Meb Boden showed me this photo a couple of days before we lost Doug. Both Doug and I thought it was hilarious.
On the gravestone, under the husband's name it says
"As I am now, so shall you be - prepare yourself and follow me."
Then, under the wife's (still living) name it says
"To follow you, I'll not consent, because I know which way you went."
The opposite would be true for Doug and I. If there is a heaven, Doug would be admitted. I am self-aware enough to realize that I don't qualify.
I do realize that when someone dies, we have a tendency to grant them sainthood. My father drowned in a boating accident at the age of 59. Shortly afterwards, my mom elevated him to the saint category. He was an awesome man - intelligent, ingenious, hard working, funny, a great provider for the family, and a loving husband. He was definitely not a saint.
However, most people who knew Doug when he was alive thought he actually WAS pretty close to being a saint (especially for tolerating being married to me. A lot of people said "Poor Doug." I think I only heard "Poor Bet" once, after Doug did something exceptionally stupid.)
There are so many wonderful things about him that I love and miss. But every good quality has a flip side. I am not so delusional that I don't realize that Doug had some limitations. Everyone does. As my 8 year old friend Riley said when I was talking about my own limitations, "Nobody's perfect." I did often tell Doug that he was my Mr. Practically Perfect.
Despite that, there were some things about Doug that were frustrating, annoying, or drove me crazy. After reading this, you will probably think I am a horrible person for thinking back then any these things mattered.)
(A friend thought Doug would be slightly pissed at me for embarrassing him with this list. Unfortunately, he was not easily embarrassed.)
Unfortunately, I am not as tolerant as Doug was (few people are.) If I had asked Doug to make a list of things that I did that bugged him, it might have had one or two things on it - mainly because he forgot about all the other stuff.
Here is my complete list of sainthood-not things about Doug.
- He would do almost anything to avoid confrontation. If I yelled at him, he would completely shut down. I think that's because he wasn't used to it. There was no yelling in the home he grew up in. On the other hand, I have Irish Temper genes. Doug was very gentle, kind and extremely sensitive. He knew yelling wasn't necessary.
- He could get a bit greedy. He invented the "Birthday Month" tradition. Under this regime, during the entire calendar month your birthday occurs in, you get pretty much anything you want (e.g., you get to pick the movie, etc.) One year he got so greedy that I had to make him forfeit the subsequent year's Birthday Month.
- His eating habits were not ideal. He did eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. But he loved some non-healthy faux foods. For example, Durkee Potato Sticks, which are 95% grease and 5% dried up potato pieces. I was trying to get him to eat healthier, with little impact. After a big dinner, he would sneak into the kitchen every night before bed and wolf down about a quarter of a pound of American cheese.
- He had no "off" button when it came to beer and wine at a party. I had to be the "off" button, which also made me the Party Pooper. (I was also always the Designated Driver. I'm not much of a drinker anyway. If I'm going to consume empty calories, I prefer Ben & Jerry's.) Joe told me that when he would offer Doug a (or another) beer, Doug would glance over to me for approval. He knew I had to go home with him, and did not want to suffer the Wrath of Bet.
The fact that Doug was not a big guy (about 165 lbs.) contributed to this. Also, he typically didn't eat or drink liquids much during the day. When he did have a couple of beers, it would hit him hard.
Fortunately, Doug was a really fun, extremely happy drunk - in fact some of our friends made getting him trashed a goal, just for the entertainment value. He would go through some very predictable stages: Chatty -> Increasing Volume -> Goofier than usual -> [optional Paranoia phase] ->Sappy and Sentimental and finally ->Non-verbal.
- He had no Inside Voice, even in fancy restaurants. The volume ratcheted up with every alcoholic beverage consumed (see above), or as he got more excited about a story or joke. This could get a bit embarrassing.
- He ate like a savage. Our first date at some mexican restaurant did NOT involve "date food" it ended up all over his face, hands and the table. (At least I knew what I was getting into!)
- He had Listening Issues. Or should I say "Listening to Me Issues. Some of the stuff I said definitely went on the Ear Express (in one, out the other.) It became a joke - I would start off by saying " I know we've never discussed this before, but could you please...." even though I had told him a thousand times to do something (like turn off the closet light when he finished he there. He would then claim he was going back in there at some point - which might not be until the following day.) He thought I had too many rules (I do) and that I talked too much (I do.) See below.
- He had goldfish syndrome. Some scientists studied how long a goldfish can retain information. It's three minutes. He forgot a lot of stuff (see above.)
- Like where he put things. Lots of times we had to buy two or three of something.
- He said I had too many rules to remember. Like close the shower curtain after you're done so it doesn't get moldy. Or don't fill up the ice cube trays to overflowing because then I can't get them out. I should have been thanking him for filling the ice cube trays! How many men do that?)
- When I came home from travel, most of the houseplants were dead because he forgot to water them. (He always watered the hanging plants on the porch though. Now I hate having to do this myself. It pours all over me.)
