When did we grow up?
It wasn’t then, when we stood in the mountain meadow, flowers in my hair. And your hair, oh, honey. Your hair was such a mess. It took you four years to believe me that conditioner would do you good. That product would REALLY do you good. You stood in that meadow with that hair and I loved you. I loved you, imperfect. Imperfectly, I loved you.
Now, you get that serious line across your mouth, your jaw tightens in the mirror. And you run the hair product through those wild waves. Every spot in place, but thinning on the sides, in the most manly way possible, I assure you. And those silver threads sliding through the darkness, I praise them. You, after all, were made to be an older man. Your soul has always belonged to an older man.
We were both twenty-four, nine years ago, when we were married. But I like to say I was “almost twenty-five,” and that’s true as well. You, of course, had been twenty-four only six full days. I had ten months on you and a grade’s worth of life-knowledge.
I guess I think twenty-four was a bit young to get married. Twenty-five sounds more reasonable. I like to follow rules. I like to be reasonable. I say, “I was almost twenty-five.” I don’t tell them how my face was still a child’s face, round and soft. How your hair was a wild mess of fuzzy waves.
When did we grow up?
You stand in a backyard with friends, a glass in your hand, talking to these men who all, I realize, look like men. And you do too. You stop to remind Brooksie to keep the pebbles he’s collecting out of the garden. Then you’re laughing with the men about a story I can’t hear. And I’m so taken with the moment, the way the sun is falling back into the earth and setting its glow around you. And Brooksie is holding your leg and you reach down to gather his little body and pull it toward your chest. You hold him with just one arm and you keep talking, as if that little life you hold were a natural extension of you. Which I guess it is.
On Sunday, our pastor spoke about the Lord’s Prayer, about forgiving as we are forgiven. He spoke of fathers for a moment. He spoke of the power they have over us. How easily they wound us. How remarkable it can be when they get it right, when they hold us at the moment we most need to be held, or say the words when we most need to be told we are loved.
He teared up when he said, “I can still smell my dad. That’s the power he had over me.”
I tell you that. You were out of town Sunday morning and I’m filling you in on the day you missed. And when I say it, your eyes fill with tears because you know the power you hold. You know how you fail and how you do it right. And, of course, sometimes you don’t know which you’re doing or why.
Then we sit together for our very practical Sunday night planning session on the couch, looking through our calendars at the schedule for the week. I’m salty and annoyed with all your questions. I’m holding something over you, frustrated that you didn’t read my mind four years ago about where to store our old stuff in Philadelphia. You wait until I’m finished complaining. Then we go through the calendar again. What night am I home? What nights are you gone? What are the plans for dinner and what we will do for our anniversary?
Nine years. And we plan a date for eight o’clock, once the boys are in bed. Because it’s a hard week and the boys need you to put them to sleep. And it all feels very grown up. Very normal. You with your stylish hair and gentle hands. Me with my snappy moment and how I’m folding tiny shirts and miniature boxers. We look for a birthday present for our almost-five-year-old. And we click “complete transaction” and I leave to get ready for bed, another day married.
It’s all very grown up, how we keep choosing one another. How I come back after I brush my teeth and find you on the couch and say how I know I was salty and it was wrong. How you are a different, braver, older man than you used to be.
Think of all you’ve become, my dear.
Nine years is an eternity. Nine years is not so long. Depends on which perspective you have. Let’s take the long-view, you and me.
Let’s take the view that says this everyday, right here, when you come home from that long commute and I’m splashing around our kitchen turning disasters into dinner. Right here, as you take one boy on the bed and toss him and let the other slam your head with pillows. And you tickle until both are squealing .
This everyday, we know, we are coming to understand, is not just the growing up of our children. It is the growing up of us.
You and me.
What I’m trying to say is, I’ve noticed. I’m noticing. I’m not letting you go.