Looking at Rick across a large oak table covered by architectural drawings of our dream beach house, I was forced to confront that jarring and surreal question. I’m 60 and Rick is 72.
Our ages never really mattered to us. It just wasn’t an issue, other than hearing the odd lighthearted joke among long-time friends. But looking across those diagrams, we knew the punchline had become a headline. Concerns about the age gap were suddenly tangible, suddenly real.
Rick and I met when I was in my 20s and he always shrugged off the 12-year difference by literally saying, “I’m your age, so it doesn’t matter.” Together, we spent decades pouring all our time and passion into building a successful cosmetics business. In the last few years I realized I wanted a gathering place for my friends and family so we could finally set aside the grind of being entrepreneurs and enjoy the companionship of our loved ones in a relaxed and beautiful space. We’d earned it and I’ve always wanted a beach house.
The lots on Georgian Bay are narrow. You must “build up” if you want more square footage, so naturally our plans called for a 3-storey home. In the moment that changed everything for us, we were pondering where to put a bathtub. To my surprise, Rick was the one who unwittingly shattered my age bubble when he said, “If we can’t climb stairs anymore, the guest room on the main floor can become our master bedroom.” Pardon me! As I stood staring at the drawings, I couldn’t process the statement.
My instantaneous thought was: “I’m always going to be able to climb stairs so what the hell are you talking about?” Today, when I think of “old” I think of someone who’s 90 or 100, but not my husband’s age. Yet here HE was, my youthful husband suddenly being Mr. Pragmatic after 30 years of zestful living. I remember when I was a kid thinking that my grandmother used to look ancient to me. Back then, everyone thought that once you turned 65, you retired and you're dead. That’s what kids assumed, or at least I did.
So here’s me, now in my 60s, listening to a benign discussion about a main floor guest bedroom escalate into a crisis that was about to get even more out of hand. Cue Rick again - “Maybe we need to plan for an elevator,” he casually asserted.
I wondered if I was witnessing my loving husband surrender and give up the bubble of invincibility that had insulated us for all these years. Then again, it’s also Rick being his pragmatic self by displaying his adorable wisdom. Or…are we actually old now because our conversations revolve around future challenges presented by stairs and whether getting an elevator is simply pretentious or a smart decision? It was a jolt like I had never experienced. Thing is, the questions were logical, but my reaction was all emotion and bereft of logic. I started doing more math and quickly added the years it’s going to take to complete plans, get permits, and construct the beach house because of COVID delays and suddenly Rick is 75 and I’m 63. Sigh.
I’ve always believed aging is a beautiful thing, even if you don’t resemble the indomitable Maye Musk. My motto is “beauty is difference,” and I mean that with all my heart. Age has brought me confidence, experience, strength and resolve. So, as I gaze at Rick with a measure of disbelief at his utterance of the word “elevator,” I also know that I love him even more at that moment…and because of that moment. As always, he’s looking out for us by being proactive and positive and hopeful of the many years we will share on the beach with our family and friends.
Now, when we show our friends and family the plans for the beach house, we silently giggle a bit as we explain that the main floor guest room might become our master bedroom. Everyone understands what the admission really means at its core. Yes, we are getting older. But that doesn’t mean we are old.
In the end, we decided against the elevator. We need the space for a workout room and wine cellar.