My wife is planning a very exciting vacation to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. This was a big surprise to me. Not the vacation part, but the 35 years. I thought it was 34. Right now she is on the back porch, the patio table stacked high with books and brochures, notepad in hand, as she prepares for her next Internet search. She has made me look at photos and videos of Rome, Venice, Marseille and Monaco. I’m not sure why we are even going. I’ve already seen everything I want to see. Plus, I’m taking her to Olive Garden tonight. Are women ever satisfied?
I’m happy to be going almost anywhere, even if I was there once before. That’s because I don’t remember places, so everything is new and fresh to me. If you set my wife down in the center of Prague, or Budapest or Vienna, she’d know exactly where she was, clear memories from a previous trip. I can do that also, sort of: Shelbyville, Kokomo, Carmel, not a problem. Greensburg has that tree thing going on atop of the courthouse, right? Or is that Greeenfield? Whatever.
The truth is I don’t have a clear memory of most things in my life. My brother recently asked me if I remembered exactly how many years he and I had to share a bedroom when we were growing up. That room sharing thing did not sound familiar. I’m even a little hazy on the growing up part.
For Christmas last year, I gave my wife a huge framed map of the world as gift. The map is constructed so you can stick colored pins in it to denote previous and future travel plans: Blue pins mean you’ve been there; red pins indicate you want to go back. The green ones are for places you have always wanted to visit. I’m using the yellow pins: Wife says we’ve been there/Doesn’t ring a bell.
Sometimes I try to pretend I remember stuff, but she’s too smart for me and gives me little pop quizzes.
“What do you remember about Rome, Dick?”
“Oh, the churches, lots of churches. Love those churches.”
“Can you name one church you remember seeing?”
“Of course. There was Saint, Saint… you know how bad I am with last names.”
“Do you remember going to the Coliseum?”
Now I’m really worried. No way had I forgotten seeing a football game.
While she was researching restaurants in one country we’re going to visit, I interrupted to ask her what we were having for dinner later in the evening. “I don’t have a clue, Dick, but on September 24, I’m having the salade aux lardons and the daube provencal.” She told me I could have the pissaladière, which I’m hoping is pizza.
Later in the afternoon, I learned that we were going to spend one entire morning looking at Roman ruins, then have lunch and spend the whole afternoon looking at even more Roman ruins.
“I’m really good at making these kinds of plans, aren’t I, Dick?” asked Mary Ellen.
“Oh yes. If anyone can ruin an entire day, you can.”
At one point, I suggested we should make the trip a little more unplanned.
“Look, Mary Ellen, I don’t want to be a grump about this, but I like spontaneity. I need to know there will be a least one surprise in this vacation.”
“Oh, you won’t be disappointed. I have something right here that will shock you and you will not forget it for a long time.”
That’s when she handed me the bill.