A Very AARP Valentine’s Day

A Very AARP Valentine's Day

Maybe it was discovering that just about every musical and movie reference I knew was lost on anyone under 30. Perhaps it was passing the half-century mark and seeing that not only had some of my dreams gone missing, some even remained unpacked. Maybe it was the arrival of my complimentary copy of AARP Magazine and knowing I could now get discounts at movie theaters and select restaurants such as Olive Garden and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. (I saw The One and I, slumped in a booth in Denny’s, gumming our Grand Slamwiches on Valentine’s Day when we’re in our 80’s.)

Whatever the cause, late last year I began having what life coaches—and Cosmo Magazine—are fond of labeling a midlife crisis.

The One handled his crisis a few years earlier by buying a 2005 Mustang (white with red interior, which he coveted ever since he bought the Matchbox version back in the ’70s). Driving around metaphorically created distance from whatever was haunting him.

I didn’t have the money to buy back two decades of my life, so my “situation” followed me around in lockstep. This wasn’t a sitcom kind of crisis, where after 22 1/2 minutes the salve of comedy makes everything better. Try as I might, my humor failed me. Even I couldn’t joke my way out of this one.

So I did what I always do when I’m confused. I started making lists. As you know, I’m fond of them. They clarify and comfort. I struggled through “What makes me happy?” and “What legacy will I leave behind?” Yet I had a significantly easier time with “What am I depressed about?”, “Where did I fail?”, and “What didn’t I accomplish?” That damn half-empty glass again.

As I mulled over these lists—something I suggest you never attempt with a bottle of wine by your side and Edith Piaf on your iPod—I began to understand what I was really trying to do. And that was come to terms with the fact that one day I will [clears throat here] cease to exist. Will no longer be. The world of David Leite—the good, the bad, the self-centered—will be gone. What will I have left behind? Will I be missed? Will I even matter?

Then I had that inevitable, horrible thought—the one that’s so easy to keep at bay in your 20s, 30s, even 40s. What if The One goes first? A part of me would also cease to exist, would also no longer be. The part that is me around him—and only him. The part that no one sees, the part that has been cobbled together and burnished by spending the past 6,702 days with him.

What I did then surprised me. I wrote a kind of list I’d never written before. I wanted something that would remind me, in thick ink lest my eyesight started going, of what I would’ve missed out on had he not answered my personal ad in New York Magazine all those years ago. (Yes, that’s right, folks, he was my mail-order partner long before online dating became commonplace—or even chic.) Here it is, my inside-out Valentine’s Day wish to him.

What If I’d Never Met The One…?

1. I would still covet milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate.

2. I would never have whispered intimacies to him on Paris’s Pont Neuf at night.

3. I would still be wearing shoes that were way too tight for me. (The One was a shoe salesman decades ago.)

4. I wouldn’t have the pleasure of gazing at views north to the Upper West Side, east over Central Park, and south to the Chrysler Building every single day from our apartment, because it was The One who convinced me the place was a great investment. And it is. (After shoes, he started selling real estate.)

5. I would never, ever, ever deign to use endearments such as “tateleh,” “lovie,” “mon cher,” “poppie,” or the amalgam “pussycake” with anyone. Nor would I allow anyone to call me “Dave,” as if I were a gas station attendant.

6. I wouldn’t have a home in Connecticut. (Full confession: It’s The One’s, as he paid for it entirely. He also insisted that I keep my half of the profit from the sale of our first home to use as seed money for my career.)

7. I wouldn’t have had an escort to the James Beard Awards, where all he did three years in a row, bless his heart, was act like a human Xanax and talk me down from a panic attack for two hours straight.

8. I wouldn’t have had the chance to fall irrevocably head over heels for the kids, the cats, which he rescued through a bulletin board at work. And who have made me supremely happy.

9. I wouldn’t have someone constantly, incessantly making fun of my singing. (Come to think of it, I really wouldn’t miss that.)

10. I would have never discovered Martha’s Vineyard. Well, at least not the private and stunning Hancock Beach.

11. I wouldn’t have ever come to appreciate Jackson Pollock, whom The One teases that he’s the reincarnation of. (Honestly, I’m not so sure he’s kidding…)

12. I wouldn’t have Our Song, which, to be fair, in my typical Type-A fashion, I thrust upon him. He accepted graciously.

13. I wouldn’t have visited a very funky yoga retreat on Paradise Island—and later escaped from it in the of middle of the night to a nearby Marriott—because, well, I’m just not that type.

