain.

“Well,” I declared. “Don’t plan on putting anything like that on my grave marker. I’m not happy to sit still. I never will be. I plan to be turning over in my grave on a regular basis.”

“Yes, dear,” she replied.

Being a young newlywed, I felt I owed a more thorough explanation.

“I like to get right at a thing. For example, if I catch a cold, I want to smother that virus with anti-histamines and night-syrups and day-fizzies and tons of water and bowls of soup and steaming baths and full-body sweats.”

“Yes, dear.”

Then I went on to tell her this story.

“There was a man stuck behind a delivery truck while driving down a narrow country road. Every couple of miles the truck would stop, the driver would get out, run around the truck and bang it on the sides with a stick. The man in the car was getting exasperated. Finally, when they got to the next town, he pulled next to the truck driver and demanded an explanation. ‘I’m sorry,’ the truck driver apologized. ‘You see mister, I’m carrying 10,000 pounds of canaries on a 5,000 pound load-limit road and I have to keep half of them birds flying all the time.’

“That’s me,” I announced. “I’m like that truck driver. I like to keep things moving.”

“Yes, dear,” was all she said.

Well, I’m older now, mellowed some. I no longer insist on my way being the only way. She’s taught me some things. Maybe it’s all the gardening she does. There’s a rhythm to it all: the time for planning and the time for planting; the time for growing and the time for harvesting. Then she cans the vegetables and fruit, lines them on a shelf where, of course, they wait. Or maybe she gets her outlook from having babies. You can’t rush babies. It’s a long ride so you might as well relax. She has taken a lot of trips.

These days, if I come home from work all strung out over my boss. My wife counsels patience. If I watch the news and get flustered by the happenings around the globe, my wife thinks it will all work out in good time. When my daughter brings a baritone-voiced, gangly lad into our home and I want to hand wrestle him, my wife serenely ushers him out the door saying, “I’m sure he’ll be all right as soon as he rests for a while.”

So, maybe after all these years of marriage, I can admit that she is right. This night, in this snowdrift, I’m going to let it rest.

Penney looked over at me.

“Well, aren’t you going to do something?” she asked. “You know, like look under the hood, jump the carburetor or goose the battery or whatever it is that you do?”

“No,” I replied in a level voice. “I thought I would just let it rest for a while.”

“Are you nuts?” she screamed. “We could freeze to death out here.”

Then I watched her in the dimming lights of our fading battery as she flagged down a trucker and left me to rest a while.

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