I’ve been married for six years. We’re both in our 70s and aware that we won’t be celebrating a 50th anniversary. With luck, a 20th. We talk about our prospects sometimes, and he surprised me once by saying, “I hope you go first because I want to be here to take care of you.” Those words reflect something I thought I would never find — true love. I may only have a handful of years of it, but knowing what it feels like was something I didn’t want to die without.
On Tuesday, he and his oldest friend, Peter, are leaving for a road trip. He has always wanted to see that part of the world, and Peter’s conference in Australia provided the perfect opening. They have been best friends since high school but can’t spend much time together any more. I am happy for them. What a wonderful adventure.
It is the first time since we met that we will be apart for so long, and I am preparing for his absence. He is as considerate as a husband could be, but living as a couple means that in everything I do, I think of him. What I buy for dinner. What I want to watch on television. What time I wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night. When I move around furniture or call the plumber. Although I have no shred of regret that we are together, it was a challenge to give up my independence of movement and thought.
I will have a glimpse of it again over the next three weeks. I will stretch out in bed, eat at 4:30 if that is when I am hungry, watch Downton Abbey and Rachel Maddow, and otherwise spread myself all over the apartment as I please.
But this morning I awoke early and warmed myself by cuddling up to him. He always wakes immediately when I move and he murmured, “How are you?” before going back to sleep. He always handles those annoying remotes when we watch television, and last night he gave them to me because I’ll have to manage the tv, DVR and Blue Tooth CD player all by myself. I will make my schedule without wondering whether he will need the car, and won’t have to check with him before making a date with my friend Cindy for dinner. It doesn’t sound like much, but such liberty will be delicious in its way.
I predict that I will feel the blush of liberty for much of the day, but at a certain point, when I’m tired or have something special to share (which happens all the time, doesn’t it) I will feel bereft. I will circle back to my efforts to live each day as if it were my last, with him or without him.