- He sometimes forgot to put compost-ables in the composting bucket and threw them in the trash instead. This was not consistent with Our Better Nature. Of course, he caught me sneaking full cartons of putrid milk into the trash more than once because I didn't want to smell the contents while pouring it down the drain. He would then tell me I was incorrigible.
- To help with the forgetting, I got some ladybug stickers. I placed them strategically (e.g., next to a light switch) as a reminder. Then a friend bought him some frog stickers, so the frogs could eat the bugs.
- He was exhausted at the end of the day. He usually wanted to go to bed at around 8 p.m. I liked to stay up later. But I always went upstairs with him so we could be together. I would read or watch a movie (with a headset on so he could get some rest) beside him.
- Deliberateness. He would not rush into a project, or jump ahead. He wanted to think it through. I am more hyper, and found this frustrating at times. I didn't know that it might be associated with the problems with his heart. There's a major guilt trip for ya.
- He would talk to and be friendly with anyone. Sometimes he thought people were funny or nice when they were really dangerous, scary or crazy. Then again, if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't know any of our neighbors. Some of whom are crazy.
- When he washed the dishes, he would put the glasses inside a greasy bacon pan. The grease ended up coating everything. I thought that, as a scientist, he should be able to grasp the concepts of the behavior of oil and water.
- Constant reminders of safety were needed. Safety glasses. Hearing protection (he said he didn't wear ear muffs on purpose because then he wouldn't be able to hear me yelling at him.) Ladder placement and use. Not stabbing yourself with sharp objects. Care with power tools capable of chopping a leg off. Gloves while applying pesticides or using hydrofluoric acid. Not bleeding on white towels (Mom Z got us some red ones expressly for this purpose.) Eventually I was able to train him to be a Safety Sissy, but sometimes he forgot.
- Asking a question three times (for validation) after being given a clear answer (maybe he didn't like the answer?)
- Mexican jumping bean-ness in bed. He would lie there and squirm around while thinking about work or restoration problems. This could make it hard for me to fall asleep.
- Child-like-ness. This was also one of the many things I loved about him - the exuberance and simplicity and awe with everyday things. Sometimes he failed to use adult judgement. I tried to anticipate and prevent mishaps. I also spoke to him about things that others might view as inappropriate things (like peeing in someone else's driveway.)
- Lack of a sense of smell. This did not bode well for showers or the incredibly stinky sweaty clothes balled up in his gymbag and then believed acceptable for re-wearing. I went through a lot of Febreze. He loved garlic, and would breathe garlic fumes on me all night long. I had to set up a pillow dam to redirect the air currents away from my sensitive nose.
- Doug was an uncomplicated man - which was one of the many things I loved about him.It did make it hard to have deep, philosophical discussions. For example, if I asked him what he thought about life after death, he would just say "I dunno." Here is what a mutual friend and colleague said about him:
- Doug seemed the opposite of self-reflective and analytical almost to the point of being awkward about some things. I can remember talking with him about problems at DEP. He wanted me to know that he understood and was supportive but, as he typically did when he didn't have something to really offer about something (usually because he just didn't want to spend time thinking on the subject) he would just kind of shrug his shoulders and give you this tortured look. I can remember him doing this when we would talk about dysfunctional people at work, or problem teammates on the softball team, or when you and he were going thru hard times. His way of staying simple or avoiding the unpleasant or something like that. That's one thing that I think people loved about him. He was smart enough to know what was going on and smart enough to keep the serious stuff in check. How did he do that? The Doug Zimmerman shoulder shrug approach to life's complications. (There was also the occasional eye roll and head shake.)
- Whale noises while sleeping. He would make this periodic "poooof" noises that made it hard for me to fall asleep. A couple of times I tried holding his lips together (which didn't wake him up) to get him to stop. His cheeks swelled up like Dizzie Gillespie's until I had to let go. No impact.
- Then there were the Desperate Day Hikes. Doug would carefully plan a hike and tell me it was 3 miles long, and not too hilly. It often turned out to be 5-6 miles or more, with lots of hills. As I trudged up each one, he would tell meit was the last one, and that it was all downhill from there. Not so. It was all good in the end though.
- Carelessness. Not thinking. (Lately a lot of us have been channeling this quality.)
- Like when he used SOS pads on my brand new Teflon-coated egg poacher. (One of the few times he made me cry.)
- Dropping and breaking many many many (often expensive) things.
- Having to fix something 3 times. He could fix almost anything, but sometimes it took multiple tries. The doorknobs still fall off every 3-6 mos.
- Hurting himself (see Safety Sissiness.) Sometimes he would be dripping blood all over the floor and I'd say "What happened?" He didn't even know he had cut himself. He always had some kind of holes in his head.
I realize this is a pretty short list. I sincerely wish the list of my flaws were this brief.
I know that few, if any, of these things about Doug really mattered. I wish I had let them ALL go while he was alive.