Tag Archives: spouse

A Matter of Perspective

By Jason Menard

One of the great things about life with my wife is the difference in our backgrounds – and our relationship has helped me to broaden my perspective on life. Oddly enough, I was reminded of this by the news that a new reality series focused on the creation of a new Menudo was in the offering.

That’s right. Menudo. Trust me, this will all make sense.

My wife is the daughter of a former diplomat. As such, much of her youth was spent living abroad: Algeria , Niger , Brazil , and Mexico . She spent a number of years in Mexico City , living at the embassy, but able to immerse herself in the language and the culture – a culture that included the Puerto Rican boy band Menudo.

For young pre-teen and early teen girls in that area of the world Menudo and similar band Timbiriche were music idols. Unfortunately, for young pre-teen and early teens in this neck of the woods Menudo’s impact was felt in a significantly different manner.

This first came to light when we were going through our collection of vinyl albums. Sifting through a stack of appropriately named dust jackets, I came across my wife’s collection of old albums. Our reactions were quite different — her eyes misted over with youthful memories; my eyes were wide with shock.

Now, it was at this time that I realized that I take my youthful influences for granted. Popular culture references that, to me, are common are, in fact, restricted only to a certain sub-section of people who lived during a specific time in that specific area. I had always, to a certain extent, assumed that because my wife and I are both Canadians and of the same age, we’d share many common experiences – much in the same way that I could easily relate with other friends and acquaintances that I had met. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I believe my, “I can’t believe you actually own this,” was met with an icy cold stare in return. Once that look thawed, it was followed by her asking how it was I knew of Menudo, growing up in the Great White North.

And here’s where our perspectives differed greatly. To many Canadian kids of a certain age, our exposure to Menudo was limited to breaks between Saturday morning cartoons. After getting fit with Mary Lou Retton, we’d then be subjected to perfectly coiffed, pastel-wearing young boys galavanting about in highly choreographed routines. To us, Menudo was nothing more than a cheesy, kid-friendly, boy-band precursor. But to my wife and her friends in Mexico they were so much more.

A band that was a source of mockery for us was an object of reverence for them. While we viewed them as disposable filler to be endured until Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends came on, in fact they were filling concert halls throughout the Latin world. We cried tears of laughter, they cried tears of idolatry.

Since that moment, the tables have been turned time and time again between our youthful experiences. Movies, music, and films that I view as iconic touchstones of my youth and carry the full weight of being cherished memories pass over my wife’s head as if they were light as a feather. Pop culture references, key literary experiences, and other character-defining moments are met with a quizzical look and quiet acceptance.

And, very quickly, it reinforced the notion that while two people, both of whom were born three months apart and only a few kilometers apart in Montreal, may arrive at the same destination, our perspectives can be drastically different based upon the route we’ve taken to arrive where we are. No version is right, no version is better – and the sharing of these journeys have allowed us to grow as individuals because we’re able to see beyond our own entrenched views and be more appreciative of the diversity and complexity of life.

But in the end, if we end up watching the Menudo reality show, we’ll probably still do so for two separate reasons. And while she’s recapturing fond memories of youth, I’ll probably be doing my best to stifle any grins and chuckles. After all, I’ve learned to respect her perspective – even if the view is slightly different than my own.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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Waiting for Dawn

By Jason Menard

The old adage states that it’s always darkest before the dawn, but when life has the feel of a recurring nightmare, is it any wonder that one can wonder when the sun will shine again.

In relative terms, my wife and I have a pretty good life. And, in the good Ontario Calvinist fashion to which we’ve been exposed, we can put up a good front on the outside, refusing to share our troubles and, in doing so, keeping others at bay.

However, internally, enough is enough. It’s hard to maintain a positive attitude throughout overwhelming negativity. Can one really be expected to keep turning the other cheek when no matter which way you look you get slapped? In this life, you can never expect a hand up or a hand out from anyone – but at least you can hope that the hands will be off your throat once in a while.

Recently my wife was in another car accident. Again, another accident that was not her fault, was unavoidable, but leaves lasting damage. But more than the physical aches and pains, it’s the emotional damage that is more devastating. It’s the weight of yet another negative experience that threatens to crush our will.

