This is 25 Years

She said I do twenty-five years ago.

When I proposed, my naive year-old self had a romantic assumption that we would float through life in a current of happiness until we were wheeled into the old-folks home together. Just look at these two kids gazing dreamily off into the future. We had no idea what was in store.

IMG_4287

Like any young buck, I felt dominant and impervious. I soon learned the art of compromise. She taught me. We lived in a shoebox (almost literally) for about nine months. Then we bought our first home together. Neither of us was sure we could afford the mortgage. The day the ink dried on the contract, we got out a deck of cards because we knew we wouldn’t sleep. I fell asleep early, she stayed up all night. Foreshadowing…

Somehow we made every payment on time. Kids came; two in that house and two in the next… this house. This home. All girls. My dominance and imperviousness waned greatly. I was outnumbered and often confused. That confusion grew when puberties hit one after another.

We likely set romance aside more than the books would instruct. Our life centered around four little heads of varying blond curliness – Myers Party of Six. I’m not sure we could have done it any differently and I don’t think I would want to. Those were golden days of make-believe, castles, and princesses. We were happy.

I’m certain there were arguments, but I don’t remember them. I would say that is a good sign that we didn’t go to bed mad. But it could as likely be the fact that my memory is shoddy.

first-dance-songs-wedding-ideasPicture the wedding dance floor. The evening starts off with a solo dance – just bride and groom. It is sweet, it is romantic. The focus of everyone in attendance is on them as they glide gracefully across the floor. Then family is introduced. Bride is pulled one way, groom the other. As the evening wears on, the dance floor becomes crowded and the wineglasses empty. The bride and groom still dance with each other, but the time between their dance lengthens. Later, in the dim hours of night, the joyous revelers vying for space separate the bride and groom and she sometimes can’t even see him across the crowded floor. Yet she is content because she knows he is hers and he knows the same – even when the distance seems vast. Through frantic elbows and flailing feet, they reunite for a gentle kiss before being split apart once more.

wedding-reception-dj-kings-stockThat is marriage. Marriage isn’t won during the romantic first dance. That is the easy part. No, marriage is won in the subtle accommodations made to stay together through the mayhem of life’s dance floor.

And life can be a belligerent wedding drunk. The kind of idiot that Crazy Uncle Joe has to pluck from the throngs and throw out on his ear.

 

That younger me never entertained the idea of planning a funeral… certainly not for one of my princesses. And yet I did. Rather, we did. Like in everything this quarter-century, we each contributed to the terrible process in our own way.

And then the aftermath… grieving together, grieving separately, grieving differently. A new dance, but somehow still on the dance floor. That nasty drunk of life spins violently and often throws his weight right between us. This is not how I thought it would be. This is not what I wanted. This is hard but worth fighting for. This is twenty-five years.

And now we stand on the precipice of a less-crowded floor. Slowly, the remaining princesses will find their own castles and ours will empty, thus reminding us of the smiling dancer who should be here. We can never forget. We will always yearn for something different. We are changed people. I can barely relate to the young buck I once was. We are tenderer yet guarded, more fragile but stronger. We are together through some of the hardest and most painful years imaginable. We are together.

This is twenty-five years. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t glamorous – no one would sign up for this heartbreak and we wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It is resilient. It is precious. It is ours.

It is ours…

This is twenty-five years.

In the hopes of dancing through twenty-five more, I envision dance lessons in our future, my dear. Your toes will thank me.

What I Learned About My Wife This Year

It is fitting that I spend this day, my 22nd wedding anniversary, with my lovely bride at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. We are here together waiting for Kylie to get out of minor surgery. We have never made a huge deal of our anniversary – sometimes a nice dinner out but often just too much going on with our four children to make it work. I’m embarrassed to say there have been years when a kiss and a card is all we could muster. Suffice it to say that there will not be a banner celebration this year, either.

Year 22 has been challenging to say the least. Not in a contentious way, I am happy to report that we have never been more united. But when I review the years, this is one that I would like stricken from the record. I wish I could pull this book off the shelf and let 21 fall lazily into 23. It proves the need for the “better or worse, in sickness and in health” portion of the vows we stood up and said when I was but a wet-nosed pup.

 

anniversary

 

Even though April’s cancer diagnosis has made the year regrettable, I have learned much about my wife and our marriage. In fact, I’ve learned things I will never give back.

 

I learned my wife has a seemingly infinite supply of tears that no words of mine can dry. My shoulder has been wetted by them far too often. I wish I had a magic word to make them stop, but only time and tenderness sooth the pain.

Likewise, I have learned my wife’s care for those she loves has no limit.

I have learned my wife is the most unselfish person I know. She has put her life completely on hold this year and not voiced one word of complaint about what she is missing.

I’ve shared the boat when the storm is high and seen her reach levels of peace that can only be called supernatural.

I have seen that she can be her loved one’s greatest advocate, stopping at nothing to get what her patient needs and letting no one interfere with her.

I know that she might not remember to take her phone off silent for days on end, but she can quickly recall exact medication, doses, and the last time given.

I have found she has strength and resolve I could only imagine prior to this year.

I have seen her ignore her own pain and seek ways to lessen the pain of her patient.

Although she hates camping, I have learned that she will sleep on an uncomfortably hard couch beside a hospital bed for nights on end if someone she loves needs her there.

Speaking of sleep, I have been reminded that she needs very little and will sacrifice it completely if she is needed during the night.

With only twenty-four hours in the day and a relentless schedule of caregiving, she seems to have created time and invented special ways to make the rest of us in the family feel loved.

I now know that her faith, hope, and love are boundless.

 

All in all, I have seen God reaffirm just how blessed I am that she had a momentary lapse of reason and chose me. I always thought I would be the elderly and infirmed patient that required her care first. I wish that were the case. When I grow old and start falling apart, I’m sure I will test her patience with surprising wimpiness and irrational demands. With what I’ve seen this year, I know I will be in excellent hands.

So today, I will whisper a Happy Anniversary to her while Kylie sleeps off the anesthesia. Sometimes through sickness and tragedy we learn things. Every day this year, I have seen the tender way she cares for her girl and learned a little more about just how lucky I am.

 

 

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I’d been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I’m sixty-four