My husband and I were having a late breakfast yesterday morning on the patio at George’s, the restaurant located in our new condo community. The weather has turned slightly cooler, with a definite tinge of fall dampness in the air, and our conversation naturally turned to the regular routine of fall activities that would soon be starting. “I don’t know,” I said. “Somehow I’m not in the mood for going back to the same old stuff.."
“You’d like to just start fresh?” he asked.
I laughed. “In case you haven’t noticed,” I said, “I’m really in the mood for getting rid of things, for wanting to make a clean sweep of EVERYTHING."
He looked slightly askance at me. “Just as long as that doesn’t include me,” he said. “Just don’t get everything the way you want it and then tell me to get out too."
I laughed. “Not much chance of that!” I told him.
“I don’t know,” he replied, more seriously this time. “Your dad did it, you know. I hope you aren’t going to take after him."
It’s true - my father really did walk out on my mother after 42 years of marriage. He really did run off with his secretary, just like a bad Lifetime movie, moving out of state and out of our lives for what seemed like forever. It was a horrible time for our family. But over the past 22 years we’ve all made our peace with it.
At least I thought we had.
Friends have asked me if my fathers actions make me uncertain about my own husbands fidelity, less trustful of men in general. But I’ve honestly never felt anxious about my husband’s loyalty, at least not because of what my father did.
It never occurred to me that he might feel anxious about me because of it.
The “midlife crisis” is an old joke by now, but there are some things about it which are fatefully true. When you advance into that “second half of your century on earth” (as I call it), it’s not unusual to start thinking about all the things you haven’t done, the feelings you haven’t felt. You pine for the excitement of youth, the delicious anticipation of romance, the thrill of dreaming big dreams.
And you realize that time grows short. Every day you hear of another friend in your age group with cancer or heart disease. Someone dying or already dead.
Looking back on it, I understand how my father became a victim of all these feelings, how he allowed them to override not just his common sense but his moral character and sense of responsibility. So his actions definitely had an effect on the way I look at my own midlife experience. I understand the longings, but I also understand how easily one can get carried away by them and make huge, life altering mistakes.
It’s possible that my burning desire to get rid of all this “stuff” that’s been accumulating for the past 35 years, and this huge impetus I’ve felt to get settled and squared away in a new neighborhood that will last us into our old(er) age, is my own personal reaction to the kind of middle-aged crisis that struck my dad so hard.
Perhaps I do take after him, do need to make some big changes in order to move forward at this time of my life and not feel like I’m being buried by the past.
“Getting rid of stuff is one thing,” I told my husband firmly. “But getting rid of your life’s companion is something else again. I only have one of those, and I intend to keep him.”
I hope I reassured him.
I hope he’s feeling some of the same excitement about our future that I am.
Because I want to go forward into the second half of our century together.
And he’s definitely a keeper.