I met my husband when I was 35 and he was 51.
I worried about his health despite him being incredibly healthy, just because he's older.
I needed to learn that every life will end, and I need to enjoy our time together.
Statistically speaking, my husband will die 19 years and 321 days before me. A fact I looked up at some point during our first year together. When I fell in love with a man 16 years my senior, I knew I'd likely be the one left behind. "Every life must end," began the Pearl Jam song I walked down the aisle to on our wedding day.
But knowing is one thing, and accepting is another.
I wasn't prepared for anxiety about our age gap
During our first years of marriage, I wasn't prepared for the many ways my anxiety over our age difference would manifest.
My husband is in excellent health, not just for a man in his 50s, but for anyone. As the owner of a high alpine lodge, his work was physically demanding for years. Also, as an avid backcountry skier, he's more fit than most 20-somethings. Often, I can't keep up with him. But that didn't stop me from worrying.
"When was your last colonoscopy?" I nagged.
"You should go to more yoga classes," I nudged.
"Are you sure you should be eating that?" I asked, eyeing the bag of potato chips I bought for my consumption.
The pestering went beyond concern. Not only did I fail to trust he knew how to take care of himself — as he had for decades, but the standards I applied to him weren't the same as I applied to myself. I was younger, I reasoned. I could get away with avoiding doctors and eating fried foods.
"I just want you to be around as long as possible," I said whenever he returned, my judging glances with looks of annoyance. And then, he'd eat the potato chips.
I just had to accept the reality
My anxieties were most prevalent when my husband did what he loved most — spend time in the backcountry, alone. For decades, he had skied, climbed, and biked through remote mountains and canyons with no one knowing where he was. Then, he met me, and though I'd spent a year living out of a car and exploring wild places, I always apprised my sister of plans and kept an emergency location device on me.
When I told my grandmother I was training my husband to check in with me, she said, "Did you just say training?"
"Good luck," she laughed.
For a while, we existed in a push and pull of me nagging, him sometimes telling me where he was skiing or remembering to let me know when he got there safely, and sometimes not.
Then, one winter day, he skied to the remote lodge he owned and over two hours after he should've arrived, I realized I hadn't heard from him. He'd traveled that route hundreds, maybe thousands of times, but still. Panic rattled me from the inside out until just after 3 p.m. I called a neighbor who was on search and rescue. Within an hour, a helicopter whirred overhead, traversing the mountains, looking for my husband.
He was at the lodge, cooking dinner. He had just forgotten to turn his phone on.
"I'm so sorry," he said when he called, and then we laughed.
But that night, I didn't sleep. I didn't sleep because he could wear a location device, go to doctors, eat less fried food, and do more yoga, but none of that would change this truth: Every life, regardless of age, must end.
To be present in my marriage, that was the truth I had to accept.
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