Thursday, January 26, 2012

Birthday Boy!

Today is Michael, my manfriend's birthday. I was asked recently why I call him my manfriend. Well, I was dating him and we seemed a little long in the tooth to call each other girlfriend or boyfriend. My friend said call him your manfriend, that's what my mother would call him, your manfriend. So it was, manfriend stuck. I long for the days when we used to go skiing for his birthday every year. It was fun for me, but just watching the unmitigated joy on his face as he skied down some of the steepest hills, riding along, going around moguls, as if he was flying, well, it was like watching the best testosterone filled ballet ever. I miss those days when we would be surrounded by friends and snow, lots and lots of snow. He is never as happy as when he is skiing down a double black diamond hill, gracefully maneuvering through the snow. Our son Thomas skate boards, and when I see him weave on his board, it reminds me so much of Michael it makes me tear up. By now everyone who sees what I write knows we are faced with a rather unpleasant quandary of what to do about his impending move away from us. This might very well be the last birthday I get to be with him for a while. Yes, it makes me sad, very sad, but I will say that while he is here, in front of me, coming home from work to this house, I cherish every single minute. I notice everything about him these days. I notice every new grey hair on his head, every mannerism that may have escaped me before, every syllable he utters, even the ones where he is talking about dog pooh. He is without a doubt my manfriend. Michael and I met years and years ago at college, when I was a sophomore and only 19 years old. He was a whopping 22. He was an "old man", what they called upper class men in band. We were both going to Ohio University, and I had gone to band camp for marching band. I knew everything about marching band in high school, but let me tell you, being in the OU 110 was a whole different animal. Michael was on the staff for the band camp and busy doing all kinds of things to help out our director. One job was he had to take pictures of all the new people, so the director could put faces with names. He would stand outside the dorm we were staying in and put us one by one up against a wall and snap the photo. Every time he did it, he got asked the exact same question, "Why?" I was just another face in a long line of newbies he had to photograph. He was surly and short in his answers, even snapping at me when I asked the inevitable question. I couldn't help but feel something was different about this guy, something was extraordinary. I stared at him until he turned around and asked, "What?" I shook my head and headed back to the herd that was my group. I knew then as I know now that there really was something pretty amazing about this saxophone player with the surly attitude. Michael and I dated in college and after. I felt so drawn to him, so riveted by this boy, this brunette, sinewy youth, who was funny, smart, handsome and focused. We were like magnets that always found ourselves next to each other, but we wanted such different things in our youth. Michael wanted to travel, be free to do what he wanted when he wanted. I wanted kids, a home, a family. I knew we were at odds, and he did too. Out of love and respect, we did what felt very unnatural, we let each other go pursue our individual dreams. Love is what brought us together in the first place and love is what escorted us right back out of our relationship. Because it was out of love we decided to part, we made a decision to keep the friendship. Our friendship grew over time, with our acceptance and our expanding lives. I did get married and have kids, and Michael came to the wedding, eventually becoming Betty our youngest, Godfather. We did double date, including our significant others in our friendship. When he broke up from his latest girlfriend, we talked it out. When my marriage failed, he helped me move. We were there for each other in ways I could not have imagined when I was 19. Michael has been my friend when I needed one the most, and I have been his friend when he felt alone and distraught. I look back now and see that is where the real love started, in the showing up for each other without any expectation. We saw each other as people first, treading carefully when needed and making the other laugh when least expected. It is our foundation, this friendship, this companionship and mutual respect. Had you asked either of us way back then, if we would be married now, I doubt we would have seen it. But now, in this time in our lives, it seems completely right, and nearly unthinkable for things to be any other way. Our love sneaked up on us. It came softly, not with overwhelming passion at first, but with quiet walks, and inside jokes, and total appreciation of who each of us were to each other and ourselves. I was right when I saw extraordinary surrounding this man. He is in every way. He is the best friend you will ever have. He is the kindest person you will ever meet. He is generous to a fault, inclusive to his world, gentle to those who are weak, and able to show unbelievable strength when required. My 19 year old self, feeling nothing but a gut instinct, knew enough to stay close to the young man with the agitated demeanor at band camp. I knew enough to treasure him first as a person, the same way he treasures me. We are who we are as a married couple because of who we are as friends. Today we celebrate his birth, the anniversary of his arrival. I can't imagine how this world would look to me without him. He changed my perception of how I see others, how I respond, how I think. His influence is everywhere in me, as if a part of my DNA. I have mannerisms similar to his, now. After being married, we have started to acquire physical traits where there used to be only emotional ones. I tell him all the time, one day I will have a goatee, and a larger nose, while he would have glasses and a craving for chocolate twice a day. (He got his first pair of glasses just last month. Our oldest now calls us Pawpaw and Memaw when we watch television.) Today is one of the happiest days of my life. It is the day God gave me Michael. It is in every sense one of the best days of the year, along with the kids birthdays, because this being the anniversary when they hit the ground running. My darling boy is older, softer, a little greyer around the temples. He is wiser, funnier, and more thoughtful. He is showing our children how aging gracefully looks. He is the best of men, this manfriend of mine. Today is not a day for thinking what we might not have next year, but a time to celebrate where my Michael is today. Today, he has never looked better. He kissed me goodbye this morning and the electricity, the sheer warmth of it has stayed with me all day. He says it's because of static cling. But I know better.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Say what you will...