Today is July 30. July 30. You know what that means, don't you? It means that the Beve woke up this morning to tell me, "Today I'm two years older than you!" before I could even rub the sleep out of my eyes and wish him a happy birthday. It means he's one year away from discounts at restaurants, movie theaters and myriad other places--a bonus he's already thought of. Just one more year and to the good ol' US of A, he's a 'senior citizen.' No matter that he still has at least 10 years to work, a lot of lawns still to mow and a beautifully-unlined face right under his steely-gray hair. I asked him last night if he ever misses his dark brown (read that as black to the world) hair, and he said no, without even thinking about it. Of course, if his hair was still dark, he'd look about 34, I'm guessing. Seriously, why don't the Norwegians get wrinkles? He's certainly been out in the sun enough. Sigh.
My favorite birthday gift--maybe to both of us--came yesterday when we were over at the elders', because Beve had to help the elders call their finance man, whose name is actually Peter. Grampie calls him "Morgan Stanley." Fortunately, Peter's a nice guy and even answers to Morgan. He may have plenty of elderly clients, living in Sequim as he does. Anyway, when I got there with some medication and milk that I'd picked up for the elders, the call had been made and Beve was busy trying to give Grampie a tutorial on the TV remote. This is a losing proposition from my point of view, having tried it once or twenty times before, but Beve was determined and Grampie seemed an eager student. At least for that five minutes. Then it happened.
Grampie looked over at me eating my sandwich from Subway (a veggie delite), and said, "Carolyn, thank you for marrying Steve. Steve, thank you for marrying Carolyn."
Just that. He thanked us for marrying each other. Thanked me for becoming part of their family. Imagine this in context of the man he used to be, a man who never did more than sign his name on cards or say, "You're great," to people he really admired. No, my father-in-law wasn't one to wear his heart on his sleeve. He was the epitome of the strong, silent type when it came to emotions. But increasingly, as the filters have dropped with age and dementia, he's said what he feels, told it like he sees it. When he sees an overweight person moving toward a buffet, he worries there won't be enough food for him. When he thinks something isn't fair to him these days, he says it loud and clear, "Thyrza has more closet space than I do. Is that right?" And when he loves someone, he tells them. He shows them. E knows this by the pile of bills he pulls out of his wallet for her every time she does the smallest service for him. And I know it too. He tells me all the time that he doesn't know what he'd do without me. The other day in a urologist's waiting room, I had the 'pleasure' of asking him about 'erectile disfunction' for the medical questionaire we had to fill out. I tried pointing to that question, but he asked me to read it, so I did. He started grinning and rubbed his large, bony hand across his face. "You're 86," I told him. "Maybe this doesn't matter." "No," he said. "Not so much." Not with a 91-year-old wife anyway. I actually think those two bathtubs on the TV ad would be just about right for Grampie and Thyrza these days (though I've never quite understood how they're right for the folks in the ad). The point is, I know Grampie appreciates me. I've known it since the days, a year before I married Beve, when I helped Beve's parents (not yet Grampie and Grammie) move back into their home from a year's sabbatical at West Point. They were very appreciative. Liked me well enough they actually told each other they wouldn't mind if he married that girl (something I thankfully didn't know until we were actually engaged--it would have completely embarrassed me).
But to out-and-out say "I'm glad you married my son" is a pretty bold thing. Beve said last night that it's a hidden treasure of Grampie's dementia that--at least at this early stage--we get to know what's going on inside his head. And, as far as it concerns us, he's pleased with us, with our choice. It was like a blessing--in the Biblical sense--to have him say those words in such a straight-forward manner. And I feel that blessing like the mantle of grace that such words always are. This far into our marriage, and he's still saying the same words he told his wife 27 years ago. I feel honored and blessed and awed that this should be so. This father's blessing as a birthday gift. It'll do.