Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I have a husband. His name is Ken. I think I shall nominate him for sainthood soon. He deserves most of the credit for helping me survive this whole “as if my life weren’t complicated enough I think I should break a bone in just such a way as to make me practically immobile for a month” business. I may be using crutches, but it’s really Ken that I’m leaning on in many ways. Every night he gets home from work and commences his duties as father, mother, maid, and nursing home attendant. Never in the last 16 years have I been more proud of myself for tricking him into marrying me.

I had a dream last night that I had committed a horrible crime (in true Kafkaesque fashion, I didn’t know what I had done, just that it must have been bad). As I was being led away to prison, Ken was there, holding my hand and vowing that he still loved me and would come visit me every day. I awoke, relieved that I was still free (unless you count the plaster shackle around one leg) and touched by my husband’s unwavering loyalty.

When I told Ken about my dream, he said, “Sorry dear, but I wouldn’t come visit you every day. I’d be too busy with the kids. Maybe once every couple of weeks. Unless you really did commit the crime. Then I’d have to divorce you.”

Sigh. A hopeless romantic he is not.

And speaking of husbands taken for granted, let’s take a look at Joseph. In art, he is typically sidelined and cast as a clueless observer to the miraculous events of his step-son’s life. In an effort to protect the image of Mary’s virginity, Joseph often looks old enough to be her grandfather (in some apocryphal accounts he is said to be over 90).

In this Von Fuehrich painting, Joseph trails along behind the angelic parade. He’s likely muttering to himself: “Why is it always me who has to pick up after everybody?”

Where’s Waldo Joseph in this Rembrandt scene? Look for the workaholic carpenter busy in the shadows.

And here, Joseph takes a nap while Mary tends to the child. “Let me know if you need anything, honey” he offers, before nodding off, knowing full well that the parent without the mammary glands can only do so much for a crying baby.

My favorite images of Joseph show him as a loving mentor. In this George de la Tour painting, Mary isn’t even in the room while Joseph trains his son in a bit of carpentry. The foreshadowing, as always, is there (the piercing of wood, the cross-shaped tool, the highlighting of Jesus’ palm by the candle) but for a moment, we see a tender scene of a loving father-figure and a boy with a look of admiration in his eyes. Joseph had a role to play, even if it wasn’t a starring one.


meno said...

It's at times like you are having that i wonder how in hell single parents do it.
Hooray for Ken.

Heth said...

Yay for Joseph. He deserves a whole lot more credit than he gets.

And yay for Ken too!

scribbit said...

Can I audit your class? I bet you'd keep me awake and riveted every class.

Ruth said...

Thanks for another thought provoking post. I want to come and join your class too!

allysha said...

I really like that last picture.

Anonymous said...

I second scribbit's comment! My husband is a real trooper too and I am so, so thankful. Any light on the horizen with this foot thing? And when you are mobile, I hope you still enjoy writing everyday!

Julie said...

You know, I think you'd be surprised. I see students nodding off all the time...especially when I dim the lights and show 150 slides of Impressionist art and start talking about the length of people's toes. I'm more boring than you think. One student just told me that this week's discussion on Modern Architecture was the "first interesting thing we'd talked about all semester. No offense or anything." Yeah. Thanks alot.

Anonymous said...

I will sign up for your class, too. I have so much more of an appreciate for learning now than I did when I was in college. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that I was a high school Biology teacher : ) !!

Loved the last picture of Joseph. What a tender image.

Glad you have a remarkable husband. Mine is pretty great, too.

Moobs said...

Whenever I think of Joseph I start feeling uncomfortable. He is essentially cuckolded by God. Then, according my church tradition he never sleeps with his wife himself despite procreation otherwise being his religious duty. He is an example of obedience even in indignity.