In sunset years one appreciates being around a familiar face, someone who knows you from scratch.
I now know why people get married – to have someone to rattle around the house with in old age. Especially in these times of coronavirus, the possibility of being locked up for life with another person, who will politely die after you, is welcome. Marriage finally begins to make sense in the winter of your life.
High on hormones, one chooses a mate in extreme youth, playing eenie meenie miney mo – saying this one, no, that one. Chances are you ‘fell in love’ while slipping on a banana peel.
Then in the following years of brutal adjustment, replete with crying to mommy, imaginary or real affairs with a colleague, juggling kids and the cook and the household chores and retard bosses, one is just too generally fatigued to coherently articulate the process even to oneself. It is presumed that everyone of your age is living the same rubbish life. Just waking up on time and getting some sleep at night are major achievements. This phase of the marriage is a blur and goes by in blazing rows and forgettable make-up sex. Keeping the kids alive is the main job.
All jokes about a mid-life crisis are cracked right about now. The spirit is like, hey, let’s switch tracks, find you a newer model to remarry; and the flesh is like, er, have you looked at me lately?
Then comes the empty nest and the first fledgling need to communicate with another adult, usually your partner. This is also called the ‘do or die’ stage of marriage, when one spouse or both either separate forever or coldbloodedly catalogue each other’s positive-negative traits and decide with a sigh to stay on.
By now you know everything there is to know about each other, nothing is a surprise. One party may talk longingly of a stranger they met or an old classmate who is now single; the other party pretends not to hear. Illness strikes sometime around then, making the interdependence obvious to the concerned parties. Running away with a stranger looks less and less appealing. Old and infirm, no one wants to become a burden immediately upon elopement.
In sunset years one appreciates being around a familiar face, someone who knows you from scratch. No need to dazzle, no need to woo, no need to choose anew which side of bed you prefer.
By now one spouse has thrown the other a surprise sixtieth birthday, dialing up all former friends right up from KG onward. By now one spouse has been incontinent or fainted or is diagnosed with a terminal illness that needs pills and physio unto death. By now all your eccentricities and mild autisms are well-worn family jokes. Nobody loves you for them, sure, but no one notices it with a shudder either.
Comfort and dull routines are the stuffing of elderly life. Airing regrets, gently rebuking long-time marital adversary, lying on an easy-chair with TV remote in hand, and reminiscing over righteously turning down The One who now lives among your enlarged pictures somewhere in the Sahara – that’s senior citizen heaven.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is the co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.