Youth is Wasted on the Young

“Fifty is the new thirty,” said my friend Susan.

We were at Montecito Café, sharing a piece of coconut cake to commemorate the fact that one of us had just turned the “new” thirty-something. That was our story and we were sticking to it.

“I feel thirty,” I said, gloating over the fact that with my new progressive lens glasses I could simultaneously read the dessert menu and view the San Ysidro Trail, where we’d soon be hiking to work off the cake. Thanks to the new math that extends youth until age 50 and middle age till you drop, I felt like I could have my cake and eat it, too. Maybe it was the coconut talking, but in that moment it seemed impossible that I had been married twenty-something years, unless I’d been a kindergarten bride.

“My hubby thought we should give each other new silver cars to celebrate our silver anniversary,” I said. “And this made great sense, since our two Volvos are both older than my new personal trainer. But because I’m from Nebraska, I got all practical and said we should get each other new eyeglasses. I know celebrating with eyewear isn’t very festive, but we decided to make getting glasses more romantic by rendezvousing at the eye doctor and then going out to dinner. And we got lucky – two parking spaces right in front. You know you’ve been married a long time when ‘getting lucky’ means finding convenient parking.”

As I recall, my husband had gotten his glasses fitted first because he had another appointment right after with his chiropractor, and luckily that office was just one block away. He could walk there and thus keep his perfect parking space.

He left, and I got my new glasses fitted. I wore them outside, and I could see like a kid again. I swear I saw the individual droplets in the clouds. I saw the tiny grains of sand on the moon. And I saw that the parking space where I’d parked my car had no car in it.

The most logical explanation was that my hubby had absent-mindedly driven off in my car. But it didn’t make sense for him to take a car only one block, especially when he said he’d walk. If he’d driven, surely he could’ve seen the difference between a wagon and a sedan. And he would’ve noticed if he’d had to move the seat in my car back a foot, because he’s tall and I’m vertically challenged. So evidence mounted that my car really had been stolen.

Even if he was on the chiropractor’s table, I had to call him to make sure he didn’t have the car. I punched in his mobile number. No answer. I called again. Nada. By about the sixth time I thought maybe he’d been kidnapped along with the car. I panicked, but kept dialing. Finally he picked up. He sounded exasperated, and so did I.

I didn’t ask him right off whether he had my car, because one doesn’t stay married twenty-some years by beginning conversations with accusations.

He wanted to know whether I was sure it was missing. Yes, I was positive. I was gawking at the empty space that very minute. He went silent for a time and then came to the same conclusion I had – the car had been stolen. My hero was on his way.

How could my car have been stolen in broad daylight? And why? Who’d want a twenty-something Volvo? Well, the car was a classic now. I’d have to emphasize that with the insurance people. Then I got to thinking about how I’d had that car since 1984. Sure it was old, but it was a friendship that’d stood the test of time. When I filled out the insurance paperwork I’d need the long form to explain my request for extra compensation for pain and suffering. I was about to burst into tears, when I saw my hubby walking toward me.

He’d found my car. Nearby. Amazingly, the person who had stolen it had parked right in front of his chiropractor’s office.

“You married a car thief,” Susan said. “Were you really mad?”

“Not so much,” I said.

“Why not? I would’ve been furious.”

“Well, I was too relieved to be angry. And he truly had no idea he’d taken it. Besides, when he bought me a new silver car, just to make amends, it made me feel like thirty-something again. This anniversary definitely had a silver lining.”