Thank You. Part Two.
I previously posted Part One, a thank you to my grandmother. (https://ishcancer.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/thank-you-part-one/). Today I think I’m ready to tackle a thank you to another amazing person in my life. This tradition of mine has led me to thank, write poems for, and make art for people I love, but I’ve not yet done this for the love of my life. At least not on the scale he deserves. It’s not that I haven’t expressed my love. I do, and daily, but as far as one of my long love letters go, I’ve started one for him probably hundreds of times by now. There are too many good things to say, and often when I’ve tried to write this letter before, I feel like I’m just regurgitating the same old niceties he’s heard time and time again. I want to dig down below the surface and say something meaningful, but still after years of being glued to his side, I get nervous and the words I wished would sound beautiful and loving instead come out like vomit. My husband still has the power to turn me stupid. With how many times I have attempted to write this letter, I’ve decided it can’t just be a letter to you, the following is more than a thank you, it’s a love story, too.
I’ve always been a planner. I like making goals and check-lists and looking into the future. I live for the future. So when my friends in junior high all set out to make a list of their perfect future husband’s traits, I was excited to participate. I