Two important things happened in 1982. Yes, yes Tylenol laced with cyanide killed people. Think smaller and less national newsworthy. Number one: Jim got his first car, an International Scout. And the second: I was born. While he was learning to drive, I was learning to eat. When he was graduating from high school I was graduating to a toddler bed.
I am 34 years old and on Saturday my husband turned 50. He looks great. He feels great. He’s never taken better care of himself. So while a tucked away bit of me was a titch uneasy about the gist of this milestone birthday, it’s actually not a thing.
I know that I’m a significant reason he does the eating right and exercising stuff. When I’m his age he will be today’s social security age. When I’m today’s social security age he will be 80. Because men tend to knock off earlier than women and because he’s got 16 years on me, before we got married I had to sit myself down and come to terms with the idea that if we signed on there'd be a good chance I’d spend the last 20 years of my life alone.
Bummer concept though it is, he’s worth it.
When my divorce was certain it took my dad a hot second to start working on my next spouse. I wasn’t interested. A decade of experience with the first one said they were just a needy and dramatic hassle. Jim—not needy or dramatic—opened my mind.
Once Jim and I started to spend time together it wasn’t long before I decided to make him mine. Age was the first hurdle. It didn’t stall me even slightly, but I knew that in his ideas about remarriage he was only thinking within his own age group. He needed prodding to look the next decade down.
One night after I’d come over for some reason or another we were sitting in the front room downstairs that’s now decorated with the art I chose and bright colors I like (and Benjamin has told me he prefers to the way the house used to be decorated) we were talking about The Topic. The others. The affair. The lies. The divorce. The thing that sat us in the same room in the first place and was destroying his children.
“The age difference baffles me,” I told him. Bump. “She’s eight years older than he is. It’s the wrong direction. You don’t graduate from a younger woman to an older woman . . . ” He nodded agreement. Set. “But I think it’s totally okay for a man to go for someone much younger.” He looked at me, his face reading the realization of what I’d just suggested. Spike.
He recalls that conversation as the moment when it hit him that Sister Romo was into him. That she was an option. Before that he thought of me more like a little sister. A month earlier he had offered to cut me a Christmas tree when he was out cutting theirs. But why? Because if one of his sisters had been newly divorced and away from family he’d hope that someone else would take care of them like that. He was being the good guy that he can’t help but be. It’s that good guy that obliviously reeled me in. Hey, wait . . . There’s a fish on this line! I don’t think I even baited the hook . . . Aw. All you had to do to bait the hook is be you, handsome James.
Since 50 is the most standout birthday left (‘cept his 100th, he reminds me) I wanted Jim’s to be special. So I orchestrated a 50-days-to-50 celebration. Every day for the 50 days leading up to his birthday he’d get present—a trinket, a note, a something. I recruited his closest people, interspersed silly whatnot betwixt the meaningful gifts so as to not overwhelm the boy, and kept tissues handy. They were necessary. Katelynn found a recording of his dad talking about the day they adopted Jim. For nine-days-to-50 Josie wrote nine reasons he’s the best dad. Traci found a journal entry Brandon wrote about a day he and Jim spent together with their kids. My mom sent Spikeball and a letter about how grateful she is that he’s part of our family. Turning 50 turned out to be a great reason to make it loud and clear how much my husband’s loved. He merits all of it.
One card from a friend talked about how much he enjoys watching Jim support all his people. That’s it. That’s the thing that makes Jim unlike other guys. His life is structured to support us all. His employees. His family. His friends. He wants all of us content and spends his time deploying resources to make it so.
So what I was barely walking when he graduated high school? When your health is a priority and your mental age is about 14, age is just a number. So what I landed him at 46 and missed so many earlier years? I’ll take whatever time I can get.
Happy Birthday, baby. You were a choice. The best one I ever made.