The other day I was on the phone with my husband discussing some grocery items. Grocery shopping is one of those territories that we strategize over like generals about to invade another country. Neither of us likes to do it, so we stack up and discharge chores hoping it will tilt the seesaw in our favor when it comes time to comparing the tally sheet entitled "Who Has Done the Most Stuff Lately."
"Cheese," I said, the obvious and latest loser in the tally. "I'll pick you up some cheese. Sharp."
"You prefer the sharp cheese, right?"
"You don't like sharp cheese?"
"No, I like mild."
I am 100% certain he likes sharp cheddar cheese and told him so, hoping the force of my assertion would make him remember that he likes sharp cheese. "I'm certain you told me you like sharp cheese."
"No, I wouldn't do that because I like mild."
"Are you SURE you don't like sharp cheese?"
"Have you EVER liked sharp cheese?"
"Then why would I think that?"
"I have no idea."
For years I've been buying sharp cheese for him. It's not my preference, but I don't mind eating it. But I buy it for him because I have been certain for eleven years that it was his favorite. And I have no idea where I got that idea. Which makes me wonder what other portions of my reality I've just made up out of thin air.
* * *
I was on the phone with a woman whose husband died a couple of years ago. There was a problem with a piece of property she was trying to sell and I was the one who was supposed to break the news to her.
"Mrs. Bannerman, your name is not on the deed to your house, only your husband's."
She said, "But he told me he'd put my name on the deed..."
"I'm so sorry, it's not on there, but it's okay -- we just have to do some extra stuff that will take longer, but it will be okay." I did my best to be as reassuring as possible.
"Well, it shouldn't surprise me. I know that's not the only time he lied to me."
Obviously, my feeble reassurances were not going to go far to meet the needs of a wife who wanted explanations from her dead husband.
* * *
Four years ago, my niece's husband moved to our town looking for work. He was a very personable, funny, handsome guy, very good with kids. We liked him. He lived with my mother for a while and the plan was for him to get a job and then send for my niece and the children.
I have a picture of him that I took on my youngest son's first birthday. He had my son propped on one of his shoulders and he was smiling and looking up at my son. He has a brilliant, white smile. My son was laughing as he was being tickled in the side by the man who was holding him. It was a very good first birthday for my son, for all of us.
A year later, that man strangled my niece and stabbed her 26 times with two kitchen knives.
You always think you know someone. Turns out, sometimes you're wrong.