I stayed up late finishing Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings tonight, captivated by her lovely prose and the widescreen view she offers of a group of friends who meet as teenagers and stay involved through middle age. It’s such a gift, the ability to be so specific and detailed that there’s a simultaneous feeling she’s speaking of the universal, and about me.
And my life is at an interesting point. The rest of 2013 will see me get married, have the adoption of my two kids finalized, and turn 50. I’m enjoying a period of middle-age introspection and thoughtfulness, yet more than any time before in my life, the next 15 years seem mapped out. God willing, I’m going to be parenting these two little beings through their childhood and adolescence, reaching 65 the year my son turns 18. Maybe I’ll veer off into an unexpected career, or take up a wacky musical instrument, or get really buff (or fat) in a midlife crisis. But I hope my main job will be my precious family, this surprise that didn’t seem it was possible for me, now barreling at me quicker than I can take it in.
And marriage, the hugeness of it, the big crazy idea. This week, briefly annoyed at Jay, I thought, “I’ve still got a couple weeks to decide if I’ll go through with it.” This man I consider myself already committed to! I didn’t really believe it would ever be legally possible. Now we’re doing it, I’ve never been more sure in my life. Also, we’re already committed to raising kids together, frankly that’s a bigger commitment. But even so, there they are: the pre-wedding jitters. Welcome to life.
And of course life’s events are relentless. Things never stay discreet and simple, the trivial and weighty all jostle and make it hard to see the through-line. Legal crap about being married, decisions about the garden, house maintenance, school. And. And. And. The kids’ birth mom has resurfaced, she might not be well. We’ll have to figure out if, and when, seeing her will be in their best interest. It would be so nice to deal with one thing at a time. Couldn’t we finalize this family’s legal status before the next crisis hits? Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps in the next (day? week? six months?) we’ll have to decide between the upset and trauma for the kids of seeing their mom, in whatever shape she’s in, versus the lifelong “what if” that could follow not seeing her. And perhaps not. She’s surfaced and disappeared multiple times, relief and disappointment fighting in me. There’s no knowing if it’s real this time, until the time that it is.
One thing Wolitzer’s book gets right, from my perspective, is the crazy improbability yet inevitability of the things that have happened by midlife. People who seemed like they’d be my friends forever died, a lot of them. People I admired but felt inadequate to became invaluable friends. People’s kids delighted and surprised me, turning into adults I never could have imagined. A friend whose life was nearly destroyed by drugs recovered. Friendships rifted, drifted, returned. There was not enough time. In my own worst chapters there was a magical kindness from those I knew would offer it, and from those who shocked, flabbergasted, me with their perfect support. I found an amazing partner. Two kids picked us.
No wonder I’m on overload. In half a century I’ve seen us go from reel-to-reel to the cloud, from the closet to the mainstream. I guess it’s not going to stop now. I hope I can be a tenth as grateful as I should be, for this continuing, crazy, surprising miracle.