11/8/2010: Two days from my 67th birthday, and I miss Robert terribly. He always made such a fuss over me on my birthday, cooking me a special meal (vegan mushroom stroganoff and vegan chocolate mousse, for example), writing loving messages in carefully chosen cards, and either buying or painting something special for me.
If you ask me if I still miss Robert, two years after his death, I answer, “Only when I breathe in or out.”
I still start each morning recapturing a memory. Today it was the way he opened his ocean-blue eyes in the morning and smiled, his face melting with love. “Let’s snuggle,” he would say. Then one of us would decide, “I’ll snuggle you,” and we would shift to our sides, the snuggler wrapped around the back of the snuglee.
I loved when Robert snuggled me, enveloping me, so close that we couldn’t tell where he ended and I began, if indeed there was a distinction. I would take his hand in both of mine, push my nose into his palm, and inhale deeply. His palm smelled of sleep, a warm, enticing smell that was totally Robert. I can still smell his hand, still taste his skin as I kissed him everywhere my mouth would reach.
The “make you coffee” ritual started early in our seven-year love affair, and persisted wherever we were, home or hotel, and whatever else was happening in our lives. Towards the end, when his body started succumbing to cancer, he told me, “As long as I can make you coffee in the morning, I know I’ll be all right.”
Then one morning, he tried to get up, and he couldn’t. He stumbled, his legs trembling, his back stabbing with pain, his brain unable to emerge from sleep. He sat back on the bed. “I can’t do it,” he told me, and we both cried, as I’m crying now, remembering the day that everything changed.
…Now I make my own coffee in his special coffee pot and carry it to the living room where I’m surrounded by Robert’s paintings. I write memories in my journal—snippets of sweet conversation, playful games we invented, afternoons that turned into evening as we made love as if life depended on it. Maybe it did.
What does matter, at this point in my life, is that I’m taking with me the best of what Robert and I shared. That’s what he’d want for me, and what I want for myself. I find joy in my writing, in dance, in close friends, in physical and mental exercise, in learning, and yes, in my memories of Robert.
I hold my coffee cup to my cheek. It’s just the right temperature.
Robert and I shared our first kiss nine years ago today, under the full moon after our line dance class. It wasn’t a sudden kiss — I had pursued this sexy, dancing man for nine months. We had danced, talked, strolled, even choreographed together — but, though always kind, he kept his distance. He admitted later that he was a little afraid of me, saw me sometimes as Spider Woman (!) because I was so assertive.
If you’ve read Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty, you know that I finally propositioned him by email. He turned me down, explaining gently that he didn’t make these decisions quickly or rush into sex. (Nine months: Quickly? Rush?)
Later that night he emailed me again. He had changed his mind!
“It’s been a while for these old body parts,” he wrote. “Maybe it’s time.”
We made a date to take a walk after the next dance class and discuss what to do next. We strolled under the full moon, not touching, and then stopped at a park bench.
There we shared our first kiss. And our second. Third. Twentieth.
We necked and petted like teenagers, the silver moonlight spotlighting our excitement. Then we made a plan to spend the following Saturday at his house and explore the next dimension of our relationship.
We didn’t know then that we would fall in love. But we did. I was 57 and he 64.
The memory of our first kisses remains strong in my mind, nine years later. So does the memory of our last kiss, two years ago today. As I wail with grief because Robert is gone, I embrace the precious joy of the seven years of great love that we shared. So many people never find that, and we did.
It is fitting that I finished writing Naked at Our Age the day before this significant anniversary, because Robert told me, shortly before he died, “Promise me you’ll keep doing your work.” I honor him by doing that.