14. I wouldn’t have spent two incredible summers in East Hampton, just 40 feet from the water, watching the empty wine bottles and clam shells pile up.

15. I wouldn’t be intimately familiar with the entire oeuvre of Kenny G.

16. I wouldn’t have this website. After all, it was he who kept me afloat for three years in my 40s, which I unaffectionately call My Decade of Debt.

17. I wouldn’t treasure the fact that when he was nine years old and rode through the underwater Baltimore Harbor Tunnel for the first time, he was devastated he couldn’t see fish.

18. I wouldn’t have had the example of someone who started with nothing and built a life for himself exactly where, when, and how he wanted.

19. I would have never stumbled onto my love of baking, all because one Sunday he made a cake and let me lick the bowl. Boom! I was back in my grandmother’s kitchen on Brownell Street in 1965.

20. I wouldn’t be me—with this fabulous constellation of qualities—because there would have been no The One with whom to fight, laugh, cry, scream, insult, make up, learn, travel, complain, control, joke, love, and, ultimately grow old with. Denny’s, Bubba Gump, cheap movies, and all.

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Comments
Comments
  1. I absolutely adore this post, David – even though it made me laugh aloud at work, then sent mascara running all over my face, which will immediately betray to my One and Only that I’ve been a total love sap today because I don’t have the proper tools here to fix myself back up before I go home.

    • David Leite says:

      Not fair! Now you have me laughing so hard, I’m crying. So sorry to give you the one-two punch. Perhaps I should’ve placed a warning up top.

  2. John M. Peru says:

    Hi ! David, May God Bless You ! Thank You Very Much for All The Work You Do and Share It with Me. Muinto Obrigado!
    Jmp..

    • David Leite says:

      And to you my wonderful Hawaiian friend. (We still have to meet, you know, and share malassadas.) I wish you and yours a lovely Valentine’s Day.

  3. Lin says:

    Another great love story David. Happy Valentine’s Day to you two.

  4. Susan Bingaman says:

    Dammit, David, I’m tearing up at my desk (and people are looking at me). A very happy Valentine’s Day to you and The One.

    • David Leite says:

      And to you, my dear midwestern friend. I hope you and Jeremy have a lovely day. (Oh, and tell your co-workers it’s an allergy.)

  5. JudithNYC says:

    I never found my One and like to pretend that I am anti-romance, but here I am crying tears of joy at your beautiful tribute to true love. Here’s hoping that my two sons are as lucky as you two.

    Happy Valentine’s day!

    • David Leite says:

      JudithNYC, what a touching comment. Don’t lose faith. And, I want to be crystal clear, everyday The One makes me happy as much as he drives me up wall. We are indeed the Odd Couple, but I think that’s what makes it work. And I, too, wish the very best to your two sons.

  6. Sofia says:

    Yet again another great story, no… actually touching, hilarious and so very much from the heart. Luckily I work at home so apart from my dog looking at me wondering “what now?” I was able to enjoy this reading and laugh with tears down my face yet at the same time totally engulfing the beauty of your love to live and your The One. And no matter if you are under Paris’s Pont Neuf or at a booth at Denny’s you REALLY have a lot to be indeed thankful to and always remember your readers could also easily create a long list of what if we would not have stumbled upon your site. You touch many people’s lives whether by the recipes you have here or by your written words.

  7. melinda says:

    that is one of the best valentines wishes ever…….we (moi and my still-the-one hubby of 36 yrs) don’t even exchange cards but today after going to home depot and lowes (romantic, no?) we happened on a wonderful chinese place (actually a new peter chang restaurant) next to walmart (so we’re really wondering how good can it be, right) and lunched on some of the best food I’ve had in this town…..i’m a longtime fan of your blahg, recipes & your humor….happy V day

    • David Leite says:

      melinda, thank you. What a compliment! And with the right person Lowes and The Home Depot can be quite romantic! I hope you and your still-the-one hubby enjoyed Valentine’s Day.

  8. Allison Parker says:

    David, this is one of my favorite posts you’ve written. Seriously. You just made me think very differently–in the best possible way–about today’s date. You know I’m a loner on Valentine’s Day, but that I also love people and things deeply. And that I am prone to your own sort of torturous list-making. This list was just the best. Here’s to you, The One, your love, and… may you never, ever have to gum a Grand Slamwich at any age!

    • David Leite says:

      Allison, thank you. I thought of you today and realized you, too, have a lot to be thankful for–no matter how big or small….

