When I first met him, he was standing in my parents lounge room reciting a readers digest of all his exploits since first leaving home when he was twenty. He'd worked for this popular pop culture magazine in Melbourne, and that award winning advertising agency in Sydney, he's owned such and such a sandwich shop in South Yarra and published X number of graphic novels. He'd even produced the cover for a popular indie band in Melbourne in the 1980s.
I stood in the kitchen and listened and pronounced him arrogant in my mind. Arrogant, but kind of interesting, too...
We got to know each other over the next few months and I made the call on my current relationship, finally ending it. 'Are you seeing that David guy?' the ex asked. 'No, I answered honestly.' But I'd like to, I thought.
We hooked up, and I thought it would be a summer fling because I was heading off to uni again to finish the degree I'd started four years earlier. He kept calling me in Canberra - actually courting me. He was very old fashioned like that. He visited a few times, braving the icy cold Canberra mornings, so we could spend days doing the touristy thing at the War Memorial and Parliament. He was very knowledgable about politics, my kind of politics, and I learned a lot from this Grumpy Old Man.
I visited mum in Melbourne and she had friends visiting from overseas. We'd all lived at a Salvo College together in Norway for a couple of years and so these people were something like family to me. One of the women took me aside one day and asked if I didn't think I had a bit of 'father figure' thing going on with the Grumpy Old Man because he was, well, so grumpy and so old. I laughed. He was only thirteen years old than me, that was nothing!
At the end of my year in Canberra, he was planning on moving out from his parents place, and I was planning on moving to Melbourne, so we decided to try living together.
The relationship felt very real.
I was never a halfway kind of girl, and so I started making noises about marriage and children. He was very honest with me - he wasn't interested in either. I thought maybe he just needed a bit of time to get used to the idea. He didn't.
Having been in a relationship prior to this one with someone I had to struggle with all the time, I knew that if we wanted different things, I really had to just walk away, however painful that might be.
He came back with, 'Okay, let's get married and have a baby.'
I was surprised. I felt a guilty, too. Choosing between the end of our relationship or doing what he didn't want to do - get married and have a child - he was choosing the latter.
So, we got married and we had our first. I craved more. We had our second and our third and our fourth and the craving subsided.
Last night, I said to him, 'Sometimes I wish we didn't have kids. I love the kids, I enjoy the kids, but the noise! Not even the actual physical noise, but the noise of all the things we have to do and all the things coming down the track - did you realise Ari will start school the same year Luey starts high school? I'm seriously considering holding Ari back a year just so we don't have to deal with all the emotional turmoil at once!'
He laughed. His laugh was wry and warm at the same time. It was an ironic laugh.
'Welcome to the last twelve years of my life!'
Finally, it dawned on me. When our first was born, he was the age I am now; with all the disappointments I've had by now, and the energy levels I have now. He had that heavy sense of responsibility I feel now that the heady feeling of invincibility has lost some of its sheen.
Thirteen years does make a difference.
P.S. The guilt I've felt all these years for pressuring him into marriage and children has been lifted in the past few hours. Why, you ask, in the light of me finally realising what a burden he felt all these years ago? Well, because he chose this burden. He had the foresight I have now and he chose to take it on anyway because he loved me - and still loves me. For him it wasn't a 'fun adventure', it was a responsibility, and he accepted that responsibility with far more maturity that I was able to muster at the time.
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