Never too late

lemonsI met my husband, Gib, at my granddaughter’s lemonade stand. He was whizzing by on his bike, did a U turn, took off his helmet and said, I read somewhere that you should never pass a lemonade stand.

Isabella poured him a tall glass of refreshment while I sat on the front steps of the house, soaking sun into my face, and wondering who this tall man with the quick smile and grey hair might be.

At 60, I had resolved to live alone. Relationships had not been kind. Besides, it’s difficult to think about dating when you’re a grandmother. The dating pool looks a little too much like the near-death club.

The next time I saw him was at our moving sale. I’d been living on the corner of 31st and Taylor in SE and was ready for a change, so I’d answered an ad to be a caretaker on a country estate. The hours were nothing, the land was perfect, and the situation gave me lots of time to replenish and write. I knew I was headed in a new direction, but had no idea the extent of it. Gib walked into the sale eager to visit. Even bought a white elephant chest of drawers my mother had given me. I discovered he lived only two houses away.

 People who live in SE Portland are country people who settled in town. There are chicken coops tucked in side yards, plenty of rabbits, cats and dogs, and even a pot bellied pig. Southeast people wear big flannel shirts to keep warm, boots good for hiking, and drive old pick-up trucks for hauling what we can’t carry on bikes.  We put the things we no longer want on street corners for others to take without cost, and have been lovingly referred to in the press as, “The People’s Republic of Portland.”  So, you can imagine how strange it was to look out my window at 5.30 one morning, and see a gentleman standing under the street light in a three piece suit, polished black shoes, and white cuffed shirt. I threw a shawl over my nightdress and went to investigate. Turns out he was a visiting surgeon who had purchased the house across the street for his son. He was a man of routine, got up and did what he always did, but had no work to go to. He stood alone, like a dream image under the streetlight, waiting for his son to wake up. We were deep in conversation when Gib rounded the corner on his bike. He stopped, wanting to know where the handles were for the chest I’d sold him. I found them garish and tossed them out, I said.

You threw the handles to the chest away? Why would you do that?

They weren’t visually pleasing. Replace them with something better or use a screwdriver.

I thought you’d be moved by now.

Nope, my movers keep calling to back out.

I’ll do it, he said. I’ll help you. And he did. He showed up, hauled, stacked and dripped July sweat like the rest of us. He refused pay so I offered to fix dinner.

The first night was a bust. Gib is a retired engineer and can be too much in his head. We’ve managed to spend an entire evening together without a thing in common, I said. He smiled and left, forgetting his computer. When he came back the following day to retrieve it, we went deeper. Turns out we shared the same birthday, we had daughters who lived near-by, while our sons both lived in Los Angeles. And there was more; I’d lived for years three houses away from his childhood home, we’d both owned the same British car as teenagers, we’d both had the same mismatched marriage partners and resulting heartaches, we were both still young in spirit and athletic in body. But most of all, we were both still hoping to find the happiness we lost in our early years.

I was embarrassed to be getting married at 60, but my friends encouraged me. No, they said. It’s inspiring. It shows that love can happen for anyone at any age.

Getting High

Friends and neighbors could not resist the swing we attached to the rafters of our porch. They pulled against sturdy chains, pumping themselves as near the ceiling as possible, back and forth, laughing, sharing stories and working to get higher still. The rest of us sat on porch railings or in the loveseat to cheer them on. That was when we lived in southeast Portland. The swing was one of the great pleasures of the house.  I could tell what kind of day the mail carrier was having, by peeking to see if she stole a moment from her rounds to swing, or if she ignored its waiting invitation and continued on. When winter came the front porch was abandoned, so we put a second swing inside the house. 

stoveMy last kitchen was like a hallway, with a playroom for my granddaughter at one end, and a dining room on the other. Many-paned windows saved it from feeling confined. Large connecting bolts screwed through the casing in the kitchen doorway, secured the swing for all weights and sizes. It arched deep inside the kitchen, with views above the refrigerator and high-dwelling shelves. The kids in the neighborhood loved it, while I would orchestrate cooking in dodges and darts to avoid their feet. Sometimes I’d pretend to be slow, so they’d tag me, and giggle with delight. If they were not in the kitchen, I’d use it myself. There is nothing quite like being airborne to break the monotony of chopping potatoes or peeling carrots. A few high kicks in the air and life has a different perspective. Suddenly it’s more important to see how high your feet can soar, than tend the pots and pans that sputter and steam below. 

Our country house has 16 foot ceilings, but oddly, no place for a swing. So, I cut, shoveled and graveled a path over the hill, and into the forest below. Gib climbed to the top of an extension ladder and higher still, into the broad arms of a Douglas Fir, in a heroic effort to provide my swing. He cut away branches, tied ropes around a husky limb, and got himself safely down, all the time looking like a crazed environmental terrorist.

When the light returns and spring invites us out of doors, it is not unusual to trail down in my nightgown, place my tea cup on a near-by stump, wrap eager fingers around the ropes, pull back strong against the hill and become airborne. The release from the earth and the wind in my hair is a perfect way to start the day. It gives me perspective and relieves the pressures of adult life.