The Wife of One’s Youth

Dearest, darling Rachel –

You know, I will never apologize for bragging on my folks. Over sixty years together, and they are still going strong.

To this very day, my Dad never fails to refer to Mom publicly as “the wife of my youth,” with nods to both Proverbs and Malachi, among others. It’s such a sweet title to bestow on the woman that he vowed to spend his life with – especially given how long ago his youth was, after all.

It was a title I expected to bestow upon you when we got to be their age (I mean, I wasn’t about to steal his schtick while he was still around). But it was supposed to be used like he does, with a nod and a wink right in front of you.

It isn’t meant to refer to you in the past tense, as in “the wife I was married to when I was young.”

It’s kind of funny. For all the support your parents gave us, it seems they had very little faith in us, and that whole “wife of one’s youth” would have been taken a little more literally than we would have ever considered. I believe you quoted them as having had fears that ours might well be considered to be a “starter marriage,” whatever that might have been in their minds.

I suppose it might have had something to do with the number of failed relationships in both of their family histories. Your aunt Betty, your dad’s older sister, had her husband leave her fairly early in life, as did your… was it your great-grandmother? Anyway, the fellow who gave you your family name walked out one day long ago and never returned. Your mom’s family wasn’t much better, although I forget all of the stories, since her relatives were a bit more distant, what with her being an only child like yourself.

So they didn’t expect much of us. Which, considering that they stayed together for just shy of fifty years themselves – so you had a fairly good example of how to do it – seems almost unfair. And if it wasn’t for the fact that it all made for an easy bar for us to clear, it might have been somewhat insulting. As it was, I just found it amusing – such little faith they had in us! Why on earth would anyone want to walk away from you?

Look, I’ll admit to being sheltered – or is the term privileged these days? That makes it sound so much like a bad thing, though. The thing is, I have nothing but the best of examples to follow. Marriage is for life, after all – at least, that’s the story I’ve been taught since day one, and I don’t see any reason for that to be any different now – and my parents have given me, my sister, and the whole world a master class on how it’s done for over six decades. And they make it look so easy – to the point where anyone who paid attention for any length of time might be forgiven for concluding that it IS easy to stay together.

And to be fair, sweetheart, you helped make it easy for me, too.

You were there whenever I was down, to give me encouragement. You kept everything running more or less smoothly at home when I was dealing with life at work. You were my partner in just about every step of my way. And even with the things you didn’t necessarily share my enthusiasm about – like establishing an Internet presence upon my retirement – you were more than supportive of my efforts.

You were funny, you were affectionate, you were sweet. You were anything a man could ask for in a life partner.

You were the wife of my youth, and should have been the wife of my old age.

And I can’t imagine how I’m supposed to function without you.

·Be faithful to your own wife [Drink water from your own well],
·just as you drink [gushing] water from your own ·well [cistern].

Proverbs 5:15, Expanded Bible

The old proverb “you never miss the water until the well’s run dry” isn’t quite accurate here. I knew from the time you replied to my letter to you out of college with something other than “ew, get away from me, you creep, you’re scaring me,” that you were something special, something to be held on to for dear life.

And after digging through the piles of documents, I know you knew how much you meant to me. So many cards from birthdays and valentines, all talking about how you were the best thing that ever happened to me, how lucky I was to have you by my side… I have no regrets about anything left unsaid.

All I regret – and of course, it is nothing that either of us could have controlled – is that it was over all too soon. For whatever reason, my well has been filled in… and I’m as dry as the brush in southern California.

You were the wife of my youth.

But I would still be calling you that if you were still with me decades from now.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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