“Marriage is a dinner that begins with dessert.”      

    — Toulouse Lautrec

Nearly thirty-one years ago, a coworker of mine and neighbor of my sweetheart’s introduced us.  It was sweet.  Both of us were single parents who worked full-time, parented full-time, and had decided that there was little time left for romance.  Then our paths crossed.  It was sweet.  It was dessert.  It was the icing on the proverbial cake to discover that the sweetness of love still was part of our lives.  How fortunate it is that marriage and romance begin with dessert.  Without that sugar rush, I can’t imagine we could have found the energy to date, to cement our relationship, and to marry.  Add three kids to the mix, and we certainly needed all the energy we could get!

More than thirty years have passed since that first serving of dessert.  We watch our weight, we think about our diets, and my diabetic body does not tolerate dessert.  What is interesting, though, is the way that our tastes change.  Our palates improve.  As we taste life together and adjust to the different demands placed on us by age and responsibilities, we discover that sweetness exists far beyond dessert. When diabetes removed sugar from my diet, I discovered that carrots were incredibly sweet.  The same is true of a cool glass of milk.  And fresh fruits far outshine any pie I ever have eaten.  Pie.  I remember pie.  I remember cake and cookies and I remember the sweetness of the early days spent with the man I love.

As my sweetheart recovers from shoulder surgery and navigates with only one non-dominant arm, I have joked with him that this is sort of like renewing our vows.  We have dug into the distant past and finally fulfilled our long-ago wish to have more time to spend together.  I remember the young woman I was then and how happy I was to do any little thing for the sweet man I was learning to love.  I remember the young man who was tender and kind and thankful for any sweetness I brought to his life. I have heard our youthful times referred to as our “salad days,” probably because we are green and inexperienced at living; but as I embrace the opportunity to do some extra things for my very independent partner in life, I think our salad days are now.  These are the days when we need no dessert to understand that life is sweet.  What we share instead is the deep understanding that carrots and apples and peas and corn nourish the sweetness of the life we share in a far more lasting way than any icing on any cake. The icing on the cake is discovering sweetness, “in sickness and in health, for better or worse.”

There is a saying, “Life is short – eat dessert first.”   We need the dessert, I suppose, to encourage us to make that commitment; but once we have eaten dessert first, we can move on to savoring all the flavors of life.  And that is sweet.