The Massage Story: Or What Might Actually Be A Sort of Love Letter to Victor (Which He Will Never Read)By Irene Zion
October 21, 2010
I have a lot of trouble sleeping. I have just about every sleep disorder a person can have, things you’ve never heard of, esoteric sleeping disorders. When I can’t sleep or I wake up and can’t go back to sleep, Victor wins. I’m too tired to write or to paint, so I give him massages. He can get a massage when he’s fast asleep, wake up enough to enjoy it and then go right back to sleep. He’s an unusually gifted sleeper.
Recently we were in a hotel in Sweden where there was this sign in the bathroom:
My daughters both love “products.” I got my love of “products” from them. I wanted to try all of them. The “Schampo” and the “Balsam” were both in the shower. I didn’t know if the “Balsam” were a conditioner or a body wash, so I regretfully didn’t use that one when I took my shower. I didn’t want to body wash my hair after “schampoing” it, in case it wasn’t a conditioner. The only balsam I know about is that really unusual wood that is so soft you can carve it with your fingernail. I couldn’t figure out if that would be good for conditioning my hair or washing my body, so I used a bar of soap I saved in the plastic hair cover from the last hotel.
Also on the counter were these two lotions:
Naturally, I couldn’t sleep and Victor was snoring away, so I grabbed one of the lotions and tore off his blanket and gave him an exceptional massage. Victor does love a massage, regardless of whether he is asleep or awake. I gave him a good, hard working over.
But I was still awake.
So I snatched the other lotion and gave him a second massage with that lotion. I thought it would be interesting to compare them. It’s not like I had something else to do in the middle of the night. My eyes wander out towards my ears when I’m tired, so I can’t even focus to read. The massage started out perfectly, but after a while the lotion dried out, which was weird. I had never had this happen before. His skin felt like paper. Victor mumbled that he thought perhaps the aloe vera was not a lotion but was instead a liquid soap. I went into the bathroom and ran water over my hands and, by golly, it sure got sudsy.
So I returned to Victor and I told him he had to get up and take a shower, because he couldn’t leave the liquid soap rubbed into his skin all night. Surely he would get a rash or at the very least it would dry out his skin and make him super itchy. He was snoring again. I shook him awake and repeated myself. He declined. He had no intention of jumping in the shower in the middle of the night. He wanted to sleep. He didn’t care one whit about the state of his skin in the morning, or ever, if truth be told.
But I felt bad about using soap on him for his second massage of the night, and I still wasn’t tired, so I gave him a third massage with the original lotion. I gave him a super-long, super-greasy massage to try to counteract the crusty film of dry soap. By this time, I had tired myself out enough to go to sleep myself, which sometimes happens.
In the shower the following morning, Victor was completely obscured in suds, without having to use any product whatsoever. It was as though I were watching a body wash commercial where they used lots of computer animation. And in the end, his skin was soft and smooth as a baby’s bottom.
In our four decades together, we have been continually calculating and honing all sorts of strategies which make our living together function as best it can. When we first retired, we were together all the time. That might sound like fun, but it did not turn out to be. After we came to our senses, we decided to do our volunteering in different places and on different days, so that we have some time apart. This keeps us from being together 24/7, which we quickly discovered was a recipe for getting on each other’s nerves. We’re in our sixties now, and we simply don’t know how much longer we will have together. We want to make the time we have good time.
Don’t get me wrong, we still get into arguments; we’re far from perfect, but you learn certain tricks over the years. I can’t say I know what tricks Victor uses to keep me from making him crazy. I’m sure that he must have tons of them, though. I know I can’t be easy to be around all the time. My kids have told me that enough times. These maneuvers must be covert or they simply wouldn’t work. I’m quite sure he has no idea how often I have to count to ten and to ten again until I can answer a question that might well have resulted in a snide answer, without the requisite pause to get knee-jerk anger out of the equation; or how often I keep my eyes closed tightly when he is driving, so I don’t make that squealy noise that escapes when I think we’re about to be smashed in a massive car accident. That squealy noise really ticks him off. You know, that is the sort of thing is that I mean here. We had to learn the art of making concessions to each other. The art of compromise, done clandestinely, so as not to call attention to itself, done smoothly, no keeping score. (That part’s important.)
There was a time when my sleeping difficulties used to cause friction between us. He used to wake up if I left the bed and then he’d be grumpy all day from lack of sleep. When I figured out that he didn’t care if I woke him for a massage, it totally fixed that problem. It gives me something to do when I’m bleary and tired and it makes him happy. I really feel a sense of accomplishment when I can make Victor happy, since Victor is calibrated a bit off to the cranky side, truth be told. Frequently it leads to a nice bit of hanky-panky which is always rewarding. He goes right back to sleep, and there is the added bonus that sometimes it wears me out enough to go to sleep myself.
When we got married, we honestly didn’t understand what being together entailed. We each came with pre-conceived notions that turned out to be hopelessly fanciful. It took us a good long time to learn that for our marriage to survive and to thrive, we had to work at it. We had to figure things out. Sometimes it was hard, but we fell in love for a reason and over time, consciously working at it, we grew together and fell in love over and over again for a million other reasons. For Victor and me, the world is our oyster now, for as long as we have together.
(Excuse me a minute, Victor is hollering at me from across the house, so I need to count to ten a few times before I go to see what he wants this time….)