Today is my husband’s 40th birthday. As far as birthdays go, today will be pretty laid back. We’re having a huge party Friday night, so there’s not much planned for today. Also, he’s not particularly freaking out about the fact that he’s 40. He’s proud of the things he’s given his life to up to this point and has few regrets for the way he’s lived these 40 years. On the contrary, he’s expectant for the next 40.
I met my husband when I was 8 years old, really a lifetime ago. We were friends and nothing more for years, but we have tons of shared life experiences. We have lived a lifetime together, and with that shared life comes a lot of perspective and grace. I am not the same person he married, much less the same person I was when he met me at eight years old. Nor is he the same. He’s given me room to grow and change, sometimes hesitantly and sometimes prodding me. And we’ve learned the hard way that the way we feel about each other in one particular moment is not the way it always will be, for better or for worse.
Forty years sounds like such a milestone, almost like an arrival. I kept trying to think of something significant enough to celebrate forty years of my husband’s life. But for the most part, everything he wants, we have. Anything else would just be a token. In the end, I remembered that forty isn’t an arrival at all, but only one point along the journey. Who we are in one particular moment is not who we always will be, for better or for worse, and so I decided to write my husband a poem to try to put my gift into words. Happy Birthday, Demps.
I’ve known you a lifetime, long
enough to grow thanks for what I long ago
would have changed in you, long enough
to leave a past behind us. I’m surprised still
to think of you at nine, and me at eight,
to think those simple two would make a life
together, would live love together.
It’s not so simple now, at times, the effort
it takes to make a life, and yes, let’s just be honest,
the effort it takes to love in this lifetime.
We are hard to love, often,
slow to forgive, and worse, slow
to feel forgiven. Love seems like an apparition
there, hazy, and some do not believe,
some cannot see signs –
some stop searching —
but love has seeped into my being, like a mist,
like a wind that whispers in this moment,
and causes rain in Africa next week.
It is faith, measured enough — from
places I cannot see—and yet,
I choose it. The eight-year old me does not understand,
and when I am eighty, I will marvel at the ways
I did not know love now.
I’ve loved you a lifetime, long
enough to know
I will love you more.