It’s well after midnight, and I was in the kitchen enjoying a private binge of frozen cake straight from the package. I’m was feeling out of control, fat and guilty. My husband stumbled in, looking a bit panicky.
“I was worried,” he said. “I woke up, and you weren’t there.”
Suddenly, I realize that despite all the petty arguments about whose fault it was that we bought the wrong sofa and despite the ongoing conflict about what constitutes a civilized temperature indoors in winter, this man truly cares. And worries. And wants me near him in the dark of night.
I celebrated with another nibble of frozen cake, then curled up next to him, my icy feet on his.
And if that’s not love, then what is?
We were on a vacation, one that we’ve planned for months. The room was perfect, and overlooked a crystal-blue sea. There was a terrace that beckoned lovers to watch the setting sun or the silvery moon.
But in that perfect room was a woman who had fallen asleep and remained in a semi-coma for the next 48 hours — or three-quarters of our vacation. Too much pre-vacation frenzy was the culprit, and even as I kept falling in and out of sleep, I recognized that my slumber is costing a pretty penny in this Caribbean paradise.
When I wake up every once in a while, my husband assured me that it’s fine to catch up on my sleep — that I work too hard anyway. Once, he arranged for a fresh fruit tray to be delivered to our room because he knows how much I love the pineapples in this tropical haven.
On the plane ride home, he insisted that it was a great vacation, even if we got to the beach for only two hours. And he suggested that we do it again next year.
I can’t remember when I loved him more.
The kids and grandkids have spent an entire weekend with us. Every single room in the house was in chaos. The sink, the counters and every other surface in the kitchen were all piled high with the remains of dinner — or, more correctly, dinners, since three of the grandkids wouldn’t eat the chicken on the menu and demanded alternatives.
My husband and I surveyed the damage. And just as I’m about to plunge in, he made the most brilliant suggestion: Let’s take a break.
We did. We sit together in the den and “veg out.” Thanks to my husband’s wise and loving perspective, we remembered how lucky we are to have these wonderful bandits in our lives.
An hour later, we were attacking the mess… together. Our age-old system worked: I rinsed, he loaded the dishwasher; I did the counters, he did the floor.
We are partners not in some high-powered corporate venture, but in something far more important — our daily lives. And right at that moment, our joint venture is flourishing.
It’s the end of a long siege. An elderly relative had needed us more than usual; so had one of our daughters.
We both had a stomach virus.
The freezer needed a repair at the exact same time as my car’s muffler went.
The electrician raised his fees — again. And my hair has mysteriously turned pale orange after a recent expensive hair coloring session.
Finally, I burst into tears of frustration and just plain exhaustion. My husband understood. He didn’t lecture. He didn’t tell me how I can handle all this better.
He just held me close as my tears dripped down his best shirt.
And I knew, in that moment, that I’m the luckiest Valentine in the world.
We were standing on the deck of our condominium, the one that reminds us daily that we are now full-time empty-nesters. It’s another stage of married life, this new togetherness, and it can be daunting.
We both miss our daughters more than we ever thought we would, yet we are drawing closer even as the silence of Jill, Amy and Nancy’s absence lives in the very walls of our new space.
After decades of not being able to finish a sentence, years of concentrating on them, not us, we are back to that first stage of marriage: just you and me, kid.
It’s sometimes lonely. But more often, it’s wonderful. This new era comes complete with a deeper, more nourishing connection. The hard, hard work of a long marriage has yielded a burnished glow, and for us, it beats the hearts-on-fire stuff.
We are each other’s homeland.
And in any season, this profound grace reaches beyond mere words. ••