Funny, Isn’t It?

Jeanne Charters

FLIP SIDE

My husband loves me dearly. How do I know this, considering he seldom says the words? Let me explain.

Matt is by nature…frugal. Not cheap, frugal. He clips coupons, watches for grocery sales, buys in bulk, and analyzes Consumer Reports like it’s the national budget and he’s Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury. He has a little electronic gadget (I’ve already told you about his love for gadgets) in which he enters household staples and where they can be purchased at the lowest price.

Then, he updates it as the prices go up and down at Sam’s Club, K-Mart or Wal*Mart. I do not like to shop at Wal*Mart because, well, because it just isn’t cool, what with the way they are rumored to treat employees and all. But I’m not above using the products he buys there. Funny, isn’t it, how hypocritical that sounds? In my defense, at least I admit it.

Friends have often suggested he set up a business of shopping for those who hate to shop (like me) because his greatest joy is saving money for himself or others.
He is also the world’s greatest recycler. He recycled before it was politically correct to do so. Beyond sorting the papers and plastics, he repairs things. A car in Matt’s hands will drive for thousands of miles longer than if I am driving it. The oil is always changed on time, you see. Also, he says I change lanes too often, and it drives him absolutely mad that I accelerate too quickly. Not good for the engine, you know.

Now, the flip side to all this good stuff is the fact that getting him to throw anything out is roughly equivalent to wrestling a crocodile. Which reminds me—he’s never forgiven me for throwing out his old polyester shirt that had a crocodile on the back. He called it his “Augie” shirt, never caring one whit that it shone in the sun like nothing created by God or the Universe or any Deity that cared about eye-gleam damage.

When we met (well, when we started to anticipate a life together), I went through his closet and pulled out anything that slid through my fingers faster than my prettiest nightie, bundled those items up, and took them to Goodwill. I have a feeling that, back then, there were some mighty happy pimps in Albany, NY, when they saw how slick Matt’s clothes made them look.

Then, I went out and replaced the discarded items with things made of cotton—soft, natural cotton. What a concept! When I scolded his oldest son, Dean, who dresses in natural fabrics, for not getting his father to be more sartorially savvy, Dean just looked at me as if I had two heads. “Dad, in cotton? Jeanne, there’s something so wrong with that,” he said.

Well anyway, back to my point of knowing my husband loves me dearly.
Last Friday afternoon, he opened a piece of mail that contained our financial statement. His eyes widened noticeably as he said in a calm voice, “Hmmm, looks like we’ve lost about a third of our net worth since last quarter.”

“What?” I shrieked, grabbing the statement. Sure enough, when I compared it to the last one, our retirement income was falling faster than Sarah Palin’s political capital. As he went back to solving a Sudoku puzzle, I got on the phone and called our investment counselor’s office. Got a voice mail. Called his cell. Got a voice mail.
Oh, my God, I’ve been Ponzied! John, who seemed so salt-of-the-earth, is probably now somewhere in Switzerland laughing at all us clients who trusted him with our futures. Bernie Madoff seemed like a nice guy, too.

The minutes crept by like hours, with no return to my messages. I was sweating. Matt kept urging me to not jump to conclusions, but I was already there. It’s this black Irish thing I’ve got going on.

Finally, the phone rang. It was John. He explained calmly that this billing statement didn’t cover our annuities or something. Frankly, I don’t even know what an annuity is. My panic was over nothing. I felt stupid—judgmental—foolish—and, most of all, relieved.

This is the moment when I realized my husband loves me dearly. This frugal, careful man looked at me and said, “That kind of thing doesn’t panic me, Jeanne. Now, if you told me we were getting a divorce, that would panic me.”
It’s nice to be loved like that.

Jeanne Charters is a writer, wife, mother, grandmother, and happy faux Southern lady since moving to Western North Carolina n ine years ago from New York. Her book, funny, isn’t it?, is a collection of her favorite columns and makes a great gift of laughter for you or a friend. The book is available at Malapropos, Mountain Made Book Store in the Grove Arcade, or at jeannecharters.com. Jeanne recently completed her second novel and resides in Asheville with her husband, Matt Restivo. Contact her at jcharters@bellsouth.net

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