My Promises

scoutSign“Do you promise to water my mom’s flowers while I am gone?”

It is what my wife asked a full week before leaving on a quilting retreat.

“Sure,” I told her.

“And clean the litter box?”

“Sure.”

Note what happened here.

I promised to do something but I did not promise to remember to do it. It is the difference between intending to do something and actually doing it.

A gap I struggle with.

She knows this.

“Do you promise to not forget?”

“Only if you promise to remind me.”

But here is the thing, she is the one who promised to water flowers while her mother was in Arizona for the winter.  It is not a promise I made, yet it is a promise I am compelled to keep and I might add, a promise I am compelled to remember.

But marriage is all about promises.

The day we said I do, we made a lot of promises to each other.

Big promises.

On these we have done well. We stayed true to each other. We supported each other during rough times and kept each other from getting too carried away during good times.

But nothing in that marriage contract spoke to the little annoying things: like watering a mother-in-law’s flowers or cleaning the cat litter boxes. In our marriage vows, no little promises were articulated and no small commitments listed and absolutely nothing was mentioned about having to remember any of this stuff.

It is like we promised the big stuff and let the little stuff slide.

I don’t think that was wise, because it is the little stuff that gets you in trouble just as much as the big stuff..

I suppose that is the purpose of courtship. You spend enough time with each other to learn how reliable the other person is and over time you come realize that if someone can be trusted with the little stuff, they can be counted on with the big stuff.

But when we were courting there were no flowers to be watered and no cats to make a mess  – but back then we were young and head over heels in love, so doing the little stuff seemed easy.

It is only with time that doing the big stuff became easier and doing the little stuff became harder.  As the years went by, we learned to live with each other’s minor demands and petty infidelities, like forgetting to clean the cat litter box.

But as those same years passed, the weight of the minor transgressions became more and more of a burden.

Like planning a long weekend with your buddies and forgetting to tell your spouse that you would be gone the same weekend she will be gone – so the litter box did not get cleaned and the flowers were not watered.

“You promised!” she said when she discovered this.

Odd that she remembers my promise but did not remember her promise to remind me.