  9. Lora says:

    Just lovely. What a beautiful valentine to your partner and yourself. Love!

  10. Dianne Jacob says:

    So sweet of you, David, to write this ode to your man.

    And as for you, I hope you enjoy this decade. I actually love being in my 50s. I feel happier than ever before and more comfortable with my life, despite my membership in the AARP.

    Have a lovely evening with you know who.

    • David Leite says:

      Dianne, I BETTER enjoy my 50′s, as my 40′s were tough. But the great thing is I have friends like you who are wonderful examples. Hope you and yours had a great night.

  11. Martha in KS says:

    Wonderful post! I’m smiling ear to ear. He looks cute (though I judge people by their eyes so I’m still on the fence) and I see a strong resemblance. The voyeur wonders if you can share what Valentine surprises you both came up with this year if it’s not too personal. Valentine hugs to both of you!

    • David Leite says:

      Martha, thanks. (And he does have great eyes.) Sure, I’ll share what we did last night. It was simple and fun. We had dinner at friends of ours, and had–without a doubt–some of the best lasagna I’ve had in years. An easy, warm, and very kind evening.

  12. Sara says:

    Thanks for sharing such a sweet list!

  13. Smith Bites says:

    David my friend, I didn’t think I could love & appreciate you more . . . But as of this moment I do . . . And at this moment I cry tears of joy for a couple, who less than 10 years ago would have found it extremely difficult to openly share this list w/the rest of the world. God, i am grateful to be reading your love letter to The One . . . It changes me in so many ways i cannot express them here so thank you. I am so, so lucky to have found my Professor who sleeps soundly next to me as I write these words; the happiest of Valentine’s Day to you and The One . . . You are a treasure . . . Now Pass me a hankie . . .

    • David Leite says:

      Smith_Bites, wow! I’m so touched. Thank you. Please give my very best to the Professor, and I hope you two had a lovely and fun VD.

  14. renee says:

    You’re both lucky men, David. (Although I just can’t imagine you at Denny’s under any circumstances.)

    • David Leite says:

      renee, thanks. We are lucky. I think, perhaps, under duress I could eat at Denny’s. (Although confession: We do frequent McDonald’s for breakfast on the way back to the city each week.)

  15. Liz says:

    Oh David, so well written…I am jeaous that you have the ability to write so eloquently-and the bravery to share with all of us- these special words of love. I dare any “haters” to read this and not be moved towards understanding and acceptance.

    Any plans to visit Vero Beach again? If so, dinners on me!

    • David Leite says:

      Liz, danke. What a kind and thoughtful comment. Hopefully it will add to greater understanding and acceptance. And no plans yet to visit Vero Beach again, but you’re on if I do!

  16. Nywoman says:

    That is a wonderful list and I thank you for sharing it. I love your openness, and allowing us to share in your lives in all of your musings.

    May the two of you share many,many more Valentines with a lot of dark chocolate.

    • David Leite says:

      LOL! Thanks, Nywoman. I hope you, too, share many wonderful Valentine’s Days with your own The One. (And we did have a lot of dark chocolate yesterday. Plus a friend gave each of us a box of them!)

  17. Jamie says:

    David, David (I won’t call you Tateleh but may I call you Bubeleh?), the first couple of paragraphs had me laughing out loud! I remember my brother – 3 years older than I – calling me in a panic the day he received his first issue of AARP. And My One had to talk me down when I hit 50, then 51… Then the second half of your story actually had me in tears. How romantic, how beautiful. I’ve been with my own for (soon to be) 25 years and I do not know what would happen if he (ahem) “left”. Your wonderful post has me going back through the years and all the things I have done and discovered thanks to him, the silliness and romance we share. And how he has made me a smarter, kinder and better person. I cannot wait to meet you and hope I have the chance to meet The One as well. I think we’ll get along just fine. Happy V Day!

    • David Leite says:

      Bubeleh! I think the kindest, most wonderful thing you can say to someone you love after a lifetime together is, “I’m a better me because of you.” And it sounds like that’s the case with you and yours. I hope you had a great day, and I look forward to meeting you soon.

  18. mona says:

    to be honest, i’ve been a little on the snarky side regarding valentine’s day this year, but reading your post slammed me back into reality. you reminded me that love is reality and i thank you for it.

    • David Leite says:

      mona, that is the best thing I could ever hear. I admit it, I can sometimes fall into the roll-your-eyes camp about VD. But I wanted to find a different way this year.

