Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy 23rd Anniversary to My One and Only

So the truth is, I never meant to fall in love. Not in happily-ever-after-till-death-do-us-part love, anyway. I had this idea, at the ripe old age of 18, that a woman didn’t need marriage… didn’t need a man… didn’t need any relationship that might stand in the way of a career and an exciting, fun-filled live of travel and accomplishment. It’s funny how I still believe that, yet I’m glad I found mine. Whatever the hurdles, the trial and error, the ups and downs, I would spend the last 23 years the very same way if given the chance.

I didn’t think of him as “the one” for several years. Certainly not the summer we met. He was fun. He was new and exciting. With him, I had a voice I was not accustomed to using, except perhaps at the tail end of parties, when I was past drunk and still upright and the mood of adolescent debauchery had turned philosophical. We talked about things; ideas that were deep and wide and it was nice that it didn’t require an abundance of alcohol to get myself to speak my thoughts out loud as words.

I liked that about him.

Being with him was a little bit like doing drugs… all of the buzz, none of the day-after hangover.

I didn’t think of him as “the one” those first few years… weekend drives between two colleges, countless letters written on spiral notebook paper, our first apartment together in Lawrence… somewhere along the line we decided to get married. I loved him. At least per my limited understanding of love at the time. It seemed the practical thing to do, get married. It assured our future together in some very real and tangible ways and that somehow frightened me less than the idea of us growing in different directions and eventually apart. We were moving forward, most definitely, as a couple, rather than as two individuals who just happened to enjoy spending time together.

I’m not even sure I thought of him as “the one” when we got married on December 29, 1990. It was the coldest day in Dodge City, Kansas in something like 50 years. I don’t remember much about the cold. Only that it is the first thing people talked about for many years when they talked about our wedding. Several family members did not make it to the event. It was that kind of cold; the kind of where cars wouldn’t start and people were afraid of being stranded, even for short road trips, because of the deepness of the chill.

The sky is blue in our wedding photographs. The ground is white, but not freshly so. The oreos were stuck to the windshield of our car so solidly that they required multiple blasts from a carwash hose on the way to Wichita to clear the window enough that we could see. We added ice, but at least we had visibility.

The whole experience of meeting him and falling in love and getting married a short two and a half years later still feels like something of an out-of-body experience for me. The wedding, especially; I was never a center-stage kind of girl. I never dreamed of tiaras and princess gowns and spotlights. I was still operating under the assumption that I should do what was expected of me. I grew past that, eventually. We both did. And I have to give him at least half the credit for what we’ve become.

Authentic. Real. Both perfect and imperfect in our made-for-each-other ways. Yin and yang in some respects; oil and water in others.

Ultimately, we have both grown stronger in our visions of ourselves, both individually and together, and after 23 years the fact that we are still speaking—still each other’s first choice for company and entertainment— would seem to be a good sign.

Sometimes, looking back on my life with him, it feels more like we blundered into a relationship and were just lucky it turned out to be a good thing. We grew up together, in many ways. We had disagreements. We made some mistakes. Hell, we are likely still making new ones.

More often I think of it in terms of what we deserve, because we worked for it. Some days it came easy; some days it felt like a never-ending chore, this act of living together in happiness and harmony.

Somewhere along the line—likely years after marrying him, believe it or not—I decided he was “the one” and I guess he must have made that decision, too. Perhaps earlier than me. I really couldn’t say for sure. But the commitment that feels real and binding was made long after the out-of-body-experience of the early years of our dating and eventual marriage had taken place. My memories of us as a couple at some point grow more solid. The fairy tale divisions that made up my understanding of a modern woman versus my mother’s generation had blurred by then and I understood that we were building our own life to be what we wanted it to be.

I was never one to dwell on doubts, but was always well aware that I had choices. And the fact was that I kept choosing him, over and over again. One might think that after 23 years it’s simply habit. But I think it is not. It remains a choice. And I pick him again, to be “the one”… and only.

Let’s see where the next 23 years takes us, Bubs.

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