Until you’ve experienced a serious car accident, you can never understand the full ramifications of an event of this nature until you’ve experienced it first-hand. It’s not the impact that hurts the most – it’s the aftershocks, and they can reverberate much longer. That’s what we’ve found from our own experience, starting two years ago and continuing to this day.

Over two years ago we were in a severe head-on collision. Ironically, while the accident totalled our car, it set the wheels in motion for a continual test of faith, attitude, and commitment. As a result of the accident, both my wife and I have suffered continual pain. Despite treatment, medication, and therapy, my wife’s arm is still in severe pain and only seems to be getting worse. My shoulder is still damaged and I have my good days and bad days.

This initial accident has changed our lives immeasurably, in almost every aspect of our existence. From social to financial to emotional, a split-second impact has had lasting repercussions. It’s a physical embodiment of the old adage states that dropping a small pebble in the ocean will eventually cause a ripple effect that will carry waves across the world.

The initial accident has given us years of a unique perspective on the world, allowing it to unfold before us and display its true colours. It has allowed us a new perspective on friends and family – the former, in many cases, we had overestimated, and the latter we had previously grossly underappreciated. And it has exposed us to the best and worst of human nature. From expressed and unexpressed doubts and looks of bewilderment, to offers of support and callous dismissals, to hearty displays of support and gentle commiseration, we have seen the best and worst of life.

Yet, throughout all of these trials, the one fact that has stood out above all the rest is that at the end of the day, we have each other.

No matter how well prepared you are to deal with the after-effects of guilt, what you can’t prepare for are the lasting effects of guilt. No one can understand the eroding force that guilt can have on your life – slowly and steadily wearing away your resolve – until you’ve had reason to experience it first-hand. For example, my wife continues to feel guilty for being a burden – her words – on me as she’s unable to participate in the household chores, work and bring in income, or be the wife she wants to be. Yet her guilt persists despite the fact that I appreciate what she is able to bring to me. My doing a few extra dishes, assuming the housekeeping chores, and cooking the family meals are small prices to pay for the joys that she brings by being in my life.

Of course, it’s also a small price to pay on the guilt that I feel. Although I’ve been told ad nauseum by officers, doctors, and my wife that the initial accident was not my fault, it’s hard to not feel some culpability when the woman you love is continually in pain for an accident in which I was behind the wheel. I know I am innocent of any culpability, but yet one still can play the old what if game. Guilt doesn’t have to be rational. I know the full weight of that initial accident lies on the shoulders of the other driver but, as a husband who loves his wife, I can’t help but want to do everything in my power to make her life easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable so that she can eventually get better. Those vows say for better or for worse, in sickness and in health – they’re not empty words.

Since that initial accident, our lives have been beset with a number of challenges. Guilt gets in the way of moving on simply because you want to help the other so much. Pain has restricted our lives; it has prevented us from doing what we need to live our dreams. The accident has added a variety of stressors to our lives, whether they are legal, financial, or emotional.

Yet, in the end, through all the darkness there has been some light. As we’ve been forced to turn inwards and turn to each other for support, we’ve developed a greater appreciation for what we have. We are blessed with two children, a roof over our head, and food on the table. And we are blessed to know that, no matter what, we’re in this together and supportive of each other unconditionally. Any of our previous skirmishes and arguments now seem petty. We have grown up immeasurably and are looking forward to a brighter future together.

Yet, still it’s hard not to feel that we’re being punished for something – as if these continuing trials are some sort of Karmic retribution for past transgressions. Is this some sort of punishment for the sins of our past? Are we not to be judged on the person we are now? In my youth, I was much more cynical, much more callous, and much more flippant. I was egocentric and certainly not as sensitive to others’ feelings and needs. But I was also young and was learning my way through life — protecting myself and my development from others by putting up a façade.

Since the birth of my children I have mellowed. I’m not so angry at what I perceive are the world’s wrongs. I am more understanding and more compassionate towards others. I have learned what it means to live and to love. Mistakes were made, but they’ve been acknowledged and learned from. So when do we get to move on?