  19. Beth Kujawski says:

    This is just lovely.

    I was well on my way to being all puddly, and then you offered a little relief with No. 13. Thanks for that. (I’ve been known to say that my idea of camping is a three-star hotel.)

    I’m so glad you have The One, David. And that The One has you. They’re beautiful to behold, these glimpses into your life that you share.

    • David Leite says:

      Beth, merci. It was kind of hard to balance the humor and sad stuff (had to write and rewrite and rewrite it). I’m happy hear it worked for you!

  20. Kathy says:

    That is the most beautiful post. I read your blog every week (and enjoy my attempts to recreate some of the fine foods you share with us….) but that was so kind. I hope you gave that list to him in lieu of a card. It was so heartfelt. Hope you had a lovely Valentines Day (just not at Dennys!)

    • David Leite says:

      Kathy, I appreciate your comment. He got the list and a card. (Two card, in fact.) And I hope your attempts at cooking some of the recipes on the site have been successful…?!

  21. James Sturz says:

    It’s lovely, David. Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

    • David Leite says:

      James, coming from you–that is a huge compliment. Thank you. I hope you and Paula had a great day.

  22. Susan aka paintermom says:

    Thanks for sharing this! What a lovely and loving way to frame your relationship. I think this is an exercise we could all benefit from.

    • David Leite says:

      Susan, thanks. I hope others do the same thing sometime. It was such an eye- and heart-opening experience.

  23. Susan says:

    That gawd-damned AARP sent me into a tail spin when I turned 50, too. What a bummer of reminder to go along with the dreaded 50th birthday. Geez! Probably some snarky geezer on staff that wants the rest of us to go down with his/her ship as aware of time’s march as they are. However, it does eventually make one take stock of life and appreciate what’s been good and what we need to improve for the future. Your glass looks pretty full to me and so does mine, now that I think about it. May you and The One make many more good memories to laugh over when you reach the rocker! (Do you suppose there’s another group ready to shake a cane at us for laughs when we turn 70 or so?..the dang discounts had better be good.)

    • David Leite says:

      Hi Susan. You made me laugh so much. Thank you! I really needed it today. I guess what’s next is discounts ob buses and subways. (I wonder if they offer discounts on adult diapers…?)

  24. Susan says:

    A great tribute to The One. You are both lucky to have one another. Wishing you decades more of fabulous memories and fun times together.

  25. Cassandra Gaffney says:

    By far, my favorite piece of writing that I’ve read on LC thus far! My poor husband just woke up to a sobbing and laughing wife. Poor man thought I was in hysterics! I think I’m going to go back every 5 years now and make my own “list” just to see where I’ve gone with my life, my accomplishments, my failures. Looking back today, I still wouldn’t change a darn thing. Thank you for this. Really, thank you.

    • David Leite says:

      Cassandra, I can’t tell you how touched I am, thank you. Lists are a good thing. They put life in perspective and give a sense of place, history, movement. I wish you the best as you draw up your 5-year lists. (And please apologize to your hudband for me!)

  26. An Nguyen says:

    Hi David! What a lovely way to celebrate love, especially love that’s enduring. My boyfriend and I normally don’t celebrate Valentine’s day at all, but this year, he surprised me with an iittala bird that I had been ogling for months . I wasn’t prepared to give him anything, so I took a leaf from your book and wrote him a letter wherein I list all the special moments we’ve had in the course of our relationship. After he’s read it, we were both in tears. Thank you for the inspiration, and I wish you and The One all the happiness in the world!

    • David Leite says:

      An, I am so happy to know that The One and I had a small part in your Valentine’s Day this year. There’s no greater high than knowing you affected another positively. May you both have many, many more years together. (And start shopping now for something special for that boy for next year–he sounds like a keeper.)

  27. Carol Hargis says:

    Wonderful, sentimental and frank. Good writing always requires a few retakes, and you’ve nailed it. This fits in with my mantra for 2012 “To open my mind and my heart.” A timely concept- your list- for both of us, being the same age and all. Love is, indeed, in the air, regardless.

    • David Leite says:

      Carol, thank you. And I’m happy to know that the post fits into your 2012 point of view. Hope love is in the air for you, too.

