“Is this table okay?” The hostess stood in front of a chair that faced the window and caught the beginning of dusk. Trees on the sidewalk were strung with lights that twinkled.

“It’s perfect,” my husband, Ron said.

“Actually,” she shook her head. “There’s a reservation for a family at the table beside you. Let’s try another spot.”

Ron and I laughed as we followed her to a more private, intimate table for two. We had driven my oldest son, Austin to the airport and decided to celebrate Ron’s birthday with a night in the city – just the two of us. The hostess provided us with an adult-only dining experience. However, when two couples arrived with two babies between them, my attention drifted to their table.

“You miss Austin,” Ron said.

“I miss babies.” I smiled, “But I don’t miss not being able to eat my food while it’s still hot.”

He grinned. Ron’s youngest son is 24 and his oldest is 30. My twin sons are 20, my daughter is 16 and my youngest son is 11. I often wonder what Ron’s life would be like had he never met me and inherited four children.

“What would you be doing if you didn’t have me and the kids?”

Ron seemed more focus on the chips and salsa than my “It’s A Wonderful Life” type question.

“I mean think about it, you’d have your entire paycheck to yourself and you’d only have to take care of your two boys,” I said.

“My boys are grown, they don’t need to be taken care of.” He dipped a chip into the bowl of spicy salsa goodness.

“That’s even better,” I said, “You’d be completely free to do whatever you want. So, what do you think you’d do?”

He stopped appetizing and looked at me. “I don’t know. I never think about it.”

And that’s Ron. The thought of not being married or a stepdad to my four children would never cross his mind. If anything, he’s at his best when he’s parenting.

When Ron turned 53 this January, he became the same age as his mother when she died of leukemia, which he noted on a Facebook post as, “much too young.” I agree. I can’t imagine losing Ron now – or later in life. We don’t have a perfect marriage, but we are good friends. And it’s our friendship I would miss more than anything. It’s why he understands the source of my life-without-kids or a wife question.

“It never gets easier saying goodbye,” he said of our trip to the airport. “No matter what age our children are.”

I smiled, glanced at the two babies who were chatting nonsensically and realized that with every goodbye, a new door opens – like birthday dinner alone with my best friend in the city.

Mary Billiter can be reached at marybilliter@ymail.com

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