March 14, 2002
The *What-If* Game


David says that he sees a little boy with blue eyes and dark hair. "The gene for darker hair is usually the dominant gene," he explains. 

Through the viewfinder of my overly-sentimental imagination, I usually picture a little girl: a daughter with delicate features, not unlike those of her older half-sisters, but with David's blondish hair and translucent blue eyes. I've even given her a name -- Madeleine Louise -- although we would call her 'Maddy' for short.

It's a game David and I play sometimes: describing the child we might have had together, had we met and married earlier in life.

We play all of the other silly, speculative, What-If games that midlife newlyweds play. What if things had been different, and we'd gotten married twenty years ago? Would we be sober today? Would we be solvent? Would we own a home in the Marina District ... or in Normandy Park? Would our marriage still be going strong?

Or would I be referring to him as 'The Anti-Husband' on the website, right about now?

One of the drawbacks of falling in love in midlife is the wistful (and utterly futile) feeling that washes over you, occasionally, of Having Missed Something Important. It's a little bit like walking into a movie theater twenty minutes into the main feature: you've missed the opening credits, the storyline is already unfolding, and even if you bribe the projectionist he isn't going to stop and rewind the film just for *you.* Discovering your heart's one true love -- at the same time you're discovering gray hair in unspeakable places -- means that you'll never know what your Significant(ly Older) Other was like when they were in the full bloom of youth.

Of course this is also one of the BLESSINGS.

I'm never going to see David with a full head of glorious, wavy blond hair ... but then again, I'm probably never going to see him with a Camel Light dangling out of his mouth, either. He's never going to experience the full *majesty and glory* of those twenty-year-old bazooms (except via ancient Polaroids) ... but then again, he's never going to have to duck when I throw a fully-loaded plate of spaghetti at him, either. As cute and appealing and fabulous as we both probably were at age 18 (or age 25, or age 30) ... as nice as it might have been to start out in life together, choosing china patterns and looking at ultrasounds ... there is no denying the fact that we would have been a disaster if fate had flung us together before we were sober.

We would have been a "Cops" episode, just waiting to happen.

Still, the consolation prize for having had to wait until miscellaneous body parts were falling off/falling down/falling apart before we found each other is that we're better people than we were, twenty (or ten, or five) years ago. We're both more emotionally evolved, more stable, more comfortable in our (slightly baggy) skin right now, in our mid-forties, than at we've been at any other time in our lives.

And it was worth the wait.

As for having children together?  For all of our speculating and second-guessing and *What-Iffing,* we both know that that's a ship that has already sailed. Even if the world were a safer and more certain place than it is right now  --  even if we were to win that bazillion-dollar Power Ball drawing next weekend and could afford an entire platoon of home health care professionals, housekeepers, nutritionists and developmental specialists  --  we would probably still be reluctant to bring a child into the world. I'm too old, frankly. He's too overworked. We're both too broke and too tired and too preoccupied with the children we already have (and adore, and worry about obsessively, and wouldn't trade for for all the Lapsang Souchong in Alameda).

But that doesn't mean we don't feel compelled to indulge in The *What-If* Game, every once in a while ... just for fun.



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if it was a boy, of course, we would name him 'andy j.'