Hey. Hey! It’s Otto’s birthday today. I made his morning extra special by forgetting to make coffee before I had to run off to physical therapy, and telling him that I would see him tonight. Rawr!
I will totally make it up to him later by… making coffee. (What did you think I was going to say? Oh, you.) Also, I’ll be taking him out to dinner. And maybe I will reprise last night’s hijinks where I totally sidled up to him and said in a husky voice, “I’m gonna go slip into something more comfortable,” and then I went and put on a t-shirt and my fleece pajama pants.
Anyway, this is the part where I’m supposed to wax nostalgic on how every year together makes us better and more in love and how I’d never want to walk through life with anyone else and he’s the wind beneath my wings. All of that is true, but in case you haven’t noticed (see: fleece pajama pants sexytime), that’s not exactly my style. Also, in case you haven’t noticed, this year has pretty much sucked hairy donkey balls for our family, so it gets a little complicated to be all grateful and stuff, just now. Nevertheless, I have a few things to say about the man who occasionally wakes me up to discuss snakes.
I’ve never talked a whole lot here about the FIRST time Otto and I dated. It was not long after my divorce and I probably had no business getting involved with anyone, but I’d known Otto half my life and knew what kind of man he is and figured it would all work out just fine. Well, it didn’t—not that first year—and I was completely crushed. But (SPOILER!) we did figure it out eventually, so that’s all fine.
I spent a long time telling myself, after our first disastrous attempt at being a couple, that Otto was Not Ready and Immature and that’s why things went south. (Notice I conveniently leave out the part where I was also Not Ready and also trying to figure out what to be when I grew up and all of the rest of that. We’re not talking about me! We’re talking about him! Shush!) I had a point here. I did, I’m sure of it. Oh! Yes! Okay, the thing was, what I did NOT allow myself to think at that time was that a large portion of my wrecked devastation over things not working out was because it was completely at odds with what I knew (know) to be true about Otto.
And that particular thing is this: Otto is loyal to a fault. TO A FAULT. I know people use that phrase all the time, but in Otto’s case, I mean quite literally to a fault; as in, he is loyal to the bitter end of people taking advantage of him or treating him like crap, sometimes. Otto is the guy who ALWAYS has your back, if he’s on your team. So when he gave up on us—or perhaps, to be fair, agreed with me when I did—a tiny voice deep in my hindbrain assumed that meant I just wasn’t important enough for him to fight for me the way I’d seen him do for so many others. THAT was what really cracked my heart.
Back to the spoiler portion of our program: During our time apart, I learned that I am good enough and smart enough and doggone it, people like me, and of course that was a necessary bit of life development for me as a human being and also for me as someone who might be a worthy partner. And Otto, I assume, learned that he is a complete glutton for punishment and wanted me back. Two years after we split, we got back together, and the rest is history, etc. And NOW, Otto has my back. Always. Because that’s the guy he is.
He’s had my back for many years, now, but as much as I adore hyperbole, it is not an exaggeration when I tell you I would not have made it through this year without him. Everything went wrong this year. We sat in the belly of the whale together for month after month, and he held my hand and loved me through it, loved my children through it. Because that’s the guy he is.
This year had its share of collateral damage beyond the obvious, too. As much as I love Otto’s unfailing capacity for compassion, I had the dubious privilege of watching him be mistreated on multiple occasions by those who are supposed to have his back in return. I watched him take it. I bit my tongue. I watched it continue. I tried to walk that fine line between encouraging him to protect his own needs and possibly discouraging his generous spirit. I tried to figure out how to shield him while desperately trying to understand and learn from his seemingly boundless ability to forgive. In the wake of a year of losses and challenges, Otto continued to love even those who’ve forsaken him, because that’s the guy he is.
It’s probably easy to give Otto short shrift if you’re not paying attention; he doesn’t ask for a lot. And he puts up with a lot. I know I’ve caught myself more than once, this year, realizing that I am simply not living up to what he deserves, because I’m so mired in everything else. And then I apologize and he says, “Don’t apologize, there’s other stuff that’s needed you more. I’m fine.” Because that’s the guy he is.
So what does all of that mean? He’s not the wind beneath my wings. He’s the mortar between my bricks (and now please insert the Minecraft joke of your choice for Monkey’s enjoyment) (alternatively, tack on “that’s what she said” if you’re ready for this metaphor to run completely off the rails). He’s all that, a bag of chips, and THREE COOKIES. He’s That Guy, in the best possible way.
I hate this whole year so much. But I do not hate the constant reminder that terrible times do not have to turn us into terrible people. I hope I regularly provide half the joy to Otto that he provides to me. And today, on his birthday, I’ll even bump that up to three-quarters. Because I’m a giver like that.
Love you, darlin’. Thanks for being born. Thanks for being here. Thanks for always being you.