Life doesn’t always go as planned. And, obviously, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But no matter what cliché you use, the fact is that it’s hard to be a good person when you see others who don’t treat life with the same respect succeeding. My wife and I truly try to be good people, positive roll models for our children, and – in good Cub Scout fashion – leave the world a better place than what we found it. But it’s so hard to be positive when negativity seems to hang over you like a cloud.

So now we come to another accident: another jarring impact that stops life for a time. But where will those ripples lead us? We will spend our time fighting the current and trying to keep our head above water, or is it now time for us to coast on the waves to a better, more positive, experience?

Either way, no matter where life takes us, we’re going to continue to be positive, going to continue to look for the good in life, and continue to appreciate the fact that no matter what happens we have each other to support. Life owes us nothing more and has already given us so much by allowing us to find each other.

And if that realization is the first rays of sun filtering through the darkness, then I say it’s time to bring on the morning – we’re ready to tackle the day and make the best out of life!

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Sports Watching With my Wife

By Jason Menard

Forget The Apprentice. If you want to see real wheeling and dealing at its finest, then look no further than the average household when the great debate is on. I’m not talking about politics or religion – no, the great debate in my house, and many others like it, revolves around one question – “Honey, can I watch the game tonight?”

To all you single men out there, please consider strongly any desire you may have to settle down if sports is really and truly a priority. Fortunately, I love my wife more than I love sports – but that doesn’t really make things any easier.

In my youth, I was the biggest sports fan around. I could rhyme of meaningless statistics, name the Stanley Cup winners from the past 50 years – in order, and talk insightfully about any number of sporting topics. My TV could have had only two channels, but as long as it picked up Hockey Night in Canada and TSN, I was a happy man.

Now, my TV has over 200 channels, we have time-shifting, and world broadcasts – yet it seems that somehow my wife has been able to install an S-chip without me even knowing it! I knew about V-chips that blocked violence from your screen, but I had no idea that there was a chip in development that eliminates even the hint of athleticism from the airwaves. At times, the most athletic activity that graces our screen is when the homeowners dash to their neighbours’ house in Trading Spaces

I know there are other husbands just like me. In fact, I’ve seen them at work. When our single brethren ask us if we catch the game, our eyes shift about, we mumble something semi-coherent about being busy last night, and wonder to ourselves how it all came down to this. If we’re lucky, we’ll sneak a couple of minutes of highlights, or you’ll see us lingering in the TV section of the store on shopping excursions.

And this time of year is especially torturous. With Canadian and NFL football dominating the airwaves, basketball on its way, and hockey… well, during a normal year… we feel the same way as we do when we lose the car in a parking lot – we know what we’re looking for is nearby, but we can’t find our way to it! Like Tantalus, what we want is maddeningly close, but just out of reach.

I’ve tried to share my enthusiasm with sports with my wife, but she grew up in a household where organized sports weren’t a part of everyday life. So, try as I might, I can’t get her to see the joys of sport. “It’s just a bunch of overgrown man grabbing and hitting each other,” she’ll say.

I’ll try to explain the intricacies of football, or illustrate the speed and beauty of hockey, or get her to appreciate the athleticism of basketball players, but the response is the same. I suppose if the players went off and redesigned their dressing rooms between periods it would be a different story.

My favourite line of hers is, “Well, you watched sports today.” As if all manner of athletics can be lumped into one athletic stew to be ladled out judiciously. And I, like a modern-day Oliver Twist, must humbly hold up my remote saying, “Please ma’am, may I have some more?”

I am thankful to have two TVs, but that can be both a blessing and a curse. First, the bigger TV is never available for sports – I think it may be allergic to them. And when I ask why my wife won’t go in our bedroom to the smaller TV, the answer is invariably, “Well, that one doesn’t get all the channels.”

So, you may say, what’s the problem? Just get up and go to the other TV. Which is an option, but – as you may recall from a couple of paragraphs above – I do love my wife and enjoy spending time with her, so that’s not an option I’d really like to pursue.

Like an athlete in his older years, the game begins to get away from us. Yet, the joys of family far outstrip the pleasures derived from sports. Priorities change and the more important things in life come into focus as we mature. So, while I may look back fondly on my youthful engorgement in sports, I wouldn’t trade a moment of it for what I have today.

But the second she drops that remote…

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved