Act Two

Last night, Wil and I went to the hockey game (WOW, did the Kings play like crap) and at one point in between game play, the “Kiss Cam” was capturing people smooching and putting it up on the JumboTron for all to see. At every game for as long as we’ve been season ticket holders, the camera is put on this one old couple where, each time, the man smiles and looks surprised, and his wife grabs him by the face and plants a big ‘ol kiss on his lips. The crowd goes wild, they laugh, and the hockey game continues. It’s an adorable tradition to see on the screen, and something they obviously love to do. Over the years, we’ve seen them heading out of the stadium together, always smiling and talking to people who recognized them on the JumboTron. They used to walk out holding hands, but in the last couple of years, it has transitioned to him sitting in a wheelchair while she pushes him with her own frail grip on the handles of that chair, as they head out into the cool night air with the thousands of other game attendees.

I’ve often wondered if that old couple started getting season tickets for the same reason Wil and I did. First, because hockey is super fun to watch in-person (even when your home team is uh…not so good) but also because it’s like having a planned date night. Years ago when our kids were in elementary and junior high school, Wil and I had gotten ourselves annual passes to Disneyland so we could drop the kids off at school and then sneak off to the Happiest Place On Earth, go on a few rides, have lunch, and then get back in time to pick the kids up from school (we told them YEARS later we had been doing this but they didn’t know at the time). We always knew the kids wouldn’t be living with us forever, so it was important to us to make time for each other in the chaos that is being a parent. When we struggled financially and couldn’t afford  Disneyland passes, much less going out to dinner, we would go on a long walk in our neighborhood, or play a board game in front of the fireplace. I wondered if this old couple at the hockey game did something similar when they were younger because here they are, doing what Wil and I are doing, holding hands and sneaking in the occasional smooch (minus the camera on us) at a hockey game.

After the camera moved away from that couple kissing, Wil said “Aww…they’re totally us in 30 years!”

And then my head began silently swirling.


And before I knew it, the game was over. I stared at the ice, missing most of the last period experience, not fully present at our pre-planned date night, all because that old couple kissed on camera which sent my middle-aged brain into a tailspin.

As we got up from our seats to leave, I thought of life as a play in three acts. Act One was a childhood full of struggles with the occasional triumphs, as I did my best to figure out how to be an adult. Act Three would be our senior years, probably spent being that old couple on the Kiss Cam, or taking long walks along the beach in Maui, and still having the kids over for barbecued turkey burgers and potato salad.

But Act Two is happening right now.

Wil and I always talk about how in the whole world, with so many people to choose from, how much we love that we chose each other and that we get to spend our lives together. But as we shuffled our way through the crowd, I felt grateful on a whole new level. We get one life, and we don’t know how long that life is going to be, so it’s important to be present, to spend time with the people in our lives that we love, and to use that time to do things that make us happy, while also doing what we can to help others enjoy their lives. When Act One was happening, I never thought Act Two would have me writing a children’s book, or learning how to paint, or figuring out where I can go to do archery because I did that so much as a kid and I loved it so why not do it again, but here I am. And I’m doing it all with a husband who loves me, with two kids who grew up to be amazing adults with lives of their own, and a house full of adorable rescue pets. Life may be unpredictable, but I’m not going to stress about the what-ifs of the future again because I’ll miss what’s playing out right now.

As we headed out of the stadium and into the cool night air, I slid my hand into Wil’s and told him I loved him. We walked down the sidewalk and out to the car, making our way back to our home, and our life, that we’ve built, together.


38 thoughts on “Act Two

  1. Love this.

    I’m 72. My family don’t live beyond 76. Cliff and I (together since 1970) now say ‘I love you’ to each other several times a day. And we mean it.

    That other particular heartbeat in our lives, the most precious pulse.

