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Twenty 

Forgive The Observer a public love letter, Dear Reader. A gentleman never kisses and tells, but he is allowed to swoon a bit, and so we will. Last week made 20 years since we wed our beloved in her grandpa's little church way down in El Dorado, two dumb kids with nothing but our lives stretching out before us like an open road. Who the hell was Yours Truly back then, when we saw her there in white at the head of the aisle? We forget, or dare not remember.

While she has been our rock, The Observer has been a dozen people in 20 years, and she has suffered and loved them all: enfant terrible, kid, lover, father, writer, reporter, teacher, artist, wise man, blowhard, tyrant, white knight, certified idiot and holy fool. Yes, we have taken a rail grind on the edge of the deep, dark abyss a time or two, as all long relationships must, but the only thing The Observer knows for sure is that I want to hold that woman's hand until the day I die. It ain't much to know this late in life, but The Observer has never trusted those who knew too much, for damn sure. What's the old saying about God laughing at mortal plans?

Leaving Junior at home with instructions to clean out the cat box and to be smart enough to not leave any beer bottles in the fish tank after the epic blowout sure to come, we dropped down through Vicksburg to sweltering New Orleans, where we spent a night in a lovely old hotel and soon came to the realization that we have become old enough that a late night café au lait at Café Du Monde thrilled us more than Bourbon Street. We strolled the old lanes, sweated hot beads and remembered how we walked all those same streets when we were youngsters, the Quarter still the same, while we are so different. Didn't hurt our feelings, though. Once you reach a certain age, you tend to let go of what you can't do a damn thing about, because you realize it is that way for everyone. Time does not play favorites. Time is fair.

The next day, we got up and hightailed it east, across the pine-scattered sand of south Mississippi, through the tunnel at Mobile, into Florida and the hotel we'd paid too much to stay in, so close to the blue-green Gulf that you could throw a sand dollar from the balcony and hit the waves. The Observer brought spouse there for the first time — her first trip to saltwater — when she was pregnant with Junior. For a landlocked child, there is a fascination with the sea — the bigness of it, to strike a Trumpian phrase; the curved horizon line swimming with pale clouds; the waves rising up and rushing over the sand and receding every two seconds.

Even as a boy, I made the connection with time: that the waves were doing that on the day I was born, they were doing that every day of my life when I wasn't there to watch them, and will be doing that on the day I die, casting up shells and seaweed and sand-slicked pieces of green glass. As I kid, that's a scary thought. As an old married fart sitting at the edge of the world, drinking from a sandy can, holding hands with the love of this life, it's less so.

Even though mortality is closer, there is the satisfaction of having lived a good life, and loved a truly good person, and that there is still time to do more of it before it all closes down. Time to watch the birds fish at the cusp of the water. Time to offer a sip of slowly warming beer. Time enough to look at the woman by my side, and think: Ye gods, whatever in the world did I do right that I should be so lucky and have so much? Whatever in the world did she do wrong to wind up with a fool like me?

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