In yet another example of my infinite pettiness and Chris's infinite patience and selflessness, he had the perfect response for me when I apologized for something I did.
Last spring, Chris bought a number of bulbs for the garden we planned to put in our yard this year. Among them was a dahlia. I love dahlias. What a show of nature's extravagance, brilliance, and perfection they are. Chris knows I love dahlias, as does he.
I believe in buying bedding plants so they look instantly good in the garden, perform faster, and have a better chance of survival (another example of my impatience?), while Chris likes to start plants from scratch and nurture them over time. He can do his thing. It's my garden, too, but there's no use fighting over it. (Reminds me of a gay couple who fought in a video store one Saturday evening over what movie to rent. It's not that important, people.)
When the first flower emerged on our one and only dahlia bulb earlier this summer, to say I was disappointed is an understatement. Sure, the foliage was a startling bronzy-black, so unlike anything else around it, but I expected a large flower head, with multiple layers of petals, something I could cup my hand around. Instead, the flower was a single layer of red petals with a yellow middle. Even in contrast to the foliage, it fell short of spectacular. A real let-down, in my opinion.
Of course, as is my way, I complained to Chris that, after waiting all that time for the bulb to emerge from the ground, watching the unique foliage grow taller, and anticipating that first bud transforming into a full-blown flower, I couldn't believe he'd selected something so bland, when he had his choice this spring of any number of other bulbs that would have put on a major display in our garden.
But I didn't leave it at that. How many times have we been in our garden over the summer, Chris filled with pride over how well everything's turned out (especially for its first year), including his precious dahlia, and I've complained again and again about his bad choice, how lackluster the flowers are, how they make, at best, only a minor statement? Too many.
Last weekend, Chris and I met another gay couple for a light lunch at the Gillnetter, a pub on the Mary Hill Bypass with an outstanding view of the Fraser River. One or the other of the couple asked us how our garden was doing this year, and, somehow, we ended up on the subject of the unimpressive dahlia. Of course, I had to get my jab in again, putting down Chris's gardening prowess in the process by talking down the dahlia selection. I thought my description of the pitiful flower was funny, but, by this time, the joke was over.
Then, yesterday, I was in the backyard, looking at the array of plants we grew this year, and I stopped to stare at a flower that had just opened on the offending dahlia plant. In the middle of it was a honey bee, crawling around the brilliant yellow center, gathering pollen. And, as I focused on the bee, impressed by its industriousness, for the first time, I really saw just how beautiful the flowers are on that plant.
Not only how beautiful, but also how perfect. The more I looked at the bright red petals, the more I realized how the red was made all the more vibrant by streaks of orange in them too. The assortment of colors on a single flowering plant, from red to orange to yellow to bronzy black was striking, and the perfection of that single flower, so loved by the bee, hit me as though it was the first time I'd seen it. Perhaps it was.
I knew I owed Chris an apology, not just for complaining about my disappointment in the performance of the dahlia, but for continuing to beat it to death over the past weeks. And, worse, for bringing it into our conversation with our friends last weekend, making him look like a fool in front of them for being such a poor gardener.
When Chris returned home from work last evening, we sat down to the dinner I'd prepared, and I told him I owed him an apology. For what, he asked. For harping on the dahlia flowers all summer, for saying he hadn't selected a spectacular enough specimen, for embarrassing him in the company of our friends.
Chris's response? "That's just you."
My immediate thought was...how generous. And how gracious. How generous, gracious, and sweet. And how like Chris. I loved him all over again--not that I was ever out of love with him--for not making me feel badly because of how petty I'd been, or for how I'd ended up putting him down every time I'd made a disparaging comment without realizing I was doing it.
In his own selfless way, Chris had heard my rants, but he'd chosen not to give them any importance, because he knew, in the grand scheme, they weren't important. Goodness knows I've given him more than enough reason over the years we've been together to get upset with me--for all the ways I've inadvertently passed judgment on him by saying something that may have been about something else, but that, through its connection to him, diminished him in some way, too.
You want to know why our relationship works? Because one of us--not me!--consistently takes the high road. One of us consistently forgives the impulsive comments, and slights, and complaints of the other. One of us doesn't harbor any of the hard feelings accompanying the hurtful things said. One of us is selfless and patient enough not to take anything personally that comes out of my mouth.
As far as Chris is concerned, it's as if my comments or complaints aren't uttered at all. He doesn't argue with me. He doesn't shoot me a dirty look. He doesn't try to control me. He doesn't try to change me. He knows, for better or for worse--and I have my good points, too--this is me. He knows who I am. And somewhere in all of that, whether I deserve it or not, he loves me just the same.
(For those who are interested, the name of the dahlia plant we grew this year is Bishop of Llandaff.)