  2. I love this.

    When I met my Steve, our first try was short, and then we spent 16 years trying to get back together. When we finally did, in 2003, we weren’t apart for a single night until March 31st of this year, when I lost him to a heart attack. If he need to go to the hospital or out of town for a gig, so did I. We tried to never take a moment for granted, to never leave each other without an I love you, to spend each day in gratitude for our second chance. No matter how long you have, it will never be enough, so enjoy every single precious second. And I know you are. xo

  3. It’s all too true. Never miss a moment.

    I know that I I was lucky on two counts: first, that I had 25 years with my own true love, and second, that even while it was happening, I understood how precious that was.

    Not a day goes by that I don’t think back and treasure the time we did have together.

    Whatever comes, you will both always have that.

  4. This is lovely! Even though I don’t care about hockey …

    My wife and I are 67, married 46 years. I always THOUGHT I understood the fragility of life, but in the last few years it’s ‘suddenly’ moved toward the front of my thoughts. Not a thing to dwell on (or you’ll miss your game!), but a undeniable truth that deserves consideration.

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I was a server in a very nice restaurant on the Yacht Harbor in Honolulu. Every Wednesday there was an older couple, the Fitzgeralds, who would always request the same window table. They’d request me because I reminded them of Mrs F when she was young. They’d each have one Ballantine’s scotch on the rocks, and then they’d have lunch, always the same meal. I adored them and joking around with them. I’d say “good afternoon Mr and Mrs Ballantine, would you like a Fitzgerald’s on the rocks now?” Every Wednesday.
    We used to say “I wonder what *other things* they do every Wednesday…”
    A few years after I left that job, a group of friends and I met there for lunch and it just happened to be Wednesday. Halfway through cocktail hour I looked up to see that same window table, that same familiar… wait! Oh no. There he sat, alone, still having his ritual lunch without his bride. (My tears are coming quickly now as I tell this.)
    After I’d composed myself and wiped the tears away, I asked our server to ask him if he would like a Fitzgerald’s on ice, saying he’d know what he meant.
    He looked up and saw me and then I joined him, for just a few minutes…
    It was a sweet memory, for both of us. And 35 years later I remember.
    Cheers! To life and living it with those we love!

  6. Looking back over my 85 years, it all happened in a flash! My husband of 56 years died just over 8 years ago, and I had to learn how to live alone. I had never done so before, and it was an interesting experience. But Anne is correct in saying that we are so busy living our lives that we rarely spend time reflecting upon them. At age 42 I returned to school to earn a B.A., got hooked and ended up doing 3 more years in law school and passing the bar exam at age 49. During law school, the other students (all much younger) would talk about what they would do ‘out in the real world’. I tried to explain that these years in school WERE their real world, to enjoy them and mark them carefully, because life would never be the same when they left school. Most failed to heed my advice, of course, but the few that listened ended up agreeing with me… attention to what you are doing at the time you are doing it, because it will not come that way again!

  7. Thanks for this wake-up call. At 60, it’s been too easy to plan for Act Three…but I have to admit much of it is being done at the expense of missing out on Act Two. Lichtenstein, here I come! (long story…)

  8. Ms. Wheaton: I’m a big fan of your husbands, and have followed his career since it began, through all his trials and tribulations and such. Have met him on a couple of occasions and found him to be a wonderful human being. He’s a great guy. From everything I’ve read from him about you and reading your own work, you seem like an awesome human as well, and have raised a couple of great kids. You’re doing great things.

    I preface that because I want you to know I say these things out of love.

    I felt the exact same way as you guys seem to feel in my own marriage. I was looking toward the future in much the same way, growing old together, being in love forever, watching our daughter turn into a young woman and adult. So on and so on.

    And then one day in October of 2015 she told me she loved me but was no longer in love with me, and my entire world fell apart slowly but surely over the next two years. We are now separated and have lived apart for two and a half years. There is no hope of reconciliation. We are divorcing.

    I never wanted to be here. I never wanted all that being a single father entails. I never wanted a divorce. I wanted to love my wife forever and be in love forever. But when someone tells you there’s no longer any “in love” there, you start down a road that you cannot turn back from.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that you never know what’s going to happen. You cannot live in the future. You have to live in the now. As your own mother passed before 50 (my father passed a month after he turned 40) you know that your time is not guaranteed.

