Saturday, February 13, 2010
My sister and I were in her kitchen fixing a salad for dinner. She had just finished tearing lettuce leaves into precise, bite sized pieces and I was cutting cucumbers into very imprecise, misshapen slices. Her husband walked through kitchen on his way to the patio to tend the chicken on the barbeque. When he passed her, he reached out and gently touched the small of her back. She smiled through downcast eyes and responded with an equally quiet caress on his arm that ended when their fingers parted in a soft kiss.
As he left the kitchen, a whisper of mesquite smoked through the door before it shut behind him with a muffled click.
My sister snapped the lid on the salad spinner and paused, shaking her head with a sigh. “I have friends who did not meet their partners until they were in their forties,” she confessed with a slight quiver in her voice, “and it seems sad to me that they never knew each other as young people. One of the things I love most about being married to AJ is that he knew me as a sweet young thing and as long as we are together, a part of me will always remain that sweet young thing to him. I like that. I like that connection to my youth. People who become couples later in life will never have that.”
I’m not sure why my sister chose that moment to share that thought with me, but I know she couldn’t have chosen a worse time to share it.
I had just ended my twenty-year marriage. I was now a single, partnerless parent in her forties. If I ever chose to become a part of a couple again, I would be part of one of those “sad” couples about whom my sister was speaking.
My sister’s words crept into my consciousness and oozed through my body, settling in suffocating silence around my heart. I ached as I mourned the loss of the sweet young thing in me. I felt doomed to a future that could never know the depth and breath of love that my sister enjoyed with her husband.
When I began dating again and found the man with whom I would fall in love, my sister’s words pulsed through my veins with each beat of my heart.
Three years into this “new” relationship, I am realizing that my sister was wrong. While it is true that I was not introduced to my love until the second half of my forties, I have met the young man that he once was.
I have seen the ten year old running down a parched road, brown hair flying, blue eyes wild with excitement, eagerly waving at the passersby with the stray salmon he had just caught in the creek behind the park.
I have met the rebellious teenager, who dreamed of a different life, slept with too many girls and worked every day to help a neighbor, struggling to maintain his farm.
I have mourned with the young man who drove, untethered and alone, to Montana to pick up the body of his best friend and bring him home.
And he…he has watched me grow up.
He has watched as I have discovered a life free from those who would control me. He has witnessed my struggle with the idea of guiding my own destiny. He has been by my side as I have learned how to speak my truth and accept the consequences.
He has shown me the river in the morning and the quiet way the world wakes up when it is freed from the confines of pavement and motors, walls and alarms. He has given me a mountain playground that has allowed me to share my teenaged self with my teenaged children.
Yes, we have grey in our hair and the story of our lives is written plainly on our faces. To the outside world, we have always been old to each other. But we know better. The young in us is not gone, we have simply needed to look deeper to find it.
It is a journey has made all the difference.