On Turning 60 Part III (Someone to Watch Over Me)

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Charles and I met in 2012. I was 48. Both of us were licking our wounds after failed marriages. The first couple of years were pretty rocky. Neither of us expected the relationship to last long, but we were having fun along the way. Eventually (in the longest sense of the word), he and I just turned into us. I am now 60 and he is 61. We will celebrate our second wedding anniversary in September.

My Mom liked him pretty quickly after meeting him. Daddy really loved him. He often said Charles reminded him of a good friend he had when he was young. I’m sure Daddy’s friend was ornery. Charles was a familiar personality to both of them. He grew up in the same area I grew up in. He had a similar upbringing. Turns out that, for awhile, we had even attended the same Baptist church. Mom and Daddy trusted that he was exactly who he presented himself to be. Daddy relaxed when he realized Charles was here to stay. “I don’t worry about you so much,” he actually said more than once. “You have Charles.”

I can’t remember when my children first met him. My daughter’s wedding? My granddaughter’s Baptism? Now, it just seems like he’s always been here. It is like I have two pasts; the one without Charles and the one where Charles has always been a part of the family.

This Father’s Day, my daughter sent Charles a card. It was a sweet gesture. The inside said, “Thank you for loving my Mom.” What a sweet thing to say. It made me realize that my kids probably worry about me as much as my parents did. Now that I’m experiencing age in all its freaking glory and a pesky heart valve condition that doesn’t want to go away, they probably worry now more than ever.

I realize my son and daughter both consider themselves blessed that Charles is here with me. “We don’t deserve Charles,” is a common statement. Both my kids and their families live in a city a good six hour drive away. They both are married, raising kids, and living very busy lives. Nothing can upset a marriage more than an aging parent with health issues in need of care can.

I’m not the type that likes someone to worry about me. I do NOT like to be told what to do or told to be careful. When my heart failure was diagnosed after a series of near fatal diving accidents, everyone who loved me developed this furrowed brow when I mentioned going on vacation anywhere near water. My son would call, “you’re not diving, right Mom?” I remember wishing Daddy a happy Father’s Day one year when I was in Cozumel and his response was “stay out of the water.”

Since my surgery to repair the aortic valve last September, Charles has become even more watchful. Now that the mitral valve is leaking he’s more attentive than ever. He asks how I’m doing many times during the day. He takes my hand if we are walking any distance, then moves his hand to my lower back if that walk takes us uphill. I have to admit I get irritated sometimes at his “are you sure you should be doing that?” It is not so much his asking that irritates me, but more that he has reason to.

When I am gardening or doing something outside, sometimes I look up and there he is. “What’s up?” I’ll ask knowing he’s coming around to see if I’m still breathing.

“Just checking you out, Cutie” he says with a grin. What an amazing man. I’m gray, wrinkly, wearing shorts and rubber boots, and sweating like a pig on a spit, but he still flirts with me like he did when we first met.

He’s always there to take over some kind of manual labor I’m pretty sure I can do myself. He likes to suggest ideas to “work smarter, not harder” and, frankly, sometimes I LIKE to work harder. How else do I earn my place in this world without working like a field hand?

Today, I said I had to drive the lawnmower a quarter mile down the road to find something I may have dropped. I drove almost a mile before turning back toward home. There he was coming over the hill walking toward me. Obviously, I was gone longer than he expected and he was coming to check on me. I should have been irritated, but I was glad to see him. I’m always glad to see him.

I am glad to know that, at my age, I have someone faithful and loving to watch over me. Someone who wants to be the one watching over me. So many people aren’t that fortunate. Some are looking at their retirement years without a partner, children living far away, parents deceased, no siblings nearby. Being alone is dreadful. I read somewhere that loneliness now kills more people than smoking. The older we get, the more our health and strength and mental acuity becomes a factor. It must be scary to think of going it alone. My parents worried about that for me, before Charles came along. I am sure it crossed my children’s minds, too. My younger brother and sister may have called “Not it!” when asking “who will take care of Diane when she gets old?”

So, everyone can just calm down. Everything is going to be fine. I am getting along and the heart is still ticking. As I turn into the home stretch of life, I have someone to watch over me. And so, as it turns out, does he.

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