Liz and I soon will celebrate our first anniversary of wedded bliss.
You who've been married know that matrimony is, as much as anything, the Lord's instrument for keeping us humble.
Liz and I each have gained 30 pounds since June. That's humbling.
What humbles me more, though, is that she enjoys reminding me — daily — that I'm older than she is and increasingly forgetful.
To wit, Liz's niece and her husband gave us a gift card to an upscale Lexington restaurant.
They handed the card to me, so I stashed it where I could find it later: a wooden tray on our dresser in which I keep my wallet, keys and various paperwork.
Within a day or two I dropped some insurance documents on top of the gift card and totally forgot about it for weeks, as it was out of my line of sight.
However, in due season I happened across it. I felt as if I'd discovered a lost treasure. That's the upside of memory loss: Something new is always turning up.
"Look!" I said. "Let's go to Lexington for dinner!"
Just hours later, when we were about to leave, the card had disappeared. The receipt that had come with it was still there in the tray. The card itself was gone.
"Did you pick up the gift card?" I yelled down the stairs.
"No, you must have," Liz called back.
"I specifically put it back in the tray this morning."
Liz came upstairs. We dumped out the tray. We looked under the dresser.
"You probably stuck it in your billfold," Liz said.
I emptied my billfold to prove to my little apple dumpling that I hadn't absent-mindedly slid the gift card in with my credit cards.
"See?" I said. "You picked it up. Had to be you."
Now she emptied her purse. "No. I don't have it."
We looked everywhere. I called the restaurant to see if the paper receipt would suffice. The person who answered the phone didn't know. She routed me to the restaurant manager, who gave me a number for corporate headquarters.
In the meantime, we started out for Lexington, hoping they'd give us that free meal if we arrived on their doorstep with the receipt.
Well, they didn't. We ended up eating at another, cheaper restaurant.
On the drive home I said, "That's the beatinest thing. How could that card vanish? You picked it up."
"I'm not in the mood to talk to you," Liz said.
So it came to pass that, as we were preparing for bed, I pulled off my V-neck sweater. As I did, my hand brushed against something in my shirt pocket — a hard plastic rectangle. I think you know what it was. It had been there the whole time.
I thought I'd never hear the end of that episode. But now I have.
See, when Liz and I started dating, she owned a tabby cat named Hargis.
She had found him when he was a kitten, abandoned under a staircase. She fed him with a bottle. He survived, and slept at the foot of her bed for years.
Liz told me early on she'd never love me as much as she loved Hargis. She still has more photographs of that cat than of me, that's for sure.
The kindest thing I can say about Hargis is that he and I didn't bond. He hissed and clawed at me whenever I got near him.
Last week, on a dreary morning, I was away from the house early when I got a text message from Liz: She'd started to work and had found Hargis lying on the road, just over the hill from our house.
I phoned her.
"I took him home," she said, sobbing. "I'm out here in the rain, burying him in the back yard."
I rushed to the house, but by the time I got there she'd finished. She'd placed a large planter, an urn with ferns in it, over his grave as a monument.
I hugged her as she cried.
"He was the best cat in the world," she sniffed. "I can't believe he's gone."
She called and emailed friends, now scattered around the country, who'd known Hargis at various points. She sent them pictures of the cat.
That evening, she decided to turn in early because she was so wrung out. I was in the den watching TV. Before she went upstairs, Liz stepped into the garage to shut a garage door we'd left open.
I heard her come back inside.
"Paul?" she said.
I got up and walked into the next room.
There she stood — holding a bored-looking Hargis.
"I went to the garage and there he was."
I stepped toward them. Hargis, in her arms, arched his back and glared as if to say, "I dare you to pet me."
"You ... buried ... the ... wrong ... cat?"
I collapsed on the floor in a fetal position, laughing.
"You buried the wrong danged cat!" I wheezed. "The wrong cat!"
"I've told half the nation Hargis is dead. I feel like an idiot."
This is what, in the jargon of marriage, is called leverage.
Now, when I sense Liz is about to make a snarky comment about my age or senility, I just smile and head to the back yard.
There, as she watches from the kitchen window, I take stand at attention in front of that urn, salute, and then silently march back and forth like a Marine sentry — guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Kitty.
That stops the senility talk dead in its tracks. So to speak.
Thus Liz and I wobble toward our first anniversary: fat, feeble and forgetful.
All in all, there's nowhere I'd rather be. It's a brand new adventure every day.