My in-laws have a series of plaques hanging in their dining room. Each plaque is painted with a cartoon of family member done up as a saint. There’s Saint Jerry, patron saint of husbands and protector of wives and children; Saint Carmen, patron saint of housekeeping and child-rearing; and then there’s one for each of the five boys in the family.
My husband, the oldest son, has a plaque that says “Saint Michael, the Magnificent.” Sometimes, I find this epiteph absolutely hysterical. Like whenever I have to get up in the middle of the night and I trip over the shoes he’s left in a huge pile all over the bedroom floor. And why am I getting up in the middle of the night? Because one of the kids is screaming for us, but Saint Michael the Magnificent suffers tragically from nocturnal deafness, meaning he doesn’t hear a damn thing once his head hits the pillow. He also suffers from “I’ll-get-to-it-itus,” a debilitating disease which causes him to forget to do things like clear the kitchen table or vacuum the floor or get the kids to pick up after themselves. These are all chores I normally do, but on nights when I take karate class, he’s supposed to do them. Yet I always come home to find toys strewn everywhere, dirty dishes still on the table, and our youngest daughter’s dinner scattered all over the dining room carpet. When I ask Saint Michael the Magnificent when he plans to get to these things, he always answers, “I’ll get to it,” which in our house translates as “I’m going to forget all about these chores and leave them until **you** do them dear, because my giant brain is just so busy with other things!”
And speaking of giant brains, Michael does have one of the biggest. That man has not one but two degrees in aerospace engineering. He makes his living programming flight simulators for commercial aircraft. He’s fluent in C++, Fortran, Java and fifty other computer languages I know nothing about. He reads physics books… for fun. He can explain at length the difference is between gravity and gravitation, and has done so many times at the dinner table but my brain is a little too small to handle that conversation. His hobbies include building computers and fixing bug-riddled software, and he has become so intimate with our computers that I sometimes think I ought to sew a few microprocessors into my lingerie so I can get his attention. He is, in short, a geek god.
This is not a bad thing though. In fact, yesterday it turned out to be a very good thing. One of our neighbors passed away unexpectedly this week. I stopped by to visit his wife and see how she was doing. Her family showed up right away to help with the funeral arrangements and make sure she was taken care of, but there was one problem no one could figure out — how to get into the husband’s computer to pay the bills. The widow had never been involved in handling the household finances. She only knew that her husband had everything set up on the computer and she didn’t know the password to get to the info she needed. She was looking at paying someone $85 an hour to hack into the system. I told her to wait; I was pretty certain I knew someone trustworthy who could do the job for free. I called Michael immediately.
“I need you to be a hero for someone,” I said.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“Mr. Smith died, and Mrs. Smith can’t get into his computer to pay the bills. Can you help?”
After a moment of silence, he said, “Maybe. It depends on a few things.”
“Can I tell Mrs. Smith when you’re coming over?”
“Yeah, about five thirty. I need to research a few things first.”
Michael came home around five, went up to his computer and started printing some documents and burning DVDs. “I want to go over there with a full tool set and all the latest info,” he explained. He left the house shortly after that, papers and DVDs tucked under his arms. I sat down with the kids and prepared to wait. Some computer problems could take hours to fix, I knew.
Michael was home ten minutes later. “Problem solved,” he said. “The operating system had a backdoor. Mrs. Smith can get to all the files now. I told her if she needs anything else, just give a call.”
Michael went off to karate class an hour later. Mrs. Smith called while he was out. “I just wanted to tell you, that was the nicest thing anyone has done for me all week. Tell your husband I am so grateful!”
Her thanks made me want to cry. Not because of what Michael did for Mrs. Smith. A lot of others would have been just as willing to help out in the same situation, and a lot of people in our neighborhood probably will help Mrs. Smith over the course of the next few weeks. It’s just that kind of neighborhood. But it made me realize that I will never ever find myself in the situation Mrs. Smith found herself in this week. My geek god husband, he of the gigantic brain, the man who suffers from “I’ll-get-to-it-itus” has already made plans for when he dies. He’s not planning on dying anytime soon, mind you. But he knows accidents can happen, the unexpected can occur any day, and he’s got a wife and two kids to take care of, whether he’s around or not.
The man who cannot remember to clear the dirty dishes off the dining room table is the same man who made certain we both have powers-of-attorney and trusts written up. The man who leaves his shoes all over the bedroom for me to trip over is also the man who created a password reset disk for me and stored it in a safe so it’s there if I ever need to get into his computer to pay the bills, I can, and there will be enough money in the accounts to handle the bills for at least a couple months. The man who cannot hear his five-year-old daughter howling for a glass of water in the middle of the night has made damn certain that neither his kids or his wife is ever going to want for anything should the worst happen and he not be there to take care of them himself.
I could go on and on about the things Michael has done to take care of this family — the weekends he stayed home and taken care of the kids without complaint so that I could run off to the library and work; the 3AM computer glitches he crawled out of bed to fix so that I could write that oh-so-important story or record that really important podcast; the poopy diapers he changed; the late nights he spent rocking a colicky baby; etc., etc. He has always come through when I need him, and he always will. So what if he can’t pick up his socks and put them in the hamper, and he rattles on endlessly about the finer points of physics to a woman who’s biggest mental challenge is how to get her two-year-old to poop in the potty? He takes care of the important things. He takes care of his family. He helps his neighbors and friends when they need it.
He is, in short, Saint Michael the Magnificent. He’s my hero, and I’m damned glad he’s my husband.