Saturday, October 16, 2010

Getting Old

Way back in 1989, about a week after I met the man who would eventually become my husband, it was his 35th birthday. He invited me to go out to an Indian food dinner with a bunch of his friends to celebrate. There were about 15 or 20 people, and, if you can imagine any Indian restaurant on 6th Street you might wonder, how did you all fit in there, together, as a party? Good question. We wound up sitting in a row on a very long bench along a wall. I think it was in a basement. It was impossible to talk to anybody but the person sitting right next to you. Since I didn't know any of these people, it didn't matter where I sat, it was fun.

The impression this birthday dinner left on me was that this man had a lot of really great and interesting friends - artists and musicians and generally people I felt immediately comfortable with. What I found out later was that it was a coincidence that there were so many people, as a bunch of old college friends were visiting from out of town, hence the inflated numbers at the party. I was tricked.

In fact, this man was something of a loner, the kind who didn't notice when his phone stopped working, and then just picked it up randomly if he was expecting a call. He probably didn't call me for two weeks after that, which, in his world, is like five minutes. This was the pattern for the next several years. Fun times followed by lack of communication, baffling to me. My continual surprise every time he called (because after a couple of weeks it seemed natural to think he'd moved on) was just as baffling to him, as he experiences time in a different way from anybody I've ever known.

This strange affair with time turned out to have a positive effect on me. Then, I was often confused about our relationship (why doesn't he ever call me!?) but what I found was that I gained freedom and a sense of myself that I had never experienced before. I learned patience and the value of being alone for long periods of time. It was pretty exhilarating once I figured it out.

How did I figure it out? We were walking on Houston Street admiring some old chairs being sold on the sidewalk, when he mentioned that those would make a great addition to our fantasy house. What fantasy house? Why, the one we would share well into our old age. Oh, I thought, he is planning for a fantasy future. How grand. I guess he's here to stay.

Then yesterday, we had a visit from two of the friends from that Indian dinner party. I remembered Fred for a couple of reasons. One, because he had a checkered past involving a stolen girlfriend (or was it a wife?), and two, because he was at our wedding and his gift was a painting that has had a premium position in my living room ever since. But I didn't remember his partner because I probably didn't sit near her at that dinner, though she remembered me quite distinctly, and gave me a nice compliment, which is the easiest way to endear me to anybody, immediately.

Obviously we are all 21 years older, but they are older than I; Fred just turned 60. He has great hair but not great teeth, which he said started to take a greater prominence in his work as he struggled with dental work. It is a fact that hair is more important than teeth, so he wins in that arena. He still draws or paints every single day though he lamented that he only made six paintings in the last year, and said "I've painted myself into a corner." I imagine their house crowded with 60 years of prolific paintings.

I saw a statistic recently that said that if a married couple both reach 65 there is a 97% chance that one of them will live to 80. Encouraging... but their visit gave me pause to think about how fast and slow time moves at the same time.

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