Bird Shirt

For his first birthday after we married, I gave my husband a t-shirt with birds stretched across it in rows.  Under each bird were detailed descriptions – names and characteristics I didn’t care about. But I knew he’d love that shirt, and I loved him, so I spent time contemplating what would make him happy. He wore that shirt for years, tattered and faded, refusing to part with it.

Over the next three decades, I turned down my dream job in Boston because he hated that city. I moved with him to a new town because he thought he’d have more opportunities. I kept a kosher home because I knew it was important to him. For some reason, I assumed making him happy had more value than focusing on my own wellbeing.  After 30 years, he was still a high anxiety man, prone to depression, but I had run out of energy. I was worn out—tattered and faded as that old shirt. I wanted to let go. As the kids finished college, we separated.

I wish I’d given myself as much care and attention as I gave him. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to leave. When I go back to the house now (the house I left him because he loves it so much) I pull up to the driveway and watch the cardinals and blue jays contentedly graze at the feeders he has placed on the lawn. I wonder why he couldn’t care for me like he does those birds. Or maybe I just couldn’t let him.