“Wow,” my husband J. mutters, looking at his mail. “Wow.”
I can tell by his reaction that the letter in question wasn’t a “You Have Won!” from Publishers’ Clearing House.
“What’s up?” I ask.
“Do you really want to know?” he replies.
“Uh…YEAH,” I say.
“Promise you won’t get upset,” he says.
Ah, the wonderful combination of “Do you really want to know?” and “Promise you won’t get upset.” I start envisioning heretofore-undiscussed illegitimate children in Thailand.
“I can’t promise that, but try me.”
He holds up an envelope. “I was just invited to join the AARP.”
There’s a 12-year age difference between myself and my husband—he just turned 50 (which really is not octogenarian territory, for the record). Generally, it feels like no age difference at all. This, of course, is due to our shared sense of humor, our love for one another and my incomparable maturity. But at a moment like this one, as I sit next to him, four months pregnant with our first child, it seems like other people want to highlight the significance of the age difference.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, we were fooling around in a local department store, trying on winter hats. I put on a particularly warm one with fur earflaps.
“You look so cute,” my husband said to me, as an older saleslady, complete with glasses on a chain around her neck, came up to us.
“Oh, that’s a terrific hat, young lady,” the saleslady said. “And it’ll keep you nice and warm. Do you go to school up North?”
It took a minute for it to sink in. She thinks I’m in school, I thought. That must mean she thinks my husband is my…
“No, I don’t go to school up North,” I responded as my husband laughed.
We joked about it later (with me telling him that I had chickened out of responding that he wasn’t my husband, but my professor). I still maintain that that lady needed a new optical prescription, but it was admittedly disorienting.
My husband has prematurely gray hair, a young face and heart, and is an incredible, brave man. In his late forties, he married me, taking on the responsibilities of becoming a stepfather to two young boys after not having had any children of his own in his first marriage. And now, comparatively late in life, he will get to fulfill his dream of being a dad as well as a stepdad.
If anything, I think that with age, we become more aware of our blessings. He and I frequently bemoan the fact that we didn’t meet one another earlier—but the fact of the matter is, as he pointed out in the car on our way home from dinner last night, “You were in high school. I just don’t think that would have worked.”
In seriousness, we were each leading our own lives with our own experiences and mistakes. He was listening to the Sex Pistols; I was learning how to read. But the late combination of our separate lives somehow led us to one another. Because of having had such a long time apart, I think, we appreciate one another wholeheartedly, without reservation. This is love that’s seasoned by time—the time apart as well as the time together. We know what life is like without each other—and how much better it is together.
And so, I look at my husband, whose normally happy face looks somewhat sad.
“Do you think we could get me a spousal membership?” I ask.
The sadness fled his face. “We could probably get some good discounts,” he says, gleefully.
As we laugh about it, the tension fades away. I think of him carrying (non-adult) diapers and baby bottles in the AARP tote bag I envision we will be given as a membership gift. And I smile, laugh, and go back to my work, picturing my 37-year-old self showing my AARP membership card at the movie theater in an attempt to get a senior discount.