    While I sincerely hope and pray that you and Wil never have to experience the pain and heartache of a broken marriage and divorce, it’s statistics that 50% of marriages fail. Having that mindset that you’re going to grow old together is nice and all, but it’s statistically improbable. One never knows the future.

    So seize the moment! Those days at Disneyland, those are the memories. Kings games when they play crappy (and I cannot even suffer to watch them right now), those are the memories to savor.

    Do what makes you guys happy. Of course plan for the future, but be ready for things to change, because that’s the only constant in life.

    And of course, my best wishes and love.

  9. You are incredibly lucky and I’m glad that you’re aware of that. Many people picture Act 3 in a totally unrealistic way. Many lose their spouses, have medical issues or become a caregiver for years when their spouse becomes infirm. Live in the now. Nothing is guaranteed.

  10. This is beautiful! I always like to read your posts and hear what’s going on with your family. Despite some hardship, it seems like you are living the best life possible and I wish you many, many years together!

  11. Anne – Love this post!

    The simple truth is, no one is guaranteed an Act 2 or 3 or whatever. It is so easy to get caught up in the stuff right now that thinking ahead is almost a non starter.

    Many, many years ago I knew a couple who made the time to do the things they wanted to do rather than wait until retiring because…”you never know”. Turns out they were right. Lesson Learned.

    Use the good china. Remember this? 🙂

    Don’t fret over the next few years and what they might be. Plan, do, enjoy and take each day as it comes.

  12. Beautiful essay. It made me cry because my husband and I didn’t get to Act III, but like you and Wil, we lived every moment of our lives together aware of how lucky we were. Love to you both.

  13. To learn this it took a medical misadventure at 53 that resulted in 2 months in ICU (with several death watches by my family while I was in a coma.) and another 4 months in a critical care hospital and rehab place learning to walk again, filled with people just like the couple you described who never learned to stop and smell the roses.
    Now at 62 I find that I don’t let the trials that plague all our lives take over and dictate how we live.
    It’s nice to see that there are people out there lucky enough to learn lesson without going through what I did.

    Although I spend about 10

  14. I’m going to keep this up on a tab so I can read it often. I spend far too much time on escape and time wasters and not enough time on what is important – like time with my husband. Even if it’s a minute to pause, look him in the eyes and tell him how much I love him. I need to take better care of my self so this pause in Act 2 doesn’t mean we never get an Act 3. Thank you.

  15. My wife and I met in 1979 while in college in FL. It was 33 yrs before we got back together but never stopped thinking of the other. We’ve been married 5 yrs now and it’s been the best 5 yrs of my life.
    We’re both in our mid and upper 50s now and I wish we could have all that time back but life’s too short to dwell in the shoulda, coulda & woulda zone.
    She’s in FL now visiting her parents, I stayed home to look after our dogs. It’s a lonely world w/o her.

  16. This is lovely – and yeah, I’ve had a few of those moments, though so far not at a hockey game 😛

    BTW, For archery in your area – check out You can ask the Chatelaine (under Officers) about archery in your area. I’ve never known them not to have a loaner bow 🙂

  17. That’s beautiful, Anne. My dad passed away right on the threshold of his and Mom’s Act Two, 31 years ago. They had a wonder Act One though because I can remember that we had a happy household and they were so purely dedicated to one another.

    I’m 50 and single and one of my biggest fears is that I’ll arrive at the beginning of my Act Three still single. Stories like yours let me experience a bit of that joy vicariously and I thank you both from the bottom of my heart for it.

  18. I sat bedside as cancer took my mother’s life one day after her 76th birthday. My father cradled her as she gasped her final breath. He’s 81 and my mother was the first and only woman he had ever loved. I was heartbroken for me, but I was more heartbroken for him. This was less than two months ago. My dad is alone for the first time. The house is empty but full of her touches, her style and their memories of an entire life together. I look at my own wife with an adoration and a love that is deeper and mightier than I could have ever imagined. I thank god every day that she’s with me and that she loves me. Our sons are in their teens and almost college age. Yesterday they were toddlers. It all happens so fast. Cherish every day and all of the moments. Make “doing nothing” together, as important as anything else. Give love whenever you can.

