Monday, November 16, 2009

20. An Older Man

Today is my husband Bill's 76th birthday...and I find that it is giving me pause. Bill does not look his age and is unusually fit for a septuagenarian; nonetheless that is his age. I am 54.

When we first met (I was 27) and were in the early stages of our relationship we were both acutely aware of our age difference. We noticed that people stared at us and were confused by our physical displays of affection. But as time went on we grew comfortable with each other and didn't notice those looks so much, and then when Emily was born it just didn't matter. Being worried about what a stranger thought was the last thing on our minds.

For perhaps close to 20 years our age difference was not much of a concern. My employers and our friends never said a word and my family stopped mentioning it. Bill's health was, and continues to be, excellent. But at a recent gathering I introduced myself to a woman and as I turned to introduce Bill she blurted out And this is your father! I've become aware that a change is underway which will affect my life significantly.

I am familiar with the encroachment of old age, watching it in my parents and aunt and in numerous choir members and church friends. It can be a slow diminuendo- some forgetfulness, a bit of confusion, physical ailments large and small, loss of hearing, stiffness and aching joints, disinterest in going out- but over the course of a few years one does notice the changes. I am starting to see these things in Bill, gradually, and I say this not out of fear, blame or dread, but as a way of looking honestly at the future.

While in Ecuador this past summer Bill passed out 3 times due to the inability of his heart to pump enough oxygen thru his body. High in the Andes, there was no modern medical care and we did not really know what was happening. It was frightening enough that we had the what if? conversation. Funeral wishes and the like. Fortunately these episodes were a result of the altitude and not an underlying health problem. But I didn't know that as I struggled to keep my suddenly frail husband from collapsing.

Back to the birthday...of course we had a party. In 26 years of marriage I remember only one year that we didn't invite friends over to celebrate. This year it was a small dinner party and I served an old favorite, Chicken Marbella. And for the first time in several years I made the cake, which was over-the-top scrumptious. So here's the recipe, and for you foodies out there don't prejudge the combination of a cake mix, instant chocolate pudding and chocolate chips. Take this cake to a party and they'll think you slaved for hours.

Death by Chocolate

(from Southwest Flavor by Adele Almador)

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 3/4 cups milk

2 eggs

1 devil's food cake mix

4 ounces instant chocolate pudding

Mix cake mix, milk and eggs for 30 seconds.

Add pudding and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Stir in chips.

Pour into a greased and floured Bundt pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes.

Let cool 5-10 minutes before releasing from pan.

This cake gets better with age, so make a day or 2 ahead of time. I served it with vanilla ice cream and a sauce made from frozen Maine strawberries.

Happy Birthday, Bill.