Never Abandon Hope
Because she’s orders-of-magnitude smarter than me, I’m never quite sure where I stand on the shifting ground of Wife-Speak. Obedience and humility are my best starting moves... but they don’t always protect me. A week ago, at breakfast ... out of the blue... Wifey said:
“Dear, are you happy in this last decade of your life?” (My hand to God, this is a true story).
Humility morphed to terror in a blink. The last decade of my life?! I was stunned. Who knew I had ten years ... or less ... to do all that stuff I dream of nightly? True, I was 82 years old, but I still felt as immortal as the average teenager.
“My last decade?” I whined, tears welling. “How cruel is that?! The Fates are said to spin, measure, and then cut your thread of life, but you don’t expect Wifey to cut it right in your face... while you’re eating your Wheaties.”
“Oh, C’mon,” says she. “You write all those dopey pomes full of death and sloppy sentiment. You don’t think you’ll live forever, do you?”
“Sure, sloppy sentiment and death, Eros and Thanatos. That’s what all poetry is about ... but other people’s death. NOT MINE! And you’re Wifey! You’re ‘spose to be on my side forever and ever ... no matter what!”
“‘Till death do us part,’ you mean?”
“Stop it!” I sobbed. “How can you be so cruel? You’re not supposed to nail an aging spouse like that. That’s ageism! Have a little sympathy for the vulnerable. You wouldn’t trip a blind man, would ya? If van Gogh was having breakfast here today, would you taunt a one-eared man in a mask-wearing pandemic?” (Not a perfect analogy, but I was hysterical.) “It’s harmful and hurtful! It makes Jesus cry!”
“Don’t be a big baby. Your father lived to 92. Why should you outlive your father?”
“Oh, thanks again! My father was an accomplished, beloved pillar of his community. He earned his golden years. We can agree I’m pretty useless by comparison, so I guess your point is I don’t even deserve a whole decade, is that it?”
“What a drama queen,” she said leaving the room ... and the breakfast dishes for me.
“Big baby and a drama queen who doesn’t deserve his last ten trips around the sun,” I thought. “Perfect. Material for a year or two at least if marshaled carefully.”
Two days later, she yelled down, “Could you please carry my clothes basket to the basement, Dear. It’s heavy.”
“Coming as fast as I can, Sweetie. I only have a decade to live you know.”
“Oh, stop. And how are you feeling this morning?”
“Well, if I wasn’t chained to this dying animal, I’d probably be OK.”
“Very funny. And then after lunch I have another chapter of my research for you to start proofreading.”
“Yes, Dear. Let’s see, a chapter normally takes me three days to proof. And I’M NOT BEING A DRAMA QUEEN, but that might be a measurable percentage of MY REMAINING DAYS ON EARTH... but never mind.” This was working nicely. My foothold on the shifting ground was firm at last ... my golden years golden again. Never abandon hope.