MIDWEEK LAST WEEK - Sitting, head slumped, in an oversized armchair, my husband, Cliff, sports this evening his old gray sweatpants, a red Oklahoma University tee and ball cap, and, across his lap, what he jokingly calls his "dog underwear": my daughters' beagles, Charlie and Scout, one draped over and around Cliff's left leg, the other sprawled between his legs.
Cliff snores gently, though not melodiously, an Ian Rankin mystery tented open on his chest.
We are in our library, a room we designed as both office and retreat.
I am working on the laptop, he on his zzzzzs at the end of a busy day off work.
The walls of our library cum nest are a soothing cocoa brown accenting crisp white built-in shelves that harbor his science fiction and my eclectic mix of shivery Scandinavian mysteries, morbid Irish dramas and best-selling American novels.
Alongside the books sits the art we have given each other through the years of our courtship and marriage: an amethyst "cathedral" rock (his); a leering, snaggle-toothed face jug (mine); and various mementos of an engagement trip to Italy (ours).
A mirror on the far wall boasts a "House Beautiful" reflection of the room. Opposite the mirrored wall: our two parakeets, Esther and Ethyl, cheeping and fluttering.
The quiet comfort of this room belies the reality of our five years together: a churn of broken legs, cancer and three years of school for me, and for him, the combined realities of marrying a divorced mother of five rather than the robust Westerner who could both ride and shoot - the type of woman he said he was looking for after his own divorce.
For Cliff, these five years have been a bumpy ride but, I know, a rewarding one. He has grown close to my five children and closer to his own twin daughters, who now call my kiddos their sisters and brother - never mind whose parent is actually whose.
It took Cliff a long time to persuade me to try this marriage thing again, but I have to say it's a good thing. And it works - better the more WE work on it.
I envision many years in this room of ours, poring over our separate books, interrupting each other to read the good parts aloud till one of us - usually me - stumbles off to bed in the adjoining room.
I can see us growing old together comfortably, although I wish the growing were just the passing of the years and not our girth.
It's a wonderful thing to be with someone who gets your jokes.
Who kneads your neck and shoulders when they ache, or scratches your back when it itches.
Who advises you lovingly - and with great care - on which clothes still flatter and which ones you no longer should squeeze into.
On Wednesday, we will observe the passage of five years since we married in a grand old house in Charleston and shocked our seven kids with the news we'd eloped.
Five lovely, loving, aching, crazy, busy, tumultuous, full-to-bursting years.
Happy anniversary, Cliff.