I got to marry the man of my dreams on June 22, 1980. That means we’ve now been married for thirty-five years. Yes, that’s a long time. Has every minute of it been wonderful? No. We’ve been through plenty of difficult days–some caused by one or both of us, some foisted upon us by others. But through it all we’ve hung in there, even when we thought it might be better for us to part ways.
We met in college at Towson University in Baltimore. W sat behind me in Music Theory class. I didn’t know he was back there (I had a boyfriend at the time) until a day when a group of us discussed the end of semester party we wanted to have in our class. He came across as a little smug and cocky to me. But during the party he played the classical guitar for our class and I was mightily impressed. A well-known classical guitarist had been in town and I asked him if he’d gone to the recital and he said he had. Then we talked about summer plans and he said he was going to have a party and would I like to come? I didn’t know if I would but I gave him my phone number. He actually did call and invite me but I decided not to go. It seemed as if he ran with a pretty wild crowd and I was pretty much a nice young lady who definitely didn’t run with a wild crowd. I was a little scared.
When the fall semester started and I saw him he teased me about not coming to the party. By that time I’d broken up with the boyfriend I had in the spring and had begun seeing another guy. I knew it wasn’t going anywhere because there were too many differences between us, but the relationship lasted until the end of October or so. I was sitting in the lobby of the Fine Arts Building one day and W came over to talk to me. I started noticing how attractive he was. I’ll admit it—as he walked away I checked out his butt! I decided that I’d like to date him. One thing led to another, a first date happened, then a second, and then two a half years later we got married, one year after we graduated from college on the same day.
In thirty-five years a couple goes through a lot. That’s a lot of Christmases, birthdays and anniversaries. We struggled with infertility. That was really difficult. Our son was born in 1987 and we lost a child to miscarriage in 1991. We welcomed our daughter, our youngest child, in 1993. My husband’s best friend died of alcoholism. One of my dearest friends died of leukemia. Our siblings both divorced. Our parents had health struggles. My brother’s second wife, one of the best people I’ve ever known, died of a rare, aggressive cancer at the age of 47 after a period of horrible suffering. W got laid off from his a job a couple of times.
Our children grew up and have become amazing adult human beings. Our son married a lovely young woman and they’re the parents of the most adorable grandsons anybody could ask for. Those little boys mean everything to us. Our daughter is a senior in college, who was able, as a junior, to get herself to Spain for a semester of study. She loves a wonderful young man whom we love too. It’s wonderful to see the family we’ve built together. I’m never happier than when we’re all in the same place at the same time. I wish it happened more often.
We are currently, as you probably know, embroiled in some serious stuff because of ovarian cancer. W was in the doctor’s office when I got the news and he has carried me as much as I need ever since. He is even stronger than I knew. He makes me laugh, he lets me cry and he gives me gentle reminders when I need to snap out of a funk. If I’m not up to fixing a meal he gets it done. He doesn’t treat me like an invalid, though. I go about my life with as much normalcy as possible and he encourages that. Every once in a while he’ll turn to me and say “I’m so sorry you have to go through this” and the love in his voice makes me weep because I am so lucky to have him as my husband.
This year both Valentine’s Day and our wedding anniversary were more meaningful because of my health situation. When you think you have years and years more together and then you find you that one of you has a disease that may very well end your life you realize just how precious your relationship is. Neither of us wants to live without the other. But we don’t sit around and cry and mourn. We’re living every day. I have moments of sadness, as he does, but we don’t dwell on them. I appreciate W’s presence in my life, his hugs and kisses, his smile and the goofy things he’ll do to make me laugh—like today when he knelt down on the sidewalk at Harris Teeter and called out, several times, “Thank you! Thank you for getting a cherry pie!” He works a lot of hours but when/if I need him he is right here for me. I try to be the same way. When I iron his shirts or make the sweet tea just the way he likes it I do it with love. I try to be neater than my natural inclination because clutter drives him crazy. I worry about all the stress he’s under and I’m thankful he has his sister and his friends to talk to. We take care of each other. For better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health. We meant it thirty-five years ago and we still mean it today.