I was sitting on the front porch, sipping my coffee, two mornings ago when a woman in an oversized sunhat and holding on for dear life to a leash being yanked by a 200-pound dog shouted to me, "please tell Skylar thanks for the wildflower recommendations!"
She was passing by on the sidewalk and didn't seem interested in stopping. I had never seen this woman before in my life.
"A woman I've never seen before in my life just walked by and told me to thank you for the wildflower recommendations," I then texted Skylar.
This happens from time to time, and it's never really a surprise. I've walked our neighborhood with this chatty man. He's never been one to pass up an opportunity to chat with anyone who is willing to make eye contact with him. Just last month we were out walking the dogs when he saw an elderly woman watering a flower pot on her front porch. Ten minutes later we were in the middle of a tour of her yard, my sincere husband repeatedly saying things like "you are so good at arranging your annuals" to our beaming neighbor.
He has that kind of face that makes people implicitly want to engage with him. A couple years ago we were walking through a neighborhood near our house when two women stopped us to ask if we could help them figure out how to put a large house plant into their tiny car. We were unhelpful, and when they figured it out without our advice, he shouted, "see? You don't need no man!"
"You have to see Judy's backyard," he told me two weeks ago. "She is incredible. So talented at landscaping."
"Judy?" I asked him.
He shook his head at me, disappointed. "I've told you about Judy. We met at a zoning meeting years ago. She's basically the soul of the neighborhood."
From time to time I'll run into some stranger or receive a message on social media from someone I don't know and they'll tell me they had a run-in with him. "He is the kindest person I've ever met," I've heard over and over.
Recently he's been stewing over running for local office. He's been involved in municipal issues for years, attending community meetings and trying to get more involved in several aspects of local governance that often don't feel very flashy. I think his interest in this sort of thing is sincere, but I'm also half convinced he's just enamored with the idea of knocking doors as a part of his campaign.
"Think about how fun it will be to go around and meet all our neighbors," he told me a few weeks ago. "If we went out every night, we could knock thousands of doors in a matter of just a few months."
I sighed. "You really should have gone on a Mormon mission at some point."
I'm still considering sending him off on one. Partly because his emails home each week would be hilarious.
It's exhausting at times living with America's number one cheerleader, but it certainly has its benefits. Any time I'm feeling down I know I can count on him to give me a boost.
There I'll be, sitting in my home office, tired, working, and feeling a bit rundown. Then, suddenly, I'll hear Skylar mindlessly shout from the next room over, "I love you!"
I don't think he even hears himself when he says it. These words of affirmation and affection are so subconscious for him, which means they are so a part of who he is that they burst out of him without awareness.
"Love you, too," I'll shout back.
"Huh?" he'll say, as if I started the conversation.
"I said I love you, too," I'll repeat.
"Awe," he'll say. I can hear the smile through his voice. "Thanks, honey. I love you, too."
~It Just Gets Stranger