My husband signed up to take a beginning computer class. I, his wife of 26 years, was stunned yet proud. You see, George likes things the way they are, and technology doesn't.
George likes to watch TV in his recliner. He sometimes likes to add longhand. He likes to drink generic green pop he buys at a warehouse place. He likes his old sport jacket that has an unremovable spot—certified by dry cleaners everywhere—because it goes with his black polyester pants that stretch just where he needs them to. I'm telling you, "creativity" is not his middle name.
Meanwhile, I, his high-tech wife, am on my third computer. I love cutting-edge gadgets and high-speed electronics. I love to buy one-of-a-kind outrageous outfits—sans polyester—that make me feel fashionably trendy.
I had tried for years to talk George into taking a computer class, since we both knew it wouldn't be a good idea for me to teach him. Patience is nowhere to be seen among my virtues, and we value our relationship. Besides, I thought if he took a class, he could teach me some behind-the-screen details.
But when George finally signed up, a part of me panicked. "Uh-oh!" I thought. "He's going to want to practice on my computer!" My book manuscripts and magazine articles and business correspondence lurk in the bowels of my machine. My proposals and committee reports and public relations stuff are all on standby awaiting speedy printout.
I imagined George dinking around with my computer, and fear gripped me. What if he wiped out the last two years of my life? Then I took comfort, figuring my low-tech husband would change his mind about the course. But he didn't.
George hurried home from work to take a shower before his big date with Mr. Megabyte. The computer class was in a town ten minutes away. But George left an hour and fifteen minutes early, just to make sure. It had been a long while since I'd witnessed my husband's vulnerability. It was kind of endearing.
Later that night, we talked about the class. "I'll have to practice when I get home tomorrow," he said. "Show me how to use your computer tonight so I'll be ready."
Uh-oh. "George," I stalled, "I've been at my computer all day. The last thing I want to do is boot up at bedtime." Thinking fast, I added, "You're probably on information overload anyway." George agreed, and the invasion was diverted.
Mid-morning the next day, he called me from work. "You gonna be home tonight? I need you to show me how to use your computer before I forget what I learned. I especially need to practice the keyboard." George had never learned to type.
"No, I have a meeting," I explained. "I don't think it would be a good idea for you to be here alone without instructions." Promises were made for the next day.
He called again the same time the following day. There was no getting out of this one, even though I did have to go out that evening. Before I left the house, I opened a file for him and explained what not to do. A few quick trials were run. Tension mounted.
"Just don't touch 'file'!" I pleaded. I felt like I was abandoning my innocent baby in the arms of Godzilla. During my entire meeting that night, I imagined the worst about what I might discover when I got home. I checked my watch every few minutes, envisioning George innocently bringing on a systems failure. Hard drive crashed. All files lost.
I expected to see "You're in B-I-G trouble, Bucko!" blinking on the computer screen.
When I rushed in the front door the house was quiet. George was already in bed. I ran up the stairs to my office, straining to hear the familiar hum of my computer. My heart pounded as I sat down, took a deep breath, ever so gently put my hand on the mouse and moved it to the right. The screen-saver pattern blinked off—and what I discovered was the last thing I expected: an aspect of George that even after 26 years I never knew existed.
My practical, nuts-and-bolts husband had been practicing his word processing. He wrote, "As I'm typing, you'd think the words were flying onto the screen at record pace and blurring speed. Wrong. I'm typing the way a chicken pecks at grains of food, one by one—only not as fast. On the screen, it looks like a professional did it. Only we know who really did!"
It was cute. It was funny. It was kind of charming. It was even poetic. My George, known to some of our friends as Garage Man, was writing with metaphors and communicating humor and personality in typed words. It was a creative side of my husband I'd never seen.
A couple of weeks later he brought home a printout of a graphic. It was a detailed flowering plant with a bee buzzing around it.
"Cool," I said. "Did you find this in a clip-art file and import it?"
"No. I just drew what was in my head."
On the cutting edge of technology—a place I never thought I'd find my husband—I saw a gift I never knew he had. It was one more thing to love about my "steady" man—the steady, creative man whose hidden talent surfaced on my computer.
I'm sure glad he didn't change his mind about taking that class.
Author and speaker Charlene Ann Baumbich writes books and magazine articles on her prized computer—which she now gladly shares with George.
Copyright © 1997 by Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership Magazine.