      • Carol Hargis says:

        My beloved and I are fast approaching our 20th Anniversary. And we’re still making it work, somehow, adding humor liberally. We enjoyed a romantic Valentine’s dinner c/o Ric Orlando at New World in Woodstock. Ric’s warm yet zesty vision rubs off on guests quickly. =)

        • David Leite says:

          Carol, that sounds like a great V-day. And congrats on two decades. That’s like 45 years in our parents’ generation.

  28. Kathleen Purvis says:

    No. 21: You would never have had the chance to share The One with your friends, who adore you both. (And I still treasure my ride in that Mustang.)

    • David Leite says:

      Not fair, Kathleen. I wasn’t expecting to get all ‘motional this early in the morning. Yes, that was a fun ride in the Mustang, wasn’t it? I thing you met him right after his midlife crisis.

  29. Louise Hyson says:

    David, what a lovely tribute to The One and to your wonderful life together. After 50 years with My Other, I am familiar with the good, the wonderful and the not-so-good. As for AARP, at almost 90 I still see red when they send me some literature as we are connected with them via health insurance. At any rate, what I do want to emphasize is I love your blog, I love the recipes I am able to reproduce, I love your humor and yes, I do love you after all these years. May the next 50 years be very, very good to you and The Other.

    • David Leite says:

      Louise Hyson, get out of town! You are NOT almost 90!!! Really? I had no idea. That’s fantastic. Well, you’re my on special-special list of readers. To get so many lovely emails and comments from you all these years, to have you cooks so many of our recipes, and to be as sassy as you are at “almost 90.” Wow, I only hope and pray I’ll be that way at 60. I wish you and The Other many, many more happy years together.

  30. Pat Machin says:

    Salutations from one list maker to another! That was a great post and touched a chord. Don’t forget that “mid-life” is a movable feast and not just for the 40s, just when you think you’ve got sorted, you have to some more adjusting. Hang on to that list to read next time it hits you.

    I wandered into your site from another and will certainly follow. It’s great.

    Thanks.

    • David Leite says:

      Pat, salutations, right back atcha. I have to say: “Don’t forget that ‘mid-life’ is a movable feast” struck a chord with me. Words to live by. Oh, and welcome. We hope you stay around for awhile.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Lovely sentiment, Pat. Lovely. Thank you for that. I sat and made my own list immediately after reading David’s essay, and you’ve reminded me that the list needs to expand with time. Appreciate the reminder. Greatly.

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Pat,

      Thanks for stopping by and hope you enjoy our recipes and writings. I’m off to start my middle aged list, before I forget.

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      We’re so happy to hear that you found us, Pat. Welcome to the LC community–we’re excited to feed and entertain you.

  31. Judy says:

    What a lovely tribute to yourself and “The One.” It is exciting when we grow with a special person. Enjoy every moment you can with each other! My one is deep in the world of dementia, most of the time he doesn’t remember our special moments over the past 50 years (or even who I am). Thanks to help from a great medical team and home workers I am able to keep him home so when he does have lucid moments I get to share them with him. Valentine’s Day was our 50th anniversary, and the very first ever he didn’t bring me flowers since I first met him. The memories are all important now so you and everyone who has a special one make lots of good memories.

    • David Leite says:

      Judy, I’ve hesitated to respond to your comment because every time I tried, I got so choked up. I am so, so sorry to hear your love has dementia. In the end, all we have are memories, and to be robbed of that–and of the ability to share them with the person you made them with–is nothing less than age’s cruelest trick. But thank you for sharing some of your thoughts here. I hope it helps to honor him and keep a bit of your love forever alive. Thank you for the resoundingly simple and important message: “Make lots of good memories.”

  32. Deirdre Reid says:

    Oh my, David. I’m very behind in my blog reading and I’m just now reading this. I turned 50 this year too. It does make you ponder. I’ve only been with my The One for three or four years, depending on when you start counting, so I think I’ll wait until the big 60 to make a list. In writing. But, I’ve had the same thoughts. What if. Can’t imagine. Life is so sweet now. Thanks for sharing your heart and love with us.

    • David Leite says:

      Deirdre, thank you so much for your comment. Congrats on turning 50 (life only get better!) and hang onto Your One and make one helluva great list in 10 years.

  33. Karletta says:

    Under the heading ‘better late than never’ I find myself about to comment on a post monthsssss old. But I can’t help myself. I am so touched by the sweetness of your list, David. Which is why i wanted to nominate you for the ‘Super Sweet Blogging Award’. Not sure how I got in the loop but it did give me a moment’s pause to think about what i treasure. You are on top. more details on site if you are interested in knowing more about it.

    best,
    K

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