  19. That was really lovely. You two are a class act and a perfect example of how true love really lasts. Thanks for sharing the moment with us.

  20. And now my eyes are leaking. This is such a great post. Being present in the moment and appreciating life is something I’ve been working on more lately. This post inspires to do it more.

  21. My best friend and I met in High School, she was in grade 11 and I was in 10. We always made jokes about growing old and being the terror of the old folks home. She died less than 6 months ago… she had been sick, but the the “your going to die” sick. Somedays I think I’m never going to get through this with out my best friend of 36 years, and other days I’m just grateful I had those 36 years.

  22. This is a lovely story, and good on you for being able to look at yourselves from outside. So few people seem able to do that, and the changes that come (and life is change, after all) can be bewildering without that view.

    And may I add that your readers are an amazingly civilized and human bunch, judging by the replies left on this thread. Holy cow. (Sorry about the Kings, but I’m a Sabres fan so I feel your pain.)

  23. My big sister was just about to enter her second act. She was a talented songwriter, playwright and artist. She had just finished a run at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, playing the mother in Children of God, to rave reviews. I drove the 5 hours to spend Opening Night with her. That was the last time I saw her.

    At 60 years old, she was hit by a car on the country road in front of her house during (get this) a Dark and Stormy Night. The newswires talked about her life and death, just two days before Gord Downy of the Tragically Hip passed away.

    I spent the last year thinking about the time I have left. I am both inspired and terrified. I love living. I love everything about this Earth and its people (except for a few jerks). My dad is in his early 80s, and I hope I can follow his footsteps into old age with my husband. I feel like I have to finish writing that book, do another painting, go for more walks, take more photos. I want everyone I leave behind, including my grown children, to see and feel as I do through my words, paintbrushes and images.

    Thank you for your words, thoughts, feelings. I hope Wil is doing well with his Bob Ross impersonation. 🙂

  24. Midway through Act II my first love died, very unexpectedly in an accident. 5 years later I married my second love. The truth is that there can be more than one true love, if circumstances dictate. The biggest compliment a person can give their first partner is to risk their heart again because they found the rewards of risk great enough, knowing, absolutely knowing, the pain of loss. I had 22 1/2 years with my first husband, 27 if you count the time we dated, and my second husband and I just celebrated our 17th.
    Loss intensifies the focus on the now. Since we are in Act III at this time, every moment is indeed precious.
    Thanks for the beautiful essay.

  25. Anne,

    Some number of years ago before Will was born, he was given a choice.

    He could find you, fall in love, and have the life you now have. He just had to have he dreams crushed after landing the best gig ever, and then have his brain occasionally conspire against him.

    In this vision, I see him saying “Deal! A bargain at twice the price!”

    Wishing you both the best and to hell with those tossing rocks.

  26. Thank you so much! I reached out for my Act 2 a little early as I felt my baby slipping away as we looked at colleges. My husband is sweet and wonderful and also comfortable and unobservant in a guy kind of way. I actually wrote and thought about Act 2 for Romance in a college class and hoped someone would get me the magazine I was mocking up ’cause I need guidance! We just watched our wedding video yesterday and laughed and saw things we hadn’t remembered, and got a little misty . We are trying to remember to hang out so we get there together. Perspective always helps with gratitude. Thank you.

  27. This was a fabulous post. I relate so completely to what was going on in your head, and I’m glad to know I’m not alone (even though I don’t actually wish angst on anyone). You have a beautiful way with words.

  28. For me it is my grandparents. With five children, they spent their Act Three travelling around the world, visiting the various grandkids. They were of the old school, Proper British Type, stiff upper lip, had nothing when they started, worked hard, did well, were very supportive and proud of their family.

    Known as G and G, or The Old Crocks, as they called themselves, I always noticed what a team they were when the second law of thermodynamics started making some things more challenging as bodies wore out. When Gran started having trouble getting in and out of the car, they worked out a system for Grandpa to strategically boost her, and when Grandpa’s hearing was going, they used a thumbs up or down system when Granny checked the traffic on the passenger side. They always joked that between the two of them, they made up one able bodied person.

