“Your hands are sooo soft,” Leslie coos in my ear, her thumb stroking the inside of my outstretched palm as we dance across the Valentine’s floor. Her knowing tone supports her awareness that soon, soft hands will no longer be the case. These hands that now gently guide her across the dance floor to the beat of a Neil Diamond impersonator are the unblemished hands of a motion picture executive and a father of two young boys. For the past 20 years from a climate-controlled corner office in Southern California, these hands drove cars, tapped computer keyboards, and held phones; growing more pink and tender with each passing year. Leslie shared the ups and downs of my professional growth, from laborer to executive, the struggles and triumphs. Well aware of the effort and sacrifice it took to get us where we are today, her eyes clearly indicate a relish for our current circumstance, inhaling the memory, and appreciating the effort it took to make my hands so smooth.
It’s our twenty-fourth Valentine’s celebration together, and I adore her as if it were the first, well okay, . . . the second. We spent our first Valentine’s Day as a couple apart. I was five hundred miles out to sea from Los Angeles, captaining a 32-foot sailboat bound for the Marquesas Islands. She was finishing her French Literature studies at UCLA. After graduating, she would meet up with my crew and me in Hilo; and sail through the Hawaiian Islands and from Kauai to San Francisco with us. Sailors call this long distance, casual type of sailing, “cruising.” Leslie knows what open ocean sailing and anchoring do to a sailor’s hands. Pulling sailing sheets, lifting galvanized anchor chain, and tools would soon be the objects these hands hold. Additionally, the elements of sand, sun, and sea play their role, transforming princely baby-bottom palms into salt-encrusted instruments of adventure. What does Leslie know that should make her wax so? She knows that soon, we will be out to sea again—this time together, with our two young sons; for an undetermined duration; possibly 5 years . . . or more.