Friday, November 15, 2013

It's Just A Number



My husband forgot his keys today. He keeps them in his briefcase and left his briefcase in his office while he attended a funeral for a co-worker’s wife. Then he left the funeral and drove home. Without his briefcase. Or his keys.
Eventually he remembered that he’d forgotten his keys when he pulled into our driveway and turned off his car. Forty miles from his office where his briefcase was. With his keys inside.
“I’m driving back to my office,” he texted me, and explained why. Because I wasn’t home, either, so I couldn’t let him in.  I was an hour away at the zoo with our daughter and grandbabies. The dog was home, but she doesn’t have a key. She doesn’t have hands to unlock doors from the inside either.
Now that you mention it, though, she did mysteriously open the screen door a couple of days ago, so maybe he should have asked her to open the door before he drove another hour and a half roundtrip to get his briefcase. To his office where his keys were hiding.
“I must be 60,” he texted sarcastically a few seconds later.
Wow.  Sixty years old. He turned sixty this year.  I’m only fifty-five. Wow. Fifty-five years old. That’s impossible. We’re both so young still.
Sixty is a lot younger than it used to be, I think. I’ll probably be even more convinced of that in about . . . five years. Sixty.  Sixty! Fifty-five. Fift—oh, sorry. I think my brain froze there for a minute.
I guess we look our ages to some people. Like the ticket sellers at that movie theater who’ve been trying to give me a senior discount for the last ten years. Bunch of whipper snappers. And the twenty-something construction workers who are always trying to cut me off in traffic.  I’m old, but I still drive fast. The last time I proved that to one of those guys, he used every last drop of gasoline to get by me so he could show me how cute one of his fingers is.  I tried to show him one of mine, too, but I wasn’t quite sure how to do it.  I think I told him I love him in sign language instead.
I met my husband thirty-nine years ago before he was my husband. He was just a quiet airman about to turn twenty-one and I was a quiet piano player about to become a high school junior.  It’s amazing we ever said hello, both of us being so quiet like that and all. Boy, was he surprised when he found out I was sixteen. He thought I was older than him.
We fell in love and soon he called his parents to tell them about me. I was shyly listening in on the other line. Okay, I was eavesdropping. They lived two thousand safe miles away and I was still afraid to say ‘hello.’
“You kind of robbed the cradle there, didn’t you, Son?” his dad said. 

I can’t blame him for reacting like that. He probably thought I was just after Rob’s penny candy money. I proved myself to him, though. Rob got orders for Germany within the year and for eighteen months after that we dated by mail. We stayed true to each other and took our vows two weeks after he was discharged. He wouldn’t marry me til I finished high school and I wouldn’t marry him til he got out of the Air Force. See, I wanted him to get a real job so I wouldn’t worry about becoming the widow of a soldier. That’s why he became a firefighter—because it was safer.
So, next summer we’ll celebrate forty years of knowing each other.  I don’t think I’ve heard of a record like that since my grandparents had been married for forty years. And I might not have even been born back then.  I’m younger than I look, you know.
Growing older is weird. Having an empty nest is weird, too. One minute you’re up to your ears in diapers and bottles and Band-Aids and boogers, and the next you’re shelling out money for college and weddings. It’s all go, go, go! from the minute your water breaks until they all move out and your heart breaks. There you stand in the middle of all the tulle and cake crumbs and empty chairs and wave good-bye to your kids and your parenting career—all in one split second.
It’s quite a night. And quite a change.
After a few years, of course, if your kids are practical and traditional like you were, they’ll get a little settled into their own marriages and give you some grandbabies. Grandbabies are the reason old people like us keep trying to stay young—so we can help them gang up on their parents. Grandbabies think grandparents are the best thing since popsicles and we think grandbabies are better than popsicles.
It’s just one big mutual admiration society.
But there’s a big difference between being a parent and being a grandparent.  Energy. Old people like us don’t have any. That’s why we buy it now from the Power and Light Company. Now young people—they have too much energy. That’s the reason places like Cancun and Lake Havasu can stay in business. There’s only one way to rein in all that hormonal hyperactivity—hand those party animals a couple of kids to take care of. I’m tellin’ ya, after a few months of midnight feedings and all night colic, young people like them turn into old people like us and the world is fair again.
What’s not fair is how fast time flies. It’s flying even faster now that we’re grandparents. Our oldest grandbaby turned five just yesterday and in a couple of months she’ll be six. I think the reason time speeds up is because I don’t live with them day in and day out.  We see them once or twice a week. Or once or twice a year in the case of our son’s family who, unfortunately for us, put down roots in Kentucky and refuse to get their pilots’ licenses so we can babysit their girls here—in Arizona. Selfish.
I did the math on that. If a baby learns to crawl at, roughly, six months and a grandmother sees the baby once a week, then to her it’s as though her little angel went from a newborn to a pre-toddler in six days. That’s why old people like us are always walking around shaking our heads and telling pre-teens, “You can read already?! Why, wasn’t it just last week I changed your diapers?” That’s another reason grandparents stop being cool to their grandkids, too.  Word to the wise.
All I’m saying is that grandkids seem to grow up faster than their parents did when they were kids. And the reason, I think, is because parents don’t get any sleep for twenty years, so to them parenting lasts forever.
I did the math on that, too.  My son and daughter were born two and a half years apart and lived at home through college minus one year because my daughter got married first and, well, then my son moved out the next year to go to seminary, but he didn’t get married for another three years so that’s 365 days times 26 years or 9,490 days straight with no sleep. Roughly.
That’ll catch up with you. And in my professional opinion it caught up with my husband today, which is why he locked his house keys in his office forty miles from home and then drove all the way to our house believing that the dog would let him inside. And turn off the alarm first.
I worry about him sometimes. And then it hits me—I’ve got five more good years and then it’ll be me locking my husband in our office and driving the dog to work. 
I think I’m gonna buy one of those bumperstickers for when I turn sixty. The one that says, “Of all the things I’ve lost in life, I miss my mind the most.”

4 comments:

  1. Ah, alas, practical and traditional though I may be, I have yet to be able to provide grandbabies to my poor parents. Which, I cant decide if that is nicer to them, so they can focus on the 5 they have better, or if Im being mean in expecting them to keep up with grandbabies when I finally do pop some out and theyre 110 years old.
    Although, maybe Im just being efficient. You know, waiting til 2060 to have children so i can have my kids and my parents living in my house in diapers at the same time. Its forward thinking really.
    However, childless as I may be, I do not get to be the lucky one that escapes the aging effects of sleeplessness. No, I had the brilliance to choose a career thats as finicky as a colicy infant on whether or not Ill get sleep that day.
    Guess Ill be right there with the rest of world finding my glasses in my drink and ice cubes on the top of my head in a few more years.

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    1. True to form, I forgot to reply once I read your wonderful comment. I apologize. I didn't already do that, did I? I happen to know what a terrific aunt you are which means you are an incredible help to your brother and sister-in-law. Never let your role feel diminished! I pledge to do you justice, SuperAunt, as well as the other amazing aunts I know and love. Or at least give it my best shot. If I fail, however, and lose what's left of my memory trying, can we move in with you and your parents in 2060? We'll keep 'em busy playing cards while you're out shopping for diapers. ;)

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  2. I cant, for the life of me, think of anything more hilariously fun than your clan and mine under one roof. There are probably laws against that level of awesome.

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