We had just finished dinner and the kids were in the playroom, squealing with what I hoped was joy as they engaged in heavens-knows-what on the other side of the closed door. It had been a pretty long day already, and I preferred to remain ignorant of their activities. The dogs, hoping for a scrap or two, circled our table as I cleared the final dishes. Krista rinsed the plates and loaded the dishwasher. Into this exquisitely romantic backdrop I hollered in the direction of the children, “Guys? Mommy and I are going to talk for a little bit. Don’t bother us unless it involves your blood or your vomit. Got it?”
Daniel retorted soberly, “Okay. Got it.” Thinking quickly of our aging, cancer-stricken beagle mix, he added, “What if it’s Dexter’s blood or vomit?”
“Good question, Daniel. Let’s expand the criteria a bit. Don’t bother us unless there’s any blood or vomit involved coming from ANY member of the family—including pets. OK?”
Krista completed her post-dinner clean up and sidled up to me in our galley kitchen. We clutched each other and kissed. “Know what I’m looking forward to?” she asked. About a dozen possibilities sprinted across my synapses, most of them unfit for print. I even voiced a couple of them out loud. “No, Tim,” she giggled in response, “I am looking forward to growing old with you.”
I found this shocking, pleasantly so. Twelve hours earlier, as I dragged my stiff, sore, and tired bones out of bed and into the shower at the beginning of the day, I had taken quick stock of my physical state. My assessment wasn’t flattering, but it was accurate. Hair: gray and thinning. Skin: blotchy. Waistline: expanding, though running after the three amigos has slowed this natural process down a bit, probably. Joints: achy, especially my knees, lower back, and fingers. Flexibility: nonexistent. Gray matter: severely disabled. The results of this self-examination didn’t trouble me, mind you. I have a warehouse full of personal weaknesses, as any loved one will confirm with alacrity. But self-delusion is not among those myriad shortcomings (I think), and a man’s gradual physical deterioration is inevitable—if he’s lucky. I am now closer to sixty than I am to forty, a fact I find fascinating and illuminating. Things are wearing down a bit. I am rusting. Gravity is doing its thing. C’est la vie.
So I was jarred slightly by Krista’s announcement, expressed with calm, certainty, and confidence. “I am looking forward to growing old with you.” Really? Of course it’s impossible to say what that will look like. Will we be relatively healthy for a couple of more decades or will some disease ravage one of us, hoisting a severe caretaking burden on the other? Will we be visited by an unanticipated calamity that takes one of us suddenly and leaves the remaining spouse a widow/er and single parent? (Krista has informed me on several occasions that I am forbidden to die until the kids are grown and out of the house and for multiple reasons I really-really-really don’t want to cross her.) Will we be as blessed as my parents, who’ve enjoyed 64 fun, confusing, glorious, infuriating, revelatory, and growth-inducing married years together? Might we experience some combination of the above?
Only God knows how many days are ordained for us, and what sorts of joys and tribulations they will contain. As I see it, my task is to express genuine gratitude for the days I’ve already been granted and to make the most of those yet to come. And if the Almighty sees fit to grant such a gift, to enjoy growing old with my wife and children and other family members and friends. Even if I have to buy new pants to accommodate a growing waistline or wake up earlier each morning to adopt a stretching routine.
Timothy Swenson is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.