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When my husband and I were falling in love and committing ourselves to coupledom, I said to him, in all seriousness, “I want decades with you.” That was more than four years ago, when he was 55, and I was 53. It felt like a tall order; his mother died at 62, my father at 47. Then there was the fact that I’d had “a mild case of cancer,” undergoing surgery and radioactive iodine treatment for thyroid cancer. At the time of our courtship, however, I was in fine health, and so was John. (As of this writing we still are, knock wood.) This being the case, I am as hopeful for our future now as I was when we were betrothed. (Great word, isn’t it?) I’m reminded of Emily Dickinson’s great poetic line: “Hope is the thing with feathers.” My husband and I have been flying together for half a decade. I want to soar many more miles with him.

John turns 60 on Thursday, February 13. There’s something about crossing the threshold into a new decade that gives one pause; mid-lifers especially, I think, tend toward reflection here, especially if they’re in a second relationship. We have fewer mile markers in front of us, and we know that one of them will be fateful. All John or I can do is live each day with love—as if every day is Valentine’s Day, as, indeed, it will be the morning after his birthday.

Besides hosting Valentine’s Day, the 14th is a significant date for us because we met on the 14th of June. For that reason, when we decided to marry, we chose August 14 as our wedding day. The middle of February is, you might say, a peak time on our calendar, what with his birthday, V-Day, and, this year, our 56-month anniversary. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s black-tie-and-gown party time. Last year, for example, movers in Richmond were loading a truck with our belongings. This year, as I write this, I’m still in a leg cast.

As Connie Schultz says, life happens. John and I might not be able to go out and paint the town Cupid red, but by spreading out the significance of our love over 365 days—that is, by not taking one another for granted—each day feels more valuable, more treasured. Being mindful of our love each day helps us stack the deck. We might have only half a decade on our scorecard, but if we care for each other, are kind to each other, and express our love in ways minuscule as well as magnificent—every single day—it will seem as though we really are getting more decades than the calendar suggests. Some might call this magical thinking. I call it hoping, with feathers.

Happy 60th birthday, my love. And Happy Valentine’s Day, too. I wish you (and me, for you) good health. Decades of it.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)

By Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.