Several years ago, my husband and I wondered where we should relocate. I got distracted by his shaky hands. I thought about aging. My aging. His aging. That hadn’t worried me before, but I found myself suddenly wondering what in the world would I do without him. I plummeted into a funnel of nostalgic memories.
Our wedding day came to mind—me in a light blue mini dress; he in his red OU jacket. I couldn’t have been one hundred pounds dried and powdered down. A strappling six feet tall, he had a buffed, muscular body, a flawless wide and naughty grin. His afro-styled hair—thick, neatly edged. Fuzz on his upper lip highlighted a handsome, stubbled face. Romantic at heart, he had serenaded me, whisked me off my weightless feet, and swung me around while swearing to care for me all the days of his life. Like so many giddy females before me, I bought into that line. (By the way, guys, that line still works.)
Now, I wondered how long it would be before I might have to take care of him. Unable to face the possibility of losing him, I grabbed his hand with both of mine and looked into his dark brown eyes.
“Should I be worried?” I asked.
“What? What are you talking about?” He frowned and pulled away.
“Your hands. They’re shaking.”
“So. What about it?”
“How long has this been going on?”
“It happens sometimes. I don’t have any other symptoms so it’s nothing. Now, will you stay focused. We need to make a decision to take this job or not. Will it be Savannah? Or Washington?”
As important as the decision to change jobs and move away from home was, I couldn’t indulge in the activity of decision-making that day. I had to figure out how much longer he would be with me.
I got off the couch and moseyed into the kitchen, to the dining room, then upstairs to the bedroom where I cried my eyes out. Rustling leaves tapped against my skylight window above my tub. The sight brought me back to our younger days soon after we married.
I remember walking to the OU campus where I worked at the Law School as a word processor. Our first fall together was a lonely one for me. The strappling football player I married was like a soldier called off to war—gone more in those fall months than I’d expected. I thought we should spend more time together. But when he wasn’t away playing in a football game, he’d be at practice or studying half the night.
I’d only seen snow once in my life. As a young girl, about eleven, it snowed in the deep south for a small portion of the day. It was gone by morning. But outside my office window in mid-October, snow flurries fell from Norman, Oklahoma’s overcast sky. Unbelievable to me, I ran out into the cold and stood on the sidewalk and looked at God’s wonder. Within moments the flurries turned to large flakes and gusty winds forced me back inside.
Right now I ask myself: “Has it really been that long? Forty-one long years?” It didn’t seem that long ago when young football players’ wives and girlfriends laughed and giggled as they dressed for the OU games. We stayed up half the night doing each other’s hair and eating whatever we wanted. After the game, we parted ways, mainly because our chrisitianity wouldn’t allow us to mingle with late night drinkers and party half-naked.
When I heard my husband’s footsteps climb the stairs that day, I was forced to return to my dilemma. After I had dried my eyes, I braced for an inquisition.
“What are you doing? Why did you leave? I thought we would decide this together?” he had asked.
“I can’t do this right now. Can we try again tomorrow?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m not sure. I think the idea of moving scares me.”
“Well, you think it over. I’m going to the store. You want anything?”
I shook my head. Before I could stop him, he was gone.
As the garage door sounded below, I remembered our first car—a two-door, green Gremlin. It lasted two months before we had it towed to wreckage. Then many months later, after weeks of walking everywhere we went, we bought a four-door blue and white Chevy Impala. A heavy car that proved reliable for the two years we had it. He saved money by doing repairs on the car himself. He made sure I was safe.
He’s spoiled me over the years. I’m as rotten as a teenage girl. I bat my eyes and get any and everything I want. I pout. He appeases. I throw a tantrum. He caters to my every whim.
I look toward heaven and sometimes I plead with God to let me go first. I can’t stand to watch him grow old. I can’t watch him wither away like that. But no matter how loud I cry, my pleas go unanswered. God is nothing like my husband. He can’t be tricked or manipulated. In a way I appreciate God’s silence because sometimes I’m not sure I fully understand what I’m asking from him. It’s not until my spirit is calm that I conclude there’s no comfort in me going before my husband. Death will be hard for us both no matter who goes first.
But he’s not gone yet. Years later, he’s still here with me. He’s healthy. Aging, but healthy. I realize that he’s not the only one getting old. So am I. I smile as I wonder how is he seeing me. Am I still the woman of his dreams? He still spoils me, so I guess I am.
That day long ago, I finally collapsed in a chair and waited for his return from the store. I was anxious. I wanted to press my head to his chest and hear his heartbeat. I wanted to gaze my large brown eyes into his then touch his stubbled face, kiss him warm and tender, grab his large linebacker hands and wrap them around my bulging waistline.
Although our hair is thinner now, our waistlines have disappeared, and we’ve been robbed of our youth, we still have each other. It took me a while, fighting against time, trying harder to control the process of aging, before I realized that it no longer matters how old we get or what condition we’re in when faced with our departure. As long as my husband’s love lives in me, he’s never far away. God is walking me through a process, daily teaching me to spend more of my days enjoying the moments rather than fearing the inevitable.
Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Novelist, Poet