By Sonny Scott
It seems so unlikely. I still walk on the balls of my feet. I can do squat thrusts and pushups. I’ve never been much on running, but I can tire my grandsons out when we walk. When a pretty girl walks by, I instinctively pull in my stomach and straighten my shoulders, just like every old codger. I feel good, and life is good. That graying, wrinkled, and liver-spotted reflection in the mirror is surely an apparition. It can’t be me, right?
There are times in life when reality rears its head and confronts us with truth in all its brutal and ugly savagery. Such a moment came for me after my last doctor’s visit. “Come back to see me in a year,” the younger-than-my-youngest-son hematologist instructed. As I sat in the parking lot texting the good news to my wife, it hit me: The next visit, I’ll be on Medicare! Medicare!!! How is such a thing possible?
As I headed down the Natchez Trace toward home under a leaden November sky pondering mortality and the accelerating passage of time, I thought of the coming Christmas season. Christmas Day will be the 44th anniversary for my dear wife and me. Just last week, we sat behind our eldest son at a funeral, and noticed his bald spot. We have a 41-year-old son? Get out of here!
It seems only yesterday. After a couple of dates with college girls left me reeling with culture shock, I went home for a visit and began to look for a date among girls that I knew well. My younger sister suggested that I ask her best friend out. I was skeptical. I’d known her all her life, but thought of her as a pesky tomboy, the little sister of my best friend. She was always trying to aggravate me at church socials and at school. But when I saw her for the first time in several months, the metamorphosis staggered me. The fun and energy were still there, but in a tall, striking brunette with creamy complexion and full, sensuous lips. I asked her out, and never asked another.
By the winter of 1967, we were hopelessly in love. There were a hundred good reasons why we should not get married – the first being our youth. She was 18, I barely 20. I could not imagine life without her, and on Christmas day, we gathered at the church with some fifty or sixty friends and family, and jumped the broom handle in all our ignorance and innocence. She was radiant in a white satin gown sewn by her mom, and I was barely presentable in a black suit, clip-on tie, and spit shined Army shoes.
“Just listen carefully, and repeat what I say,” the minister instructed us in lieu of a rehearsal. I didn’t know what “plight my troth” meant, but I plighted it anyway. The “forsaking all others” and “until death do us part,” I understood. There was no reception, and our honeymoon was one night in a local motel. “Wedding pictures” were snapshots from a friend’s Brownie.
Every time I think of her or hear her name called there’s the old familiar stirring in the loins, and a wave of emotion leaves me misty-eyed. The long black hair has given way to a more practical shorter do, and now has a soft silvery sheen. The still creamy complexion has a faint trace of worry-lines – the product of three sons, six grandchildren, twenty-six years of school teaching, care for elderly relatives, and (not least) a sometimes moody, often distracted, and occasionally intemperate husband. The eyes still sparkle with wit, and her interest in people and love of life are unabated. Like bourbon aging in a white oak cask, her beauty has mellowed and become more fetching than ever. I cannot look upon her without a surge of desire and tenderness. After the passage of forty-four years, I still cannot imagine life without her.
Mark Twain pictured a distraught Adam mourning at the grave of Eve: “Wheresoever she was, there was Eden,” Adam reflected.
Indeed. I have lived in Eden for forty-four years.
Sonny Scott is a Chickasaw County resident and a community columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.