How my husband's fishiest hobby restored my faith and my spirit.
Posted in , Feb 1, 2007
I've always hated the question, "Do you have any hobbies?" My usual response is to shrug my shoulders and mumble, "Reading. That's about it." Not so my husband, Rick. He can't sit still long enough to read a book. We've been married for more than 25 years and he's always had hobbies. He keeps coming up with more and more of them, and they get quirkier every time.
There were the chickens he raised in the backyard, then the parakeets—60 of them—that he adopted. He had to repair a gazebo for them that he'd been given, and that took months. There were the old motorcycles he restored and the slot cars he raced in the basement. The track was still there. If it wasn't one thing, it was another. Why would a grown man need hobbies? I asked myself. Rick works long days at his automotive shop. Why in heaven's name would he want to come home and work on something like repairing a gazebo? Wouldn't he rather just sit next to me and read?
"I want to build a koi pond," he announced to me one night after dinner. I nodded, and went right back to reading my book. Rick might as well have said that he was going to fly to the moon. And what the heck was a koi pond anyway?
By Saturday morning I had forgotten all about it. Then a neighbor showed up with a backhoe and started to dig two gaping holes in the yard. I downed my second cup of coffee and watched warily from the deck. "What's he doing that for?" I asked.
"For the koi pond." Oh, that. Rick draped his arm over my shoulder. "Can't you just picture it?" He pointed to a small hill. "That's where the upper pond will be, with the lower pond down here and a waterfall connecting the two. It should be really beautiful. Don't you love the sound of running water?"
"Yes," I said hesitantly. Maybe it would be beautiful, but I didn't see why he wanted to do all this work. "Remember when you were fixing up the gazebo?" I asked. "Remember how you sweated in the summer heat and got aggravated over the instructions? You seemed relieved when it was all done. Why would you want to take on another project?"
He looked at me like a kid. "Because it's fun!" he declared.
Rick checked out different designs on the web and ordered a pump that came in the mail. He studied rocks and waterfalls and figured out all of the dimensions. I wondered if he was going out of his mind. Was this some midlife crisis? Lord, I prayed, help me to understand my husband. What was a wife supposed to do?
The next Saturday he asked me excitedly, "Wanna help me pick out some river rocks?"
I put down the newspaper. "River rocks?" I asked.
"For the koi pond. We'll go to the pet store first—I need a white male parakeet for the gazebo—then we can go buy river rocks," he said.
No, I thought, there's other stuff I'd rather do. Anything. Didn't I need to do some shopping? Then I remembered my prayer. "Okay," I said, and went to get my purse (I had to squelch the temptation to include a book in case I got bored). Rick put on his baseball cap and we got in his big red truck.
We dropped by the pet store and stood in front of a glass cage of parakeets. "Look at them. Aren't they beautiful?" Rick exclaimed. I had to agree that the blues and greens of their feathers were amazing, like a jungle that could fly. And they made a wonderful chirping noise.
"What's going to happen to them when it gets cold?" I asked the pet-store owner. "How will the parakeets survive outside in the winter?"
"Actually, the breed is originally from Australia, ma'am. They'll do just fine. Especially with that heat lamp your husband bought." Rick was a well-known here.
"I don't see any white ones yet," he said.
"We hope to get some in very soon," the owner told him.
Next came the rock and garden store. Rick parked the truck next to a pile of rocks. There were pea-sized bits of gravel, shiny black slate and round chunks that looked like baked potatoes. River rocks. While Rick and the salesman loaded them into the truck, I wandered through the shop, traipsing through the aisles full of plants. The smell of damp earth and the sound of wind chimes filled the air. Almost in spite of myself I was getting a warm feeling inside.
A granite bunny peered at me from behind a topiary bush. He'd look good out by the koi pond, I thought. Rick came to get me. "Hey," I said, "don't you think he belongs beside the pond?"
"Great! Let's buy him."
When we left the rock bunny sat stoically between us in the truck. I was imagining how he would fit in next to an azalea or perhaps peeking out between ferns on the edge of the river rocks.
Rick pulled the truck up to the holes in our yard. First he lined them with thick black plastic, then I climbed into the truck and handed him the river rocks, one at a time. It wasn't that hard and in a weird way it was relaxing. We got into a certain rhythm, the two of us silent as we hauled rocks together, like painting the nursery of our first house when we got married. The silence of two people who have shared goals and dreams. I'd forgotten how much fun it was to work together on something.
"We'll put the smaller stones in a bucket and unload them that way," he said.
"How do you know what you're doing?" I asked.
"It's stuff I've been thinking about for awhile," he said. He had it all figured out.
At the end of the day he installed the pump he'd ordered. We filled up the ponds with water. In an instant we had a waterfall. The soothing, comforting sound of running water. I could sit here and read my books. "I can't believe it works," I told him in amazement.
"All we need now are the koi," he said.
Rick brought out some chairs and we sat beside our waterfall, the gazebo standing in the distance. "You know," I said, "I'm beginning to understand why you like hobbies."
"Why?" he asked. He took off his Atlanta Braves cap and wiped his forehead.
"Well, because they're relaxing," I said. "They take your mind off of things. You know what? I haven't worried about the kids or the family once today." The sound of the waterfall put me in a tranquil, meditative mood. Closer to God and closer to Rick all at once.
"Good," he said smiling. "Because I was thinking it was time to take up a new hobby."
"What?" I asked, hearing the alarm sound in my own voice.
"Reading," he said. "Wouldn't this just be the perfect place?"