I’m curled up in my chair in our bedroom, doing something that used to drive me nuts – listening to Tim snore. For years, as I struggled to fall asleep, his constant throat vibration kept me awake. I tried everything, I pushed him over, I put his arms over his head, I held his nose. Nothing I did worked.
But, since Tim was diagnosed with lung cancer, his snoring is a welcome relief. A sign to me that he’s in a deep sleep. That the pain of the tumor tearing into his hip bone has subsided and he’s resting. I never thought I’d like that growling late night intrusion. But now no matter what time of day or night, it brings me peace.
I find it odd how time has changed our relationship. How the things Tim did that bothered me years ago, seem so insignificant today. Over the years, when problems with our marriage sent me to the edge, I thought a divorce would heal all our problems, make my life easier, if nothing else, end the snoring.
But after thirty-six years, I’m watching Tim fade away. The damage to his hip has left him practically motionless. The calluses on his hands from years of woodworking have disappeared. His body is bald from months of chemotherapy. His soul is quiet as he mentally struggles to control his pain. The playful twinkle in his eye has dimmed along with those playful gleams from across the room.
Life is more fragile than I ever imagined. Among the millions of things that can halt a person, cancer has stopped Tim in his tracks. As I sit here, listening to that familiar sound, there’s no place I’d rather be. Yet, I’m surprised at how thankful I am. Thankful that we didn’t call it quits, that we still love each other, that we beat all the odds.
None of us get married thinking of our latter years. But if we live a long life, this is pretty much of what we get. Our bodies give out, they succumb to disease, and we end up caring for each other.
Marriage wasn’t designed just for romance. It wasn’t designed for me to get my needs met. When I chose to build my life with Tim, I never imagined the depth of love I’d experience. I never imagined it would take cancer for me to feel it. I never imagined that it would top all the romance we’d experienced over the past forty years.
I believe the best parts of life are as difficult to achieve for everyone. Being wealthy, well bred, or living in a prosperous nation doesn’t make building a meaningful life with another person any easier. But the good news is, the rewards of sticking it out are available to all who dare to persevere.
I’ve heard it said that forty is the new thirty, and fifty the new forty. We can look at aging any way we want, but we can’t slow it down. We’re all given a measure of time to fill up as we choose and unfortunately, too often, I’ve chosen poorly.
Unlike many in my generation, I welcome old age and peacefully say good-bye to my irresponsible youth. I count my wrinkles as trophies to a long life, and my widening girth as the blessings of having lived in a land filled with milk and honey. But most of all, I’m proud of my marriage. Proud that when given the choice, Tim and I stepped back into the ring and fought once again for our family. Because, as our lives are winding down, there’s no one better to be with than the spouse of your youth, the father of your children and the Papa of your grandchildren. Trust me, it doesn’t get any better than this!