We walk through our neighborhood, gloved hands laced together. We know the way by feel — my ring finger and pinky together between his last two fingers so my smallest one needn’t stretch far.
We’ve held hands like this for the better part of 19 years. Driving backroads in an AMC Eagle, walking cobblestone streets in York and beaches in Zihuatanejo, welcoming dark-eyed soft daughters, watching movies from our couch.
On Friday, we took a date to a neighborhood restaurant and shared food and beers. We asked the waitress for recommendations, agreed on dishes we’d both like and ate a whole mess ‘a small plates — roasted vegetables, mussels, salad covered with the best bacon I’ve ever had.
“You’ve got to try this.”
I overheard the older woman next to us say, “They’ve got quite the appetites.”
Why, yes we have.
I talked (a lot). He listened. He talked (less). I listened. We drove across town on a search for Christmas lights and sang to oldies on the radio. (When did music from our era plant itself in the oldies category?!)
In the end, we sat at a rough-hewn wood table in a cool tavern with Pac Man and Donkey Kong against one wall and a shuffle board table surrounded by women younger than ourselves. We drank “grown-up coffees.”
It felt good to be on a random adventure, just us two. Just like old times.
I told my husband what I liked about him when he was 17. He was comfortable in his own skin. Knew how to talk with girls like they were people. Appreciated and understood music — all sorts, not just the trendy classic rock all the boys pretended to know about. He belted out Neil Diamond tunes before it was campy cool for our generation to sing along.
He wasn’t worried about impressing anybody. He liked what he liked. Safeway Chinese food. Sunny Delight. Me.
He’s known me since the days I shifted uncomfortable in my own skin. He’s known me since the days I labored over nearly every decision, afraid to make a mistake. He’s known me since the days I neglected to tweeze an eyebrow hair.
He’s lived my depression and gasping tears. He’s lived my late-night giggle fits and half-asleep talk of wanting toast. He’s lived my pregnancies, bed rest and childbirth recovery. He’s lived my fear and what-if’s, my anger and sorrow, my wild enthusiasm.
He’s lived them as ours.
And he has never spoken an unkind word to me. Not ever.
He is a solid, steady man. Good with details. A great multi-tasker. The guy you most want with you on a camping trip because he will set up the kitchen just right — putting the towels and dishware out like you would yourself — and then start a roaring fire.
He’s the guy you want beside you when you’re hurt and crying snotty because he speaks wisdom that makes it feel covered by faith and love somehow.
He sacrifices watching his favorite Christmas movie with the family (the movie night he’s planned) so he can drive to the home improvement store before close to replace the kitchen faucet. Then he installs it while we sleep and comes home to repair the hot water hose on his lunch break the next day so we won’t be without.
He returns after a long day at work and makes creative, delicious dinners for our family so I can write. He wears pajama pants with holes for years without a breath of complaint. Instead he names the favorite flannels I try piecing back together “Frankenjammies,” cuts off one leg from a pair of cotton PJ’s when the hole grows too big and keeps wearing both pairs. When Santa stuffs his stocking with a replacement that promptly rips at the seams, he smiles and says it doesn’t matter.
On Wednesday nights, he makes convoluted Papa ladders so our girls can climb his long limbs and hop into bed. He explains baseball. He listens to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. He makes biscuits, pancakes and smoothies. He rocks babies with confidence. He writes cards with few words — clear and sincere and all love. He holds a Bible in one big palm and tells the story of Jesus’ birth.
He remembers to tell me I’m beautiful. He tells me over and over every day that he loves me.
He reminds me to breathe. To be gentle to myself. Tells me that I’ve got to let go, that I can’t do everything. That I’m a good mama, that he’s proud of me.
He reminds me every day why I chose those years ago to love him.
And why I do. I really do.
It is so good to remember.