Her earrings sparkled, hanging from droopy lobes in a way that felt like a risk. He wore a cowboy hat, which I'm told was out of character, but then so too was the restaurant, all fake western memorabilia and country music, and besides, people change. I watched the Pistol Annies on the television; I can get a little bluegrass myself, and I still remember the country line dancing we did in high school, the day my trig teacher cleared out the cafeteria and showed us the moves, her tight jeans secure under a belt with a big brass buckle. It was a surprise party. He moved well but slowly, overwhelmed by so many faces. This one, though, he knew: the old woman with the earrings, with the curated lips, with the silver hair piled high like a movie star. The one who said "I love you" to him over and over, her hands grasping his cheeks, and his hers, and they stood like that for minutes, whispering 90 years of life to each other, while the party turned into a reunion around them. I don't know who she was, and I can't even imagine what that age must feel like.
I have grown short of grandparents of my own. Tell me, what does 90 mean when you were born in the midst of the Great Depression? When you lived through world wars and civil rights and moon landings and a technological shift that changed the world so immensely? Is it an accomplishment or a curse? Maybe when I'm 90, if, I'll be wishing for things I used to have, or mourning the things I'll never see. Like my parents versus my great great grandkids; like the Mars rover versus a colony on Mars. Like another night with my lover, or another piece of pie. There is so much to miss, both forward and backward.
I can't get their moment out of my mind.
The drive home felt like big sky and autumn, like pumpkins and apple picking. There was green and blue everywhere, so bright it hurt to look, with clouds we'll never see again. And still I thought of the two of them, the way they held on to each other, and the sound a life makes when people pause to mark it on a clean fall day.