BICKERDIS (bik'-er-dis: compound word for couple's odd talk which sounds like bickering but is close to discussing. 2/ The sound a whisk broom makes brushing a car mat.)
We have become one of those couples. You hear them in check-out lines, in parking lots searching for their cars, at public events, and especially in their homes--meaning mine. This is a real conversation from my kitchen a few days back.
"Did you remember to stack the dishwasher?" (The right way, I meant.)
"Yup, ready to go," my husband said.
"Big cups at the back, small cups in front?" (Me fruitlessly trying to exert control because the rest of my life is so not in control...)
"I did it my way, Honey," said with good humor but decidedly dismissive.
It's not exactly an argument, not truly bickering or confrontation. Rather it's the edgy interaction of a couple who have lived together for 48 years, raised a family, retired, and are now living the 'golden years', which my aunt called "a cruel lie."
The other day I was startled when my offspring called from the porch, as my husband and I were discussing some event, or bickerdissing--"Guys, this is really important you know!" said in a fond but ironic tone.
And I thought: Oh no, we have become one of those older couples who argues about dishwashers, fluids in the car engine, clothes left on the chair, whether we had beef last Tuesday or grilled chicken, and if we remembered to pay a certain bill. God, save me!
I'm not sure what I expected of my aging though I would have been shocked to hear these conversations in my younger years. I would have scorned them, saying, "Get a life, guys!" In the days when my husband and I cavorted in the Caribbean, sometimes on topless beaches (those days are gone), I bet I saw myself cruising into my later years with the very same body toned by running, yoga, lifting weights, and doing Jane Fonda exercises. Maybe I could still wear a string bikini with little flaps to cover the bad patches? I'm sure I had no thought of aches and pains, carpal tunnel syndrome, a hip replacement, GERD, memory lapses, or purple veins on the once-smooth calves.
Sue me. I was a numb-nut. But what I didn't understand was how bodily diminishment would be accompanied by an enlarging of mind and soul. Maybe because my mom died when I was only 27, I didn't have the benefit of her aging, of her telling me that my heart would grow and expand. Instead of being cut down by the deaths of loved ones, I grew through sorrow and grief into someone a bit different, a little bigger with each loss. Such losses made me stare at my own death, think about what was ahead, and see that tenderness and mercy were the best responses as we all hurtle towards our end.
In my string bikini days, when I was more judgmental, I didn't know how tolerant I would become--that people's failings and coming up short wouldn't bother me the way they used to. Case in point: a few days back I was feeling sad that a new friendship wasn't as close as I wanted, and the CNN tickertape from God scrolled through my mind: "We all come up short, Annie. None of us are what we expected."
So, getting older certainly has its challenges, and I don't know about 'golden years'--maybe more a soft beige. I hope not to spend too much time in "bickerdis" with my sweetie, but when I look at the room that is my soul I am startled to see how wide and deep that room has become.