Monday, July 20, 2009

The Well-Aged Affair

The younger man is getting old. There’s gray in his beard now, and stiff muscles in the morning.  On the basketball court he tries to compensate for loss of speed with more brain, more muscle.

In three months, he’ll turn 45, the same age I was when we married.

In the older-woman-younger-man narrative, the man is always young. Always the sweet-skinned lover, the fresh youth. It’s pretty to think it could last, that the potential always lies ahead, that, as on Keats’ Grecian urn, the  youth will always yearn to kiss his love, and that she will never fade.

 For this older woman, watching her young man age brings empathy, but also surprise. If he’s getting older, getting gray, getting creaky, I’m even more so. But it’s been a vindication, of sorts, to observe him heading into the middle years and see how he makes his way.

Now, sometimes, I’m the one who has to slow down and wait for him on mountain hikes. When he was in his mid 30s and I in my early 50s, he just assumed I could walk up a mountain as easily as he could. I remember thinking his time would come. Now it is.

He’s been laughing since he was 33 about becoming an adjunct AARP member. Now, he’s only five years away from getting his own card.

One of the best parts about watching him age is knowing that my hunches about him were right all those years ago. I sensed that that 26-year-old would become the man he is now. He had many dreams then, and I’ve watched him reach almost every goal he set for himself. And while it’s true that age brings a slow realization of diminished possibilities, his dreaming has kept me reaching, as well.

Here’s an unexpected thing: As he gets older, it feels as though he’s catching up to me, as though our age difference is shrinking. His sweet skin is rougher now and feels more like my own. I just finished reading The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a novel that plays with time and love, telling the story of a man who ages backward. I know I’m not really getting younger, but I do feel as though I’m not getting old as fast as I might be were I married to someone my own age.

Time and love are variables in all of life. Watching them intersect — weaving around and through each other — is one of the joys of a well-aged love affair.

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