One left home should get silver for Olympics, too

August 31, 2004|By SUSAN REIMER

NOW THAT THE Olympics are over, the athletes get to come home and so does my husband, the sportswriter.

Faithful readers will remember that I usually take the opportunity of these long absences to write columns at my spouse's expense.

I never tire of pointing out that while I have been stuck at home with two kids, he has been someplace exotic doing something exciting. None of the neighbors ever says to me, "Wow, the grocery store and back-to-school shopping? I wish I had your job."

My husband the sportswriter always used to return home with Super Bowl souvenirs and Olympic pins purchased to melt the ice. But, as the trips grew longer or more frequent, he realized that only jewelry would do the trick.

The good news for me has been that each Olympic host country has been well known for one precious gem or another. My careful research has revealed that Greece is known for its silver jewelry, but I have been warned by my Greek friends not to be too impressed with that as a gift. Apparently it is cheap as dirt over there.

Things never go well for me when my husband the sportswriter leaves on these extended junkets. The kids get sick or I bang up the car or a mouse appears in the kitchen.

One year, snow blew through the vents in the attic and melted through the ceiling of my bedroom. Dry-wall the consistency of mashed potatoes ended up on top of my handmade quilt.

Another time, the IRS attacked my bank account, and I had no money. But that is another story.

While he is away, I eat kid food. He returns craving my meatloaf, and all I want to make is a reservation.

He returns exhausted, and I make lots of resentful racket while he tries to catch up on his sleep.

We have these can-you-top-this conversations about the trials each endured, and they always end the same way.

I say something like, "Honey, you were in Greece." He says something like, "Honey, I was in Greece." Our words, though the same, are half a world apart in meaning.

After each of these trips, I would hand off the kids to his care as smoothly as a track athlete with a baton. I would leave for the mall and some therapeutic window-shopping or dinner out with girlfriends.

This time, it is different.

My husband the sportswriter returns from the Greek Olympics to a house that has changed mightily in his two-week absence, and it has nothing to do with mice or snow.

While he was away, his son signed the papers that commit him to two more years at the U.S. Naval Academy and five years in the Navy. And his daughter left for her first year of college.

This is a far cry from a new tooth or stitches. It is more momentous than a wrecked car.

And it is more than an empty house. In his absence, his children have taken giant steps away from him. From us.

The good news, of course, is that I will still be around, ready to run the vacuum cleaner the minute he shuts his eyes to nap.

Friends have asked over the years why I have not traveled with my husband the sportswriter to Japan or New Orleans, to Salt Lake City or Norway. It has always been a silly question.

Who would look after the kids?

In four years, the Summer Olympics will be held in Beijing. Michael Phelps is expected to be there.

I just might be there, too.

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