Community//

Sometimes Superman Wears Plaid

And he reminds you what living happily ever after is all about.

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When I was younger I used to be obsessed with Superman. The idea of a muscle bound man flying around in a cape, saving the world while simultaneously working as an intrepid young reporter appealed to my equally young, overly dramatic heart.

Plus, Dean Cain in tights was breathtaking.

Dad and I used to watch Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman starring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher, and man, we never skipped a week. Or, if we had to miss, we’d tape it. Remember VCRs? Remember programming your VCR to record your favorite show only to discover you didn’t have enough tape left and it cut out halfway through?

Those were the days.

In real life, I wanted to be a reporter like Lois Lane when I grew up. What could be more exciting than writing the news, following other people’s stories and then stepping in front of a camera to give a live, on-the-scene report? That wasn’t show business. Reporting the news was everybody’s business, and I was just the gal to do it.

Two journalism classes into college I realized two truths about myself: first, I was more interested in writing my own story, and second, honestly I was just looking for Clark Kent. I didn’t have to be Lois Lane to find him — all I had to do was be myself.

When I met my Clark sitting in the library late one night in the second semester of my first year, Matt didn’t have glasses or wear spandex or anything like that, nor could he fly, but he had a bright purple ski jacket and a tie-dyed Grateful Dead t-shirt, unruly red hair, and he played the guitar better than anyone I’d ever heard.

Plus, he wrote cheesy love songs and sang them for me in the basement laundry room of his dorm.

“Has the best acoustics,” he said.

Perched on a dryer he belted out “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” in an Irish accent better than Bing himself and then asked if I wanted to dance.

“How can I dance with you if you’re playing guitar?” I asked.

He held his guitar one foot away from his chest and said, “You can slide in here while I play.” 

What mere mortal could resist such an offer?

I lost my heart before I knew it had even left me.

It’s funny. Real love is sorta like the movies and sorta not. No one’s slipping into a phone booth to change or rushing out to save the world, but the perils of our day feel no less daunting. Honestly, twenty years later, surviving our 9-5 grind, getting the groceries, taking care of the kids, making meals, doing the dishes, sweeping up the dog hair, this takes up so much of our conscious time and effort that it’s easy to forget that feeling of being swept away.

It’s easy to forget you’re flying because the man of your dreams wears plaid, drives a Prius, and occasionally forgets to take out the trash. 

Recently, I had a health scare. My mammogram showed a lump in my right breast, and we needed to get a better look at it to determine whether it was anything to worry about. I’d been having other health issues since surgery this past summer, and on top of all the other ways our lives have changed since last March, this just seemed like the last straw.

There are times in life you can’t seem to find your feet or even see the ground. Everything around you feels shaky and you want something to cling to so you’ll feel safe again.

Growing up Catholic, that something has always been my faith, but I’ve been lousy at talking with God lately. Actually, I do a whole lot of talking but not much listening. This scare reminded me I needed to listen more, and that I wasn’t the one in charge of how things go. 

It also reminded me who I married, Superman. 

He swooped in, did the household stuff, held my hand as I fell asleep (as he’s done every night since we met) and let me know that whatever they found, we’d face it together. 

The day I went in for the sonogram, Matt held my hand in the car, and we talked about normal everyday things: the kids, the weekend, the worries of teaching during a pandemic. We kept things as ordinary as possible and listened to the radio. I made him lean in for a “We’re going to kick this sonogram’s ass,” selfie, and we sent it to our parents as if to say, “We’ve got this. Don’t worry about us. We’re fine.”

But I knew he was worried. And he knew I was worried. Neither one of us pretended otherwise because after twenty years together, our faces don’t fool each other anymore.

He dropped me off at the entrance and I told him, “If they call me in there before you come in, don’t worry about it. I’ll see you after.” 

He gave my hand one last squeeze and said, “Okay. I’ll be there when you get out.” 

While in the waiting room I saw an elderly couple sitting six feet apart from each other. The man had giant white tube socks pulled up to his knees and his wife was on the other side of a coffee table, staring into space. When they called his name the first time he didn’t hear so she said, “They’re calling you.”

He looked up and something visible passed between them, the same something that happened in our final hand squeeze in the car, that last moment when you want the person you love to know you’re with them even when you’re not. 

I said, “Hospitals are really lousy places,” and she agreed.

She told me it was her turn to be there for her husband because he was there for her all last year, bringing her to the hospital when she needed it.

“Sometimes that’s all you can do,” I said.

She smiled and said, “You got that right,” and then the nurse called my name.

Ironically, she brought me to the same room where I saw my son and daughter for the first time. This room had good memories and my sonogrammer was a former student, another positive. The scan showed I had nothing to worry about it and the weight of several worlds lifted from my chest — this was good news — the very best kind, and I couldn’t wait to tell Matt.

When I walked back out into the waiting room no one was there. The elderly couple had gone and Matt was nowhere to be found.

“Man, the least he could do was stick around,” I thought. Did he go grab a coffee? Was he eating in the cafeteria? Who could step out to use the bathroom at a time like this?

So much for being there for each other. 

I turned around and started to walk back the way I came toward the lobby when I saw a man far off pacing in front of the lab. His shoulders were up and he was walking as if he was tip-toeing on the balls of his feet.

He walked 20 feet, then turned around, and walked the same 20 feet again. As I got closer I realized my mistake.

Matt loved me so much he couldn’t sit and wait. He loved me so much he had to keep moving. He loved me so much he didn’t want me to see that every cell inside of him was revving up for a fight.

So I flashed him a thumbs up, ran those last few feet, and we flew off together in our Prius.

On the way home I told him I was so glad our happy-ever-after was still happy, and then he went and did that thing he’s gone and done since the moment I first saw him sitting in my chair in the corner of the library.

He said, “It’s not about happy-ever-after. All those writers got it wrong. It should be ‘And they lived togethereverafter’ because as long as we’re together, that’s all that matters.”

Oh, my heart. There it goes again.   

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