Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Love Story--10 Years And Counting

October 13th is mine and Tom's 10th anniversary. The years have flown by, so it's weird to think that we're celebrating a milestone anniversary this year. Especially in light of the fact that I never thought I'd get married in the first place.

My parents separated (and subsequently got divorced) right after I turned 2. My mother didn't remarry until I was 30. In that time, my mom dated a lot. And as a result, I learned really quickly that not all relationships are good ones, and a lot of men are scumbuckets (to put it mildly). Granted, there are plenty of men out there who are not scumbuckets, too, but even nice guys don't always make good boyfriends. You can love someone with every fiber of your being and still have absolutely no business being in a relationship together.

I was always a little ambivalent about the whole dating/marriage thing. Big romantic gestures turned me off. Passionate anything sent me screaming for the hills. Guys with lots of buddies and really active social lives made me anxious and uncomfortable. And guys who were happy-go-lucky and mellow made me feel claustrophobic and hemmed in.

I'll admit it. I was a tough nut to crack. And I always assumed that I'd be single my whole life--because I was kind enough as a human being not to subject that kind of insanity on another living person. I mean really, even admitting it here on my blog, I sound slightly insane. What I was asking for made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

So I ended up dating some strange characters, because I deemed them weird enough not to notice that I had completely lost my mind. But the entire time, I longed to be with him--the male equivalent of me. The guy who was stoic, and aloof. Who professed his love in the arch of an eyebrow, or a quick smirk at a shared joke. He was a loner with a rich inner life, a wicked sense of humor. Someone who had his shit together, who was responsible, who was committed. He would love me absolutely to the core of his being, but would do it quietly, like he did everything else in his life.

And then one day, as I was poking around Yahoo Personals, I came across an ad that made me laugh out loud. The guy said he was a disgruntled Yankee, forced to relocate to the South, and he was looking for a girl who didn't think tobacco was a vegetable or that Nascar was a sport.

I did not write him back. I knew the minute I said I was from Western North Carolina, he'd hear the banjo theme from Deliverance and head back to New Jersey screaming.

But one day, while I was minding my business online, I got an instant message, and it was from him. He had read my personal ad--the one where I said that I was starting grad school in the summer, had a new puppy, and liked to take her for walks at the Biltmore Estate--and he had determined that my use of complete sentences, proper punctuation, and lack of reference to any form of partying/dancing/clubbing made me high brow enough for his taste.

We chatted the entire day online. And then every day after that for months.

My mom always knew when I was talking to this guy because she'd hear "click click clickety click click.... HahahahahahHAHAHAhahahahaha..... clickety clickety clickety... HahahahHAHAHAHAhahahaha" He absolutely kept me in stitches. I lived for our daily chats. And so did he. He was Old Reliable. Every day, like clockwork, there he was.

Did he ever ask for my phone number? Ask to meet me? To go out on a date?

Not once in over two months.

In my head, we were just good buddies.

So when his birthday came around, and he gave me this sad song and dance about woe is him, he's all alone for his birthday, *I* invited *him* to come over for dinner.

What did he like to eat? I asked him. Oh, anything, was his reply.

Any food allergies? Nope.

Anything he wouldn't eat? No, he was easy, he said.

So I made him a beautiful dinner. A nice tossed salad full of fresh, crunchy vegetables. Spaghetti with meatballs--the rustic kind, with big chunks of tomatoes and onions. A lovely fruit salad, heavy on the strawberries. And for dessert, I asked my aunt, who owned a bakery at the time, to make him a birthday cake. This guy, he'd been a gymnast at Virginia Tech, so we looked up his old gymnastic picture online, and copied his uniform to a T. He'd competed in rings, so we created a little icing man with little rings doing his specialty, the Iron Cross.

He came. He ate. We watched my favorite movie, The Fisher King, together. We talked. He left.

We went right back to being online buddies.

