Man, oh, man: his blue velvet dinner jacket, my pink dotted-swiss, my tightly clasped hands, we were such innocents on the plaid couch in his parent’s downstairs rec room. One day I’ll tell you the real story behind that day.
For today, our 36th wedding anniversary, 40th year living together as a couple, 44th year loving each other, I live in a state of gratitude.
I have become more than the sum of one, rich with experiences, brave beyond myself, because of him. We have had joy beyond the imagining of that 14 year-old, and heartache and despair, too. We have been poor and money-worried. We have worked our way to comfort. We have been sleepless. We have slept deeply. We have had major league disappointments. We have moved to our dream place. We have had rare cancer, multiple orthopedic surgeries, surprise c-sections, and feel joint creaks and groans. We have had unbearably, extravagantly good luck and survived the medical crises as if a good fairy has stood above us in her dotted swiss pink dress, saying, “no, this.”
Yes, this. A spellbinding cliche. Throughout it all, love. No matter what.
The secret to 36-40-44 years?
I learned, we learned, in the hardest possible way, the number one thing: don’t blame each other. When I bend to pick up the socks off the bathroom floor (after a multi-year negotiation that resulted in a formal marriage-agreement that it was indeed his responsibility), I don’t think: “Fuck you. I’m not your god-damn slave wife, I’m an equal partner here.” I think, “Huh. He forgot. If I remind him, he’ll gladly do it. Or, maybe I’ll just grab them. Or not.”
I know deep down he does his very best. And I do mine. Adjusting that inner dialogue, which so easily slips, slips into the brain and soul on the down days, the insecure and doubting days, takes a huge effort. Because isn’t it just so much easier to blame him? Hand over to him the responsibility to make me happy? He’ll gladly take it. He likes being in charge. But, then, so do I. And we’re off to the races!
But, back then, in the darkest days, how did we come out of it? Jump the 80 foot wall we’d erected brick by resentful brick? Um, well. I remembered how much I love him. I heard how much he loves me. From the first moment he first saw me in my apple shirt on the eighth grade bus.