People are often confused at my obsession with my chosen professional football team. For someone who grows up in North Dakota, there are no real options when it comes to professional sports fandom. My dad was a Miami Dolphins fan (gross,) and my mom was a San Francisco 49ers fan (likely because, Joe Montana,) so pickins’ were, as they say, slim. Luckily, I had a special bond with my grandpa, who was a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan. I latched on in a major way, growing that into the (likely unhealthy) obsession I have today. Imagine my surprise three years ago when I found out that the man was NOT actually a lifelong Packers fan as I had become, but actually just a fan of whatever team was winning that season. Thanks, Gramps. Jerk.
My grandpa had a lot of weird quirks: everything from “forgetting” my name and calling me by a number to waving his hands over the draw-pile during any card game, claiming to believe in his own magic to provide him with the right card. (For those of you who think that was just something adults do with children, you should know that my grandpa was still performing his “magic tricks” while playing poker with us as a family even when I was 25. It never worked, for the record.) Every Christmas, he would shake his unwrapped gifts and predict that we had gotten him pink panties that year. Yet, still reeling from his death in my own way, one thing keeps coming to mind time and time again.
You see, my grandparents lived in the house that they built together. The house that saw one miscarriage and then one growing child, that still keeps a clothesline on the front lawn, that was dwarfed only by the enormous garden that my grandparents maintained well past an age in their lives where they should have. A house without a dishwasher, so it necessitated two of them. For being relatively conservative people who still think that Republicans are everything wrong with the world and yet don’t think much of President Obama, they seem fairly progressive in retrospect: my grandmother never did the dishes alone. After each meal in that home, Tyler and I would take our dirty dishes to the sink, rinse them off, and then sit back down to play cards or Nintendo or watch TV. Meanwhile, my grandparents stood at the sink, after all the dishes were piled in, and my grandma would wash, while my grandpa dried and put away. Every meal.
Now, it’s probably easy to say that this is a practical thing. Maybe that’s how it was initially conceived. The dishes needed to be done, and if two people went to it, they would be done faster than having only my grandmother on dish duty. It’s entirely possible that this was never meant to be a political statement, or even a statement on equality or love or shared responsibilities in marriage. Maybe it’s just efficiency and productivity and speed. But it was every meal–big or small, no matter how tired or full or busy they were, at peace or bickering, even if they just wanted to ignore them and spend time with their kids or grandkids–they did those damn dishes together.
Joe and I began dating early this year and have enjoyed every second of falling madly, insanely in love. On his days off, he wakes up way too early in the morning to drive me to work. If he’s had a particularly rough day at work, sometimes I will pick him up with his favorite milkshake in hand. He fills up my water glass every night before bed. When we go grocery shopping, I look around for the ingredients I’ll use to make dinner while he peruses the flowers to figure out which ones he’d like to bring home for me. We had a conversation the other day about wanting to never stop paying attention to the little ways we show one another our love. We talked about saying “I love you,” always, even when we are angry as hell. We talked about my grandparents. We talked about doing the dishes.
Joe has a dishwasher–we don’t need to literally do dishes together. But I think the most important part of a relationship is not the grand gestures. It’s not the gallant romantic happenings or the big holiday/anniversary/birthday circuses of events. It’s the little things that we do–even when arguments make us feel like we live a world apart from our other–that reach out to make the other person remember that there is love here. There will always be love here.
My grandpa was a helluva guy. His oddities will always be fodder for stories we share as a family or in an attempt to describe our loved ones to innocent bystanders. But if I take anything from my grandpa, it’s that I want to look always for the little things that I can do for my other in a relationship…for the little things he has done and continues to do for me. It’s that I want to do the dishes together, even when there are no dishes to do.
And naturally, my love for Wisconsin ball. Never forget.
John David Egosque
1926 – 2014