It wasn’t arranged exactly,
But it lived next door, and so did he.
We raised up four boys and made it stick.
We paced circles round each other
For most of that first year.
But where you’re supposed to be after thirty,
We were there when he put the ring on me:
Knowing about each other, hard bark and all,
And the difference between
Being in love and loving somebody.
When I lost the baby, who would have been
Our second, I thought surely now I’ll see.
He held me all night while I screamed like a puma.
I saw, all right:
A lover is a good thing when times go bitter
But a friend is a better thing by far.
Sixty years is no little thing in this world, girl.
But maybe it’s no big thing, either.
A lot of days strung together is all —
A lot of food eaten, and floors scrubbed,
And bedsprings bounced.
No, it’s not a big thing or a little.
It’s a thousand little that look like a big
When you see it from a bit away.
But up close it’s just meals and floors and beds
And love, sure. But starting out with that
Isn’t near as important as ending up with it.
This poem largely is what the title advertises: The voice of my 80+ year old neighbor in Texas, who’d decided that getting me to go back to what I’d fled was her new project. Yes, she succeeded. The relationship I ran from didn’t, but I don’t regret the time we had.