Sunday, August 9, 2015

2015.08.07 Birthday Love Letter

Dearly Beloved,

I was born on August 7th 1938, and three years later on that same day you were born. I’m your elder. We’ve been married as two priests—two Leos in one house with enough roar space for each of us—for almost 30 years. Your brain is sharper; mine is tackier. Now we are growing old together. But look how cute we still are.

When people get older they go down—settle like a house over the years settles into its foundation. They settle into habits, get “set” in their ways, maybe more opinionated, especially if they don’t remember what they did this morning or what their spouse told them she/he was doing today. Most of us also settle down emotionally, get less reactive and defensive—sometimes and for less length of time. For one thing we have less energy to invest in unsettledness. And often what we believe in gets set in stone—heavy metaphorical language, tomb-ish really. Dear Godde, we just don’t want change. Transformation is perhaps okay, but only because it’s a more spiritually desirable word, has a little more flex and grace about it.

You will say I speak for you. True. And don't you agree with my persiflage? Yes, dear, you say.

All this is based on some of my own experience as well as some of what “they” say will happen. But who are these “theys”?  No idea really! You? 

There is gravitational physical evidence of such settling, no? I mean there is the hanging flesh syndrome —not gardens like Babylon’s, but just hanging there ready for reclamation, or girdling, or mirror-avoidance syndrome. I tend to bind mine up a bit with tighter-than-I-should-wear pants. Dumb. But I have the slender legs to make up for it, as long as they stay upright. One of my daughters tactfully indicates that I am an apple shape, not a pear. You just let it all hang out, or down. I so admire your relaxed physicality. It's a women's issue.

But really, looking at myself naked in a mirror, as “they” recommend also to be a good idea to build self-esteem, or to practice loving what you see, is flawed advice. What I see is my own reflection, no getting around it. So just don’t look, and I won’t either. It’s all bullshit really. To just stand there flinging airless affirmations at your image, hoping that it will suddenly look like the preferred image for women of the day and your age group—svelt and athletic like Blythe Danner on Prolia!—is perfect asininity.

I am most grateful to be married to you, an equally aging husband. Thank god your brain is three years younger than mine. Nevertheless, it takes us some time just to leave the house intact. One of us is incontinent, the other impotent—slightly, occasionally, simultaneously, alternately. We rarely remember who is which when.  A comedic affair. We laugh—so not to weep, or worse argue.

Seriously, if you take life too seriously at these ages you’re doomed. Still, I admit to some settling into myself, physically, mentally and spiritually, as I age. Do you?

How I notice our settling as a couple, chiefly, is that every evening as the 6-7 hour approaches I look forward to you. I leave my computer where I write and find enlivenment in my words and ideas, while enjoying plenty of sedentary energy. I love it.  AND..... I also can’t wait to close up, lock up, back up, and head upstairs to join you, my beloved, in the evening we’ve planned, well, assumed: watching our soaps, viewing multiple murders, all solved by a brilliant male team of British DCIs, with whip-smart female sidekicks, always the sidekicks.  I’ve been your sidekick, too, but with pillow privileges.

Before the soaps there’s Jeopardy to prove we still have some mind left. We rejoice that each of us knows something, you in politics and history, me in literature and word-ness. We both know at least half the Bible clues, although we say, “I knew that one, I just didn’t say it.”

Then there's juicy stuff . . . a drama/trauma of serious family embroilments, none solved by anyone, but softened by love moments. Or . . . a medical drama where someone dies or doesn’t really die, or might die, or suffers and no one knows what to do, save one brilliant young student who has burned the midnight oil just to get a diagnosis like a needle in a haystack. Or . . . the mental illness/small town drama, like Doc Martin, brilliant physician/surgeon with no affect at all, practicing in a tiny Cornish village because he is hemophobic (fear of blood not gays). He’s likely a victim of PTSD, judging from glimpses of the parental drama in which he, amazingly, grew up. Others argue for a diagnosis of Autism or Aspergers, which the Brits pronounce as-PER-jers. Who the hell cares? You want him to be your diagnostician and your doctor. Just keep him away from your bedside. 

Oh, we don’t call all these soap operas, a studied no-no for professional people of intelligence and social savvy like us. Nevertheless, there’s always a wealthy white woman, or two, found dead somewhere every night—hopefully not under our own bed or in our nightmares. Or . . . an abandoned lover with a killing secret, powerful enough to murder for. Or . . . women prisoners trapped with sinister all-male guards, also trapped. Everyone horny and finding ways. Still, it’s not us, we say. It’s only a TV soap.

They say the prison one is true. This is a memoir after all. But what is memoir save someone’s spotty memory? Other eye-witnesses swear that it didn’t happen like that. Sounds like the biblical memoir to me. All perspective and perception—all valuable, none absolute. But so what? That means that every perception and perspective counts in the whole, which no one but God sees anyway.

What’s real in our house at our age is that the best, most anticipated, relaxing, fun, funny, sometimes over-cookied time of the day is when we convene as a couple to eat dinner, watch our soaps— and pretend they aren’t real, and not us. Until...........

Until we come across a display of the most consistent tangle of dysfunctional behavior ever dreamed up, and one of us says: “I did that.” Or one of us remembers when we actually ran off to make mad love in a field and got scared witless by an approaching cow who was merely curious, but big!  It would have been worse in the sacristy, an option we never considered, because an Altar Guild lady would have been much more dangerous than a big old cow. That’s when love was a high, not a settled state of being.

We did that, or did we really do that? As long as there is something to laugh or cry at, we’re okay with mixed memory and muddled chronology. 

We never murdered anyone, did we? NO, of course not. Still, there are ways to “murder” for love and the final seizure of your own happiness.

None of this is true, of course. It’s only a soap. But here is a factual miracle (miraculous fact?): the photos above are our 2015 passport photos—just in case we're not too settled for one more trip, like Italy. Or heaven, which we hope is no soap!

I’ve loved you for years for many things. Today I love you most for being alive—also for how much delight we enjoy together when both of us jump on a Jeopardy clue ahead of the contestant, or guess the murderer correctly among at least six very obviously guilty-looking suspects.

Happy Birthday, beloved.