    Lots of laughing got them through all sorts of stuff, so my husband and I are trying that strategy. We have been together for 31 years so far and it works really well. We still go out on date nights on a regular basis and really enjoy each other’s company. We fully intend to be together having fun and being a team for as long as possible.

    One of the many reasons I like you and your husband is the strong relationship you seem to have. I really respect that and wish you both a long and happy run together. Here’s to a great Act Two and Three.

  29. I can relate to this on the other side. My husband’s father passed away suddenly at the age of 49, my husband was 16 and home when it happened. My husband won’t celebrate his birthday (cake and a small gift at home with me and our kids only). I could never figure out why. He finally told me this year when he turned 36. He feels like he has a timer over his head that is counting down, and every birthday takes another chunk off. He is honestly scared and it affects how he acts in strange ways – any time he gets a new power tool he makes me learn use it, for example. He has (I think) accepted in his mind that he only has a few years left. I guess I just wanted to let you know that you are not alone.

  30. Wow! What a great message. It is more than recounting your weekend fun. It is truly an inspiration to get out and live.

  31. Great post. And as someone who has been married almost 30 years now, my only regret is that I didn’t find my wonderful wife sooner. I can relate to much of this (even if I don’t go to Sharks games) and truly cherish that I get to spend another day with my wife. The planned date night is an excellent idea, but sadly here the cost of Warriors tickets is just too high, the Sharks are now 60 miles away, and Giants season tickets cost as much as a small house in some states. So movie nights, or a TiVo binge-fest fill in for us. But I love how close you too are (and that I got to witness that at GoFactYouself a few weeks ago -thanks for that) and that you do things to make it stay that way. A great lesson for all, and thank you for sharing.

  32. Act two starts when you realize that you would not trade places with anyone you know.

    You don’t really need an act three. I hit act two fifteen years ago. I’m 63 now.

  33. Yes, this was a midlife crisis, which you resolved very well! I go through this often, but without the husband, kids, or dates. I’ve been struggling to build my life for myself. I used to hate my life so much that I wanted to end it all, but that wasn’t really what I wanted, it was just what I thought I wanted. I don’t know that I want to live until I’m 80+. I’m more worried that my parents might not live more than a few more years, since it seems like so many baby-boomers are dying not long after their parents go. I worry about having to bury them and my brother, who for his own health reasons, probably won’t outlive them by very many years. I worry about being completely alone. I have 2 cats, but of course, they don’t live forever either. I do try not to think about these things much, because it’ll drive me mad, but these things are my reality. I don’t get to live the kind of life you and Will have built together. Every time it seems like I might finally get that chance, it just blows up in my face (narcissists everywhere it seems). So, I’m just stuck with trying to live the best life I can alone, with my 2 cats, and trying to remind myself that it’s better than the alternative: living life alone while being stuck with a complete nightmare of a spouse and bratty kids. If I’d wound up with anyone I’ve dated so far, that’s what it would have turned out like. But what you and Will have, I don’t get to have. That’s a rare thing that most people don’t get to have, whether they’re married, living together, or single. I’m glad you appreciate what you have together with him!

  34. There was so much death around me as a kid that I’ve always thought of life as temporary and the people I love only one step away from gone. Occasionally I recite my husband’s eulogy to him. It only exists in my head, and I suppose in his, too. There’s no written version because it’s constantly in flux and also he’s not dead. I know that sounds insanely morbid, but it’s really just a running list of all the things I love most about him, all the things he says and does that I can’t stand the thought of living without. He actually seems to enjoy it, but then he knew who I was when he married me😁. Though it’s true I never do this with my son because I can’t see past the thought of that loss, but my husband doesn’t take it personally.
    I have honestly always wondered what the world looks like to people that don’t carry those thoughts with them. I really just can’t fathom taking for granted the idea that you can rely on life or that death will arrive at some reasonable and expected time. I guess those thoughts just aren’t there until one day there they are. I’m glad for you that your awareness came through an epiphany and not through a loss. I’m glad for you that you get to spend your time with the love of your life.

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