South Fork Poetry: ‘To My Husband as I Turn 70’

By Susan Pashman

Here I sit beside you
As we watch each other age
You in your comfy chair,
I in mine,
Shifting the pillows behind me —
They never will feel right again.
Each of us secretly hoping
The other will stoop
And fetch the paper
Dropped to the floor.

Mornings now, we measure
Tablets and capsules
To prevent or to encourage:
Stool softeners in glossy orange tubes,
Baby aspirin to help the heart.
I order shoes online in 4s and 5s
And send them all back,
Seeking a youthful, fashionable look
With firm insides and skid-proof soles,
One foot larger than the other —
Why can’t they make them like that?

A friend whose garden was my envy
Has let it go to the deer.
Love-tended perennials and rosebushes
Not worth the bending, the rising, the knees and the back.
My French friend whose dahlias were the joy of her life
Has, likewise, left them in the ground this year
To make do next spring with whatever comes up.
But she’s 15 years older and leaves me to hope
I still have that many years to bend to my own
Irises, nasturtiums, lisianthus and phlox,
That the hot Jacuzzis and icepacks will let me keep on
Thinking the flowers are worth it nevertheless.

I take the stairs with caution now,
Grasping firm the railings, watching each foot
Placed gingerly and somewhat sideways,
Feeling with my toes to be absolutely sure
I won’t tumble down like some I’ve known
Who ended up broken
And dead of one wrong step.
I think about these things now, even the staircase
Menaces and warns: It could happen any time.

Time. It used to be more abstract,
Not something you could slice like pie
Thick with memory and portent
Urging me to hurry up
And get it all in
Before it all shuts down.

And you, who have already passed this point,
You pull your woolen blanket up across your chest
And turn the pages of your book, your journal,
Your newspaper — you can read anything now —
And tomorrow, same as today, because you’ve finished
All you ever wanted to do, lucky man, while I?
I am just beginning, and here I am at 70,
The Lord’s allotment almost all spent down.

    Susan Pashman of Sag Harbor is a professor of landscape aesthetics at Boston Architectural College. She is finishing a doctorate in her field at Stony Brook University. She turned 70 on Dec. 17.