Of my 60 years, I’ve spent 40 with the man I love.
These days, amongst my friends/relatives, 20 is considered too young for marriage. I was a mother at 22; by the time I was 40, my tiffin-packing days were over and I was free to enjoy my life without encumbrances. Early marriages and parenthood have their advantages.
Related reading: What we find to talk about after 30 years of marriage
I chose my mate. I was city-bred and knew nil about the nomadic military world I entered, by his side. We packed and moved several times a year (!) and set up home in places that weren’t found on a map. Satellites and the Internet have changed many things. From garages to bashas, airy spacious flats to colonial bungalows, from bitter winters of the North to the sultry humidity of the East to desert summers, dramatic monsoons and the moderate clime of the South, I tidied, chopped, washed-dried-ironed, packed and set up home(s).
Give and take
Adjustment was easy, because we were both young. Did it matter, someone asked me, that I had to give up a career? Many times. Sulks, grumbles and days of depression and frustration happened. My classmates became heads of departments, while I cooked and partied.
Looking back, there are no regrets at all. Strange? Perhaps I belonged to a generation where there was always give and take. We all got more than we gave. Love was teamwork all the way. One earned, the other ruled the hearth. I had woman friends whose husbands raised the kids whilst they slogged at their careers. Today’s feminists are riding on the shoulders of two or three generations ago, of men and women who dramatically changed centuries of tradition.
The myriad shades of love
Love is about coochie-cooing, cuddling and sex, gifts, festivals, whispers, laughter. It is also about disciplining wayward children, defying and later grieving for parents gone, worrying through illnesses and examinations; love is about cold silences that follow hot quarrels. A few bitter moments last, but mostly, life is sweet when one weathers storms together. Love is about unchanging routines, unending preparations for meals and the morrow; it’s about facing the despair of failures and losses, let-downs by trusted colleagues and promotions denied. Love is also about stolen moments at family get-togethers, tight hugs at receiving good news, wiping happy, satisfied tears when the children turn out to be good and caring human beings and standing with fingers entwined whilst crossing the road… to make sure the other isn’t going to get hurt.
The drudgery of daily life gets interposed by small mementos, like spilt curry, oily stains on air-tickets, smudges on silk saris. Or the curious in the showcase reminding us of prizes won, photographs of out-of-town holidays and crazy weekends at home. Painting lessons, mathematics tuitions, who-will-go-with-Ma-for-the-cataract-surgery times eventually get threaded into a sense of togetherness between husband and wife. The closeness when one is in bed at night, underneath a single sheet, sharing breaths and sweaty limbs, nightclothes crumpled together, that closeness evolves from such punctuations of times happy and sad. The longer the years, the more the hearts seem to beat as one.
Related reading: From an empty nest to a love nest
Those beautiful memories
We are over the hill, in the teatime of our lives, surely and steadily facing the sunset years. I remember the early days/weeks of our love clearly. Our son, his growing years. A whack or two was part of love, too. Monitoring what he did, when and how he did a task was part of love, too. Parental love. Our pets, how they have enriched all our memories. The people we met, the foods we ate, the jokes we laughed at, the mistakes we made, our successes, our stresses… when we talk of them, we share something precious. We are now two hearts that beat as one.
Knowing faults, acknowledging flaws, bearing with irritants, overcoming or learning to live with the negatives, that’s love in senior citizenship.
Temperaments have no remedies and regret is an appalling waste of energy. We know that whether or not illness strikes, there’s no cure for old age, one of us must leave the other at some time. The thought weighs us down and we quickly banish it from our minds. Until then, we allow ourselves to enjoy the other’s presence, soak in all that love for as l-o-n-g as possible. May 40 turn to 80, I say.