Lying in bed tonight, I reached over to touch my Gregory.
I felt his warm skin at my fingertips. That same firm, broad muscled shoulder, same manly smell I’ve known for 37 years, and I wanted just to lay there, knowing he wouldn’t leave….kind of like clinging to my pink blankie.
Comforted and assured.
All is well with me.
Seeing him across the room, time and again over the years engaged in conversation…behind a podium, earnestly addressing a crowd…tickling my granddaughter, chasing her about as she giggles wildly, or sitting, brooding over sons by number…each boy furrows his brow over one thing or another….or Bible in hand, pen poised, awaiting the next underline as he reads for hours.
This is my man.
The one I’ve known and watched and smelled and touched and loved and hated and boxed with and screamed at and cried to as he held me tightly to his chest.
Don’t ever be gone.
Don’t ever not be there for my fingers to reach.
“I never want to be away from you,” he said in the car today as we drove from Walmart. “Even though sometimes I want to kill you,” he chuckled.
“Touch my neck.” For he loves my hand on his skin just to know I’m there.
We have had our ups and downs.
Extremes, like in music scores; highs and lows.
My recently-degreed fifth born said without the lows you wouldn’t have the highs and vice versa. You need them in music, in movies, in photography, in color, in sound, in life.
It’s what makes life alive.
A flatline isn’t a good sign.
The dance of marriage is the ebb and flow, the dark and light, the valleys and the peaks.
But he doesn’t look for space from me these days.
Any space is too far.
Even as my thoughts wander, he intuitively knows and will softly say, “don’t leave me.”
Hiding in my office for hours, days, to write my articles and books, then emerging to grab a snack or drink…he will look up as I walk by as if the sun just arose to break through his gray clouds…countenance lift…just to spy me there.
And then he’ll ask me a question like always to solve a mystery of his.
To get some practical info.
To cause me to linger a while longer.
That’s when I playfully call him the ‘yard frog;’ that decorative garden creature at Home Depot who ribbits as motion is detected.
At times his doting is more than my crowded, busy, driven self can bear and I wish him away…but now I don’t do that.
I wish him here.
Not just til morning, or the next night, or til the weekend or over the holidays; not through the upcoming family festivities or Happy New Year, but forever.
I don’t want to be the widow who rolls over to a cold pillow next to me.
I don’t want the same for him.
I resist the pull of such melancholy, yet I’m sobered by my thoughts; this deep affection is so real to me at this moment.
I roll to the left to snuggle to his back until I doze, even through his numerous, irritating restless movements, late night games of solitaire on his iphone…to cling because I can, until he stirs so that I cannot sleep, then I roll to the right and he turns off his light and scoots up to my back and clings to me.
This is us.
This is our love.
This is our silent cry never to be apart, never to be forced to fall in love with another because one’s left.
How can I possibly articulate these deep feelings to those wandering souls who pledge their love, fingers crossed behind their backs as they hold stubbornly to their independence? Living with their options open— this language I speak is foreign to them, the country I live in is not theirs, and yet…our apartment is three doors away.
How can they know that sex and relationship are only two-dimensional without a love that’s birthed through the darkest of days, over time, children sick with fevers burning hot in the night, bills, oh bills, fears, anguish, anger, multiple birthdays and anniversaries, the drone of the dailies, the tempo of tedium…way beyond goosebumps, convenience and frivolous emotion?
How can they understand what it means to stay…when they keep leaving?
How could they relate to my eighty thousand family pictures and videos, packed carefully in a myriad of cartons and boxes, copied on hard drives, all taken since 1980 at our inception which I’ve dragged across the map of our innumerable moves?
Young, strapping, serious, muscle-bound dark-headed man takes vivacious, optimistic bouncing blonde girl to be his lawfully wedded wife. Then comes one boy child, then two, then three, then four and five…photos show the same man, now graying, the same girl, now a grannie, both slightly rounder, in 37 years’ worth of family albums, yellowing around the edges.
Same immediate family unit intact.
Stuck together like glue.
Years and pain and marathons soften the edges of our personalities, making us flexible enough to surrender, despite our intense displeasure for the moment, knowing somehow this too shall pass and we shall love each other fresh, yet again.
Now, my wish is his command.
He is smitten, as am I…no end in sight. We are each other’s muse.
I’ve been trying to get back to my borrowed, downtown Seattle writing retreat and my solitude, but I’m finding it so very difficult.
I wish I could call my recently deceased almost-ninety neighbor, Joyce, on the phone and commiserate.
I used to find her so irritating at times as she clung so tightly to Paul, her husband of 63 years. She would almost certainly strangle him under her iron grip…for she feared losing him. Every breath, every second, every jaunt, every move he made was under her watchful eye with baited breath and subject to her random and irrational outbursts and rants.
Now, at this moment, I feel her anxiety.
I don’t know where to be at times for I fear I will have been in the wrong place at the wrong time and will look back and wish I’d stayed, or that he went away to give me space and never came back and why did I wish him away that weekend?
We are no longer in our 30s or 40s; as the wrinkles define our features and our hair thins, our mortality is highlighted.
I don’t want to face the day he is not there when I reach over for him.
Who would rescue me from my haunting nightmares as he has, jolting me from my blanket of terror, wrapping me in his safe arms of love; reassuring me?
I sleep differently when I know he’s there. My whole body sleeps.
Without him, only my eyes sleep — the rest of me doesn’t rest.
He is the Papa our three-year old granddaughter hotly pursues through the house until she finds him, calling through the locked bathroom door or interrupting him as he studies, his earplugs in for soundproofing.
He is the steel beam holding up our dynasty — invisible on many days but more necessary than could possibly be imagined.
We would be lost without him.
In the light of day, funny how every car whizzing by grabs my attention…then my eye turns to see…is that him?
And I feel elated to think that he is coming home to me…again…predictably, like a horse to the barn these 37 years. And as happy as I was that he was out and about all morning, giving me much-needed solace…I’m more happy to hear his familiar gait as he makes his way into the house all kerfuffle. He’s Italian, after all…not the kind of guy who tiptoes around in life.
As I watched him in action today hoisting items, shifting, working, as we relocate yet again, replay kicked in on my inner reel.
How many times he’s organized, lifted and shifted over 37 years of progress and forward motion.
Now I know these movements and sounds as a comfort.
My strong man exists to make things right, to adjust the crooked and toss the needless and prepare what’s necessary. To bark out commands and get things done.
Such a masculine man.
A passionate soul.
A deep thinker.
An intentional man.
Perhaps I could find a warm body to snuggle; a well-heeled businessman to pay my bills and care that I’m on his arm, to buy me dinner anytime, anywhere. To never complain about my spending.
But this is My Man. He is not simply good looking or stylish or sharp or clever, he is The One I have loved more deeply than I thought possible.
The love of my life since my teens.
Child bride was I.
Next to me as I birthed each of our five sons, then next to me through postpartum blues, baby fat and my copious stretch marks he calls “beautiful.”
Every morning for the last 13,505 mornings I have waked knowing…he is.
Together with him.
My husband, my friend, my co-laborer, my covenant man.
I’m so glad we’ve endured the hardest things in life to get to the sweetest things in life.
You are my heart, my life, my ballast…my home. Happy Anniversary, my love.