She turned 45 today.
This morning I lay awake in the small hours, her warmth close-by. I pondered how best to communicate all that she means to me in my life. Thoughts and ideas flowed freely, filling my head.
For the past 26 years I have shared her birthdays, the first as a glorified boyfriend, the next quarter century as a family member. We've spent more than half of our lives together, working through life's challenges as a team.
This birthday seems a little harder for her than the past ones. Her mom died this spring; mortal frailty is making its presence felt. She voices her concerns and insecurities.
This morning as ideas ran through my mind, it occurred to me that she thinks of herself as a rose.
Recently, I had the opportunity, when she was ill, to represent her at my niece's bridal shower. New experience for me.
My daughter was in charge of the rose game: the Guests all estimate the number of petals in a chosen rose bud; the Bride pulls the rose apart, petal by petal, listing one fact she knows about the Groom for each petal; the petals are counted. The Bride did a wonderful job. I was stunned at how many petals are in a rosebud.
It seems to me that my wife thinks she is losing petals; that some of her outer petals are turning brown and discolored; that soon she is going to fall-apart completely.
My wife is not a rose.
Rather, her beauty is that of fine sculpture: the years may be rough on a masterpiece, knocking a finger off here, gouging a spot there, but the value remains. Even missing her arms, the Venus de Milo stands graceful, intriguing, full of beauty and more valuable than any sculpture created in the past two millennia. So, it is with my wife: though knocked about by life's regular trials, she greets all comers with a grin, and carries on, standing tall and unbowed by experience.
Her beauty is that of fine literature: the pages yellow with age; the binding cracks and falls apart; the pages tear, fall-out and are taped or re-glued; the margins are filled with notes. Still the volume is treasured for the wisdom, knowledge and language it contains. No one would cast it aside, rather it is stored carefully and taken out again and again, to drink deep of the truths that it holds.
For years I have realized that my outlook on life would be shallow indeed, but for her. She has regularly dragged me, kicking and complaining, from the box I lived in, with my hands over eyes and ears, out into the light to see the world with new perspectives. She doesn't accept surface explanations, but rather, looks into the meaning of words, and more important, where those meanings lead. She has never been afraid to lift up the corner of a rug to see what might lie underneath, whether a treasure could be hidden there.
Her beauty is that of fine architecture: basking in, absorbing and reflecting the unique characteristics of the light where she is. Her whole life has been dedicated to the light: finding it and making it a part of her.
As a new husband and father, I only thought my wife had women's intuition. She is marvelous judge of character as we move into new towns and situations. With the perspective that a quarter-century brings, I now realize that she has unique gifts that allow her to understand things about people that others don't. The empathy she feels for others is so pervasive that after she has spent a few hours with someone, she'll come back home speaking like that person, not as a form of imitation, flattery or mockery, but rather in a completely unconscious absorption of their speech habits, word choice and dialect.
Life with her has been a wonderful adventure.
I am thankful to be her partner and companion.
Happy Birthday, lady!