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April 18, 2013

This morning Fem Major (the spouse) called me from work and said, “Eleven twenty.”  I said, “What?”  She repeated, “Eleven twenty” and added Fem Minor’s (the offspring’s) name.  “Jessa,” she said and I got it.  Fem Minor was at school.  We were having a northwest Iowa morning of sleet-snow-rain and Fem Major had called me to let me know that school was letting out early, at eleven twenty and I had to go pick Fem Minor up.  I said, “Okay,” and she said “Okay” and hung up.
Her calls home from work are always hurried and curt.  She feels guilty about stealing time from the job.  But, then, she is a pretty hurried and curt person at the best of times.
English is her second language.  We’ve been married over twenty, she’s a citizen and has been living in an English speaking society for two decades, but her own English is still free willed and beyond the normal rules.  Her sentences often come out a tumble of unordered words one has to mentally rearrange before they can respond and she tends to blurt out new ideas as soon as they come to mind, for fear she claims that she’ll forget them and they land bam! completely off subject and startling in the midst of a conversation and leaves you open mouthed and wondering, “What am I going to do with this?”
Communication around here is interesting, a challenge, an adventure.  It gives my stolid reality a kick.
I am well aware that English is often very difficult for those from somewhere else, especially those from places with more rhythmic, melodious languages like Asia.  Fem Major does get along in the wide English-speaking world, shopping and working and so on and I wonder if she slows down then, fashions her speech more carefully for those who don’t know her so that they can understand more easily, but then she is not the type to slow down for anything.
She’s a former government worker and educated and perfectly intelligent and sometimes I think she is just being stubborn and refusing to be oppressed by the rules of grammar.  Stubborn is something she has down cold.  She’s also headstrong enough to think that they don’t apply to her.  She always assumes that she’s in the right.  As a professional woman she never learned how to cook.  Also a professional, I have by circumstances been forced to cook, first for my paralyzed father, for myself as a bachelor and for my son when I was a single dad, but she still feels free to correct me in the kitchen.  “That’s not right,” she says.  “That’s not right” is a common beginning to our conversations.
As a journalist/writer/poet I can claim that words are my business and stringing them together into sentences my passion.  Nevertheless I enjoy her little experiments in English.  She lives a blank verse life and I stumble around trying to keep up.  Add to this that she is usually soft spoken and has an accent and my hearing damaged by gunfire back in my military days and you can say that my life is a constant treasure hunt where the treasure is, ‘what the hell is she talking about.’ She can be difficult to live with, but this is my daily challenge.  It keeps me on my toes and certainly adds interest to life.  Call it extreme marriage.

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