Monday, May 17, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 97

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 40
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 16
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 11


As of January of 1995 I was “retired” from active participation in the operation of my two comic book and collectible stores. I was now able to be more involved in the lives of my children and I’d be more available to help my wife with day-to-day family issues like carpooling. I knew this would be a big relief for Mal.

My father was turning sixty in January and I had booked a short three-day cruise for him and I to go on for this milestone birthday. He had never been on a cruise and I knew he’d enjoy it and I was certainly looking forward to spending some uninterrupted time with him. Unfortunately, my father’s older brother, Tom, who had been fighting cancer for a while, died the week before our planned trip. I loved my Uncle Tom. He was also my “godfather” and I had fond memories of him from my childhood. Each Christmas, for quite a few years, I would receive a gift of a flannel shirt. Even though these were not the type of shirts that I was wearing at the time, I still appreciated that my Uncle Tom and Aunt Eileen were so thoughtful to buy me a gift. In 1965 I was looking forward to getting my flannel shirt because most of my friends were now wearing them but for some reason Uncle Tom bought me an early “Rolling Stones” record album! I wasn’t a fan of “The Stones” back then but I grew to enjoy them and I think of my Uncle Tom almost every time I hear their early songs.

Obviously, my father and I had to cancel our trip, but since I had already paid for the cruise, I convinced my wife to go on the cruise with her youngest sister, Madeline. We knew she’d be criticized for going on a “vacation” instead of going to my uncle’s funeral but at the time, I rationalized that I would be there to “represent” my family and Mal’s attendance wouldn’t be necessary. It was my mistake, not Mal’s. I had insisted that she go on the cruise.

It was strange for Mal to be away on a cruise without me. In our more than twenty years of marriage we had very rarely been apart for more than one day. I was pretty spoiled by my mother and my wife. I was good at my business but I was nearly helpless at home. I couldn’t cook, I didn’t vacuum or clean, and I certainly had no idea how to use a washing machine. When I was a kid, my mother did all of that and now, as an adult, my wife did everything for me. That was all about to change.

Our two kids were in different private schools and their school vacations were not scheduled at the same times. This meant that we couldn’t go on a vacation as a whole family (other than at Christmas) during the school year. We decided that it could be a good mother-son “bonding” time for Mal to go on a vacation with Adam so in March of 1995 they flew to Florida for a visit with Mal’s father and her sister Ginny. Mal used to say, “I can’t believe a forty-year old man can be so helpless. If you can’t find something to eat, you deserve to starve.” I’m pretty sure she was joking. Previously, when we traveled, I always took care of the flight arrangements, rental cars, and hotel reservations but since I was going to have to learn how to take care of household chores and deal with getting Cassy to school, preparing her school lunch, and actually cook meals while Mal and Adam were gone, we figured it was time for Mal to learn how to handle the details of a vacation. She did a great job. I wasn’t so good. Most of the “meals” I prepared were from a can or fast food, but we all survived.

It’s a good thing that Mal had “taught” me to survive on my own because shortly after her vacation with Adam, it was time for her to go on a vacation with Cassy! They went out to Colorado to visit Mal’s sister, Madeline, and our old friends, Art and Suisei Goguen. Mal and Cassy were away from home for eleven LONG days and they had great fun while I was home doing very “un-fun” stuff. At the time, I really hoped we’d never have to be apart again.

Next chapter: Mal gets sick.

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