LaughLines: What? Me Panic?

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I am married to one of the great underreactors of all time, and that’s a good thing…most of the time. You’ve heard the phrase, “When you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…?” My husband keeps his head, never panics, never overreacts – and frankly, it’s a little annoying. I also remain relatively calm in emergencies, but compared to him, I’m a screaming banshee who needs sedatives and/or physical restraints. And I’m just standing there…

Perhaps the reason Matt remains calm is that he grew up in a house with seven siblings and one bathroom. You’ve got to maintain your composure when you’re fifth in line to pee every morning. I’m sure his widowed mother was a great role model – she didn’t freak out even when she found out her 9- and 11-year-old sons were rolling her car out of the garage at dawn and driving it around town doing their paper route.

Also adding to Matt’s calm and serenity could be the fact his heart medicines include a beta blocker that keeps his heart rate from going too high.

When he calls me at work and sounds casual, I know something’s up.

“Cate. Hi. Uh, when are you coming home?”

That’s the signal: calm voice, innocent questions. Since when doesn’t he know what time I come home?

“Matt, what’s going on?”


Oh, oh.

“Uh,…Cate? Your mother is here.”

Double oh, oh.

“Cate,…Ben ate some of my nitroglycerine pills.”

Ben our younger child was 3 at the time.

“So we’re watching him.”

Watching him? For what? To see if he explodes?

Matt and my mom had called the state poison control center and were told to watch Ben for grayness around his mouth (THAT can’t be a good sign), which would mean a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

Ben turned out to be fine, but my mother later told me while Matt was, as usual, cool as a cucumber, she ran out of the room every few minutes to splash water on her face to avoid passing out from the stress.

It wasn’t the first or last time I got a ‘calm call’ from Matt. He called me very casually to tell me he thought he was having a heart attack (he was), called to tell me Claire fell off her bike and might need stitches (she did) and called when he thought our weekly lottery ticket had hit it big (it didn’t, dammit).

Some day, Matt may finally hit the panic button, but until then, it’s nice to know we’re a pretty cool pair. That’s a good thing, especially considering our children have hit their teens. Claire is learning to drive, and Ben has been getting phone calls – from girls.

Okay, honey. Time to panic. Pass me one of those beta blockers, will ya?

About Cate Drew

I’m on the high side of 40, with three dogs, two teens and one husband, living in a small New England town in a house that’s never quiet. Ever. It’s not that I have a really colorful life – I just tend to write colorfully about it. And there’s plenty of material: marriage to the Man of a Thousand Bad Ideas,.. my mom, who moved Dad’s coffin closer to the street six months after he died so she could visit his grave as a kind of drive-up window…our dog posse…our kids…lots of siblings and in-laws, former co-workers, old boyfriends -- they’re all here. Toss in 14 years of Catholic school and you’ve got a lot of guilt, too. Which reminds me: forget “high side of 40.” I’m 51, damnit.