Sally was incredulous the first time she heard about it.
“Really? Are you out of your ever-loving mind?”
She had a point. She usually did have a point when he came up with some hare-brained idea. At the very least, he should have discussed it with her before deciding to re-christen himself (not that he had ever been christened the first time around, of course). His usual fall-back that it seemed like a good idea at the time was starting to wear thin. No, that’s not accurate. That excuse wasn’t starting to wear thin…it was already threadbare.
“What am I supposed to call you when we’re out with friends. No way I’m calling you “Alex.” No freakin’ way!”
“Well, maybe you could just avoid calling me anything…use pronouns…point to me…refer to me as your husband. I don’t know…be creative.”
“And what if I don’t want to be creative? I’ve been calling you “Wayne” for 70 years and I’m not about to change that now. End of conversation.” And with that, she walked out the door, leaving Wa—her husband—to figure out his next move.
To be absolutely non-partisan about this, I feel obligated to point out that she hadn’t actually been calling him “Wayne” for 70 years. It’s true that they had first met when he was 17, so 70 years had, indeed, elapsed since then. But there was a gap of 41 years from the time they stopped seeing each other to when they re-connected following the death of his first wife. It’s not known whether or not she ever mentioned him during those gap years which overlapped with the years of her own marriage. There’s some evidence that she thought about him on occasion during that period (as did he her), but thinking about someone isn’t the same as calling them by their name, is it?
What is incontestable, however, is that she had been calling him “Wayne” for the past 26 years, so her point was still a valid one.
How’s that for fair and balanced reporting?
This wasn’t the first time he had done something that resided on the bizarre side of normal. She had somehow managed to make the needed adjustments on each of those prior occasions. Sometimes it took her a little time, but she eventually found her path, ultimately reaching acceptance and forgiveness…
…except for when he broke up with her for no good reason at the end of his senior year in high school. Her hurt and anger knew no bounds. In fact, it was one of the first topics on her agenda when they started to date again after their 41-year separation. They re-played that scene a dozen times trying to find a suitable home for it in their respective memories, and to understand it in a way that would allow their new relationship to move forward. Sally got to acceptance, if not forgiveness, and that was good enough to let them get married four years later. That was 22 years ago.
(Amazing to think that the night he broke up with her was 70 years ago. 70 years! Yet, in his mind’s eye, she still looked to him like that girl of 17.)
If he had been religious, he would have considered himself blessed to have her in his life. As an atheist, though, he considered himself fortunate and extremely lucky. How many other women in the universe would put up with him? He was convinced it must be an extremely small set and that Sally was probably the only one among them who spoke English.
He worried about her. More precisely, he worried about losing her. Her body had started mistreating her when she was only 19, but she fought back, refusing to let it limit her. With each passing decade, various organs and systems crapped out on her, yet with each setback, she found a way to overcome the new physical challenges and continue to live a full and active life.
She had every right to be callous, cynical, resentful and angry. Instead, she had forged a path to empathy, caring, and gratitude. She could have been all clouds, but instead she was all rainbows. He figured that her ability to do that must have been innate. He imagined she was born smiling. In her 80s, he considered her a walking miracle…which was cause for him to be grateful.
His biggest complaint about her was that she celebrated too heartily the fact that she was younger than he was. Her eating with her fingers didn’t bother him all that much, nor did her refusal to acknowledge her pain when she was hurting, nor her sacrificing to help others, even at her own expense. But the age thing got to him. Does anyone really believe that a 101-day difference in the ages of a married couple is really meaningful or relevant by the time they reach 87? But for three months and ten days out of each year, she took every opportunity that came along to jump in that puddle and splash him with the fact that she was the younger of the two. For reasons unknown to him, it bugged the hell out of him. Yet at the same time, he loved the fact that she was still, in many ways, a little girl who got a kick out of splashing in puddles.
He knew she would find a way to live with Alex.
And she did.
And he loved her for it.