At the time, we were going on lots of first dates with other people-- dates that were so comically bad that it became a date-night tradition to come home, log in to Yahoo, and let the other one hear about our latest misadventure. It got to the point, after months and months of this, that I looked more forward to the post-date debrief than I did the dates themselves.

And that was right around the time we both came to the mutual (and entirely practical) decision that since our love lives were atrocious, it couldn't hurt to date each other.Things certainly couldn't get any worse, and maybe it would be an improvement over an otherwise very sad state of affairs.

Our "dating experiment" lasted exactly 48 hours. After that, we decided to dispense with the dancing around and just be in a relationship--because we were done. That's all it took. The two relationship misfits realized we had found that one person we'd been looking for our whole lives. By the time 49 hours rolled around, we were already talking about getting married. 5 months later I was sporting a diamond. And then on October 13th, 2001 we got married.

That was right around the time I learned that my new husband 1) hated salad, 2) hated crunchy vegetables, 3) is horrifiyingly allergic to both tomatoes and onions, and 4) would not eat a strawberry even if he was starving to death.

Remember that birthday dinner he stoically gagged down? Yeah... I nearly put him in the hospital. But he risked it, because even then, he loved me.

The last ten years have not always been sunshine and roses: four houses, three cross-country moves, three cities, five pets, a miscarriage, the birth of two children, deaths in the family, the death of a pet, 70 hour work days, fights, applying for new jobs, getting new jobs, job anxiety, family drama, friend drama, pet drama (just today, Ruby chewed a hole right in the middle of our bedroom carpet), illnesses, hospital stays, emergency room visits, stitches, x-rays, ct scans, tantrums, arguments, road trips, potty training, first days of school, lots of tears, lots of threatening to turn this car right around, mister.

But it has all been so much better because of him. Sometimes, I take him for granted. He drives me bonkers with his incessant, compulsive need to clean everything. With his stupid day-of-the-week shirts. The way he absolutely, categorically will not sing (even when no one is around except his family, who are all singing loudly and will probably drown him out anyway). He's fretful and bossy and anxiety prone--so imaginative with his apocalyptic scenarios, that I frequently have to squelch the urge to strangle him. But then I have to think back, and remember what life was like before...

Before Tom, I did not know what it meant to be deeply invested in anything. To want to bind myself to someone else, and share whatever fate would be ours together. I did not understand that love makes anything possible-from eating lettuce, to surviving the blackest depths of grief. I didn't have any idea what a best friend was. All my life I'd wanted one, but I mistakenly thought that a best friend was someone who wanted to be with you all the time, who shared everything and every moment with you, who always agreed with you, and always supported you.

I was wrong.

A best friend gives you space, and a life of your own. When you are together, you share. Every encounter is a dispatch from a strange new place, someplace you've never been before. They challenge you, force you to confront truths about yourself, argue with you, teach you, lecture you, roll their eyes at you. They make sure you stay true and honest to yourself. And when you get off track, they remind you who you are, at your deepest core, because they never, ever forget. They love your whole heart with their whole heart.

I wish I had some wise, pithy ending to sum up this love story, but it's still ongoing. Marriage is a long journey, and this is just the first leg, but what a ride it's been.

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

any experience,your eyes have their silence:
  in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,

  or which i cannot touch because they are too near


your slightest look easily will unclose me
 though i have closed myself as fingers,

  you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens

  (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
  my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,

  as when the heart of this flower imagines

  the snow carefully everywhere descending;


nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
  the power of your intense fragility:whose texture

  compels me with the color of its countries,

  rendering death and forever with each breathing


 (i do not know what it is about you that closes
 and opens;only something in me understands

  the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

  nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands


- e.e. cummings


  1. what a beautifully sweet story! i love how we met stories. happy anniversary to you both!

  2. that is my favorite poem and was read in my first wedding by my brother. not to jinx anything ;) just love that poem's expression of love.

    that is a wonderful love story and not very different from the 'met online and knew' way that my honey and i had.

    may you have many many more years together - all of them. happy anniversary!


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