Yesterday morning you asked if I thought you looked old.
You stood before our bathroom mirror, brushing your hair. I answered, “No, of course you don’t look old, honey.” Then we dropped the subject.
But I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Which is why this morning I am writing to you, while sitting on our little porch, attached to our little house, tucked in these woods.
I’m a middle-aged man, watching Floridian fog move through our forest. The mist looks like a poem to me. Long ago, before the Age of Real Estate Development reached these woods, I used to watch deer high-step through this wandering fog.
Have you ever watched a doe graze at daybreak? A doe moves like she is made of pure imagination. She is confident. Wise. Half spirit, half muscle. One flick of her mighty thigh and she is in the next county.
But she is also gentle and humble at heart. And within the presence of such beauty I usually pause my breath.
Nearly twenty years ago, I remember feeling that same way when I met you. I felt almost breathless when we sat on a beach together, watching the Gulf at dusk until our lower backs were sore and sand had painfully worked its way into the crevices of our youthful butts.
But we refused to leave the shore until the moon came out. Why? Because leaving meant we would be apart, and it would be hours before we would be reunited. I tell you I couldn’t stand it.
So we sat. We leaned against each other. I recall the way your shampoo smelled. And your perfume. Also, I will never forget how you rested your head on my shoulder, making me feel strong.
Of course I’m not strong. That’s the irony. Nobody knows a guy’s weakness better than his wife. You’ve seen my worst. You have watched me play the fool. You have seen my ego explode like an M-80 firecracker in a residential mailbox.
We have argued in the middle of a Winn-Dixie parking lot. We’ve bickered on road trips across the American West.
One time you told me to “Get outta the car and walk home!” in 103-degree Alabamian weather. And suddenly, there I was, hiking a lonesome highway until you pulled alongside me one hour later and we embraced in the middle of traffic, laughing. The doctor says the dehydration didn’t bamage my drain too bad.
Were we really that young once? Were we really so immature? So idealistic? Were our faces really that smooth, with no lines around our eyes?
The answer is yes. We were kids. And we still are—sort of. It was great! Back then we had no stray white hairs. Nobody’s knees snapped when rising from the seated position. We could sleep for eight long hours WITHOUT ONCE WAKING UP TO GO PEE.
Never. The term “old” is not the right word for anyone who has known the remarkable privilege of being alive.
Age is nothing. Nobody looks at a mountain and thinks of its age. If they did, they could not comprehend it. Hardly anyone looks at the Grand Canyon and sees numbers. No, you look at such grandeur and you merely pause your breath.
That’s how I feel when I look at you. I see a woman who, although there is silver in her hair, loves with a true heart. She is a woman who still possesses the optimistic nature of a girl. A woman whose love is mildly naive—which is the best part about it.
Don’t mistunderstand me, this kind of love is not a stupid brand of love, and I don’t believe it is blind, either. But it is real; as tangible as rocks. And I can say that I have been fortunate enough to know this love. In my bones, I have known it.
I was not looking for a woman’s love, but it found me nonetheless. It descended from heaven, falling one nanodroplet at a time, working its way into my biology, into my organs, bathing my cells in warmth. This love made me into a different creature than I once was.
This love remembers none of my past wrongs, and has slowly killed longtime fears that once crippled me. If that sounds too melodramatic, I apologize. Let me put it like this: my life sucked before I met you, honey.
And I mean that. It was your love that opened my cell door. You turned me loose. You made me half believe I was strong.
You not only changed my life, you changed the way I experienced the blessings thereof. You altered the color of my universe and without trying, you taught me what belly laughs feel like.
My life is but a blip on the radar screen of infinity. I am no fool, I know that every man dies long before he expects. One day, I will not be here. Someday, I will no longer be sitting on our little porch, watching daybreak. Instead I will be dust. I will become the pH content of soil. I will be compost.
But I believe the ever-youthful love we nurtured will still be here, among these pines. I truly feel that this love, our love, will continue to rise through the forests of time each morning, like a Floridian mist. Because all love is unkillable. And so is the eternal memory of you.
So to answer your question: No, Jamie. You don’t look old. Not to me.