Today, my husband turns 36. He would tell you he’s growing more salt than pepper and essentially falling apart, but I’d argue he’s never been better.
Of those 36 years Hank’s been on this earth, I have been around to see 16 of them. I have been his witness.
I have been his witness.
The idea kind of blows my mind. The idea that a force greater than ourselves made the assignment, pulled us together, paired us off and now we are the primary spectators for every breath, every major decision, every step (both forward and backward) in each other’s daily existence.
I first started thinking about it a few weeks ago. Spike and I were brushing our teeth and she looked over and noticed a spot on my shoulder blade.
“What’s that dot, Mama?” she asked.
“What dot? Where, honey?”
“That dot. Up there.”
“It’s a mole. She’s always had it.” Hank chimed in, passing through the bathroom on his way to the closet.
Huh. A mole. On my shoulder blade. I had no idea I had a mole on my shoulder blade, but it was just a plain, vanilla fact to my husband. Something he sees probably twice a day, everyday. A fire hydrant on his street.
It’s like the whole when-a-tree-falls-in-the-woods-and-nobody-hears-it thing. If I’d never seen that mole, would it have really even existed? It exists because my life witness sees it, and therefore, it is.
I proposed the mind-blowing concept to my better half in the car one evening. (Spoiler: He wasn’t as enthused.)
“Babe, ya know what I was thinking about?”
“How we’re witnesses to each other’s lives. Like, you know I have a mole on my shoulder, and I didn’t know that.”
“And like, I know that you do this thing every night when you take your contacts out.”
“You do. As you unscrew your contact case, you turn to the right and look at your eye in the mirror, and then turn your head to the left and look at your eye in the mirror and then dip your chin down and then take the right contact out, and then the left contact out.”
“OK, but that’s not necessarily interesting. That I do that.”
“I mean, it kind of is to me. And it’s the fact that I know you do it, right? Like, if I didn’t see you do it, no one would know you do it. And I don’t even think you realize you do it. It’s such an awesome responsibility … being witness to someone’s life.”
Then he veered off the path and started talking about perceived reality and sounding really smart and the air made fart noises as it escaped rapidly from my mental tires.
But as the days went by, I just started thinking about it more. And how our parents are our witnesses for the beginning of our lives, and then our close friends kind of step into that role, and then our partner kind of takes over from there. How fascinating would it be to have these groups of people write the appropriate chapters of your life story, from their perspectives, when they were all up in there?
Right now, without consciously realizing it, I am documenting my daughters’ lives. I’m doing the same for their father. I know their habits, their mannerisms, their missteps, their victories, their sensitivities. I know the exact moment JoJo is going to put her fingers in her mouth to suck on them and can recount both of the evenings she got stitches, in her eyebrow and chin respectfully. I know that Spike has my hands and that her breath is super hot in the mornings. I know that Sloppy Joan’s Xiphoid process, the tiny bone between her ribs, sticks out freaky far and that she rode in the back of an ambulance on my lap, wearing nothing but a diaper, at 2 o’clock in the morning to be treated for RSV. If you had the time and the interest, I could tell you every tiny detail. It’s woven into the fabric of my soul.
Their bodies. Their voices. Their natural tendencies. I carry them all.
But I also know I won’t carry them forever. Pieces of them, sure, but not the bulk like I do now. Not all the good stuff.
Sometimes my parents tell stories about things I did as a little girl, and it feels fabricated. Or foggy at best. Like maybe it lives in my mind somewhere, but nowhere convenient or close enough to easily access the memory. But as they tell it, I can see it. I’m reliving part of my life through them. Through their eyes, their recollection. Those were moments they picked up and held onto so one day I could know they happened. They created the first scrapbook of my existence, and it’s fun to bring it out sometimes and flip through the pages.
When I get together with girlfriends and we carry on about all the stupid shit we did in high school or college, it’s often the same. I vaguely recall smoking cigarettes out of my bedroom window, listening to Celine Dion. I can kind of remember falling down a stack of stages at the youth dance club, coming to rest at the feet of a circle of guys, but it’s all spotty at best. As they offer up scraps of their own memories, I can typically piece it all together. The names. The places. The ridiculous outfits. They were the audience for the second scene in my play. And you bet your sweet ass we go right back there when the kids are in bed and the cocktails are cold.
And then there’s Hank. We thought we were such grownups when we met. We didn’t date very long before we pushed all the chips into the pot and decided this thing was probably going to stick. I immersed myself in his life in a way I’d never done with anyone before. Had I known all the time I would have to absorb every detail of him, I might not have been so insistent, so eager. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to commit this man to my memory. We’ve gone on beautiful trips, and had revealing conversations and laughed and cried. Often, it was just the two of us. The authors, actors and audience to our personal love story.
And now, 16 years later, on his 36th birthday, I find myself marveling at my permanent role as a witness to his life. And the gift of being witness to our three beautiful babies’ lives. And the gift of looking back on all the people – my parents, my girlfriends, my husband – who’ve been witness to my life. Ultimately, everyone needs someone who knows that they cough when they eat ice cream and yawn every time they say goodbye to their mom on the phone. And not just know those things. But actually give a shit, too.
This post is a little convoluted, I’ll admit. It reads a bit like a 3am shroom trip, but still, it amazes me. I guess you just never know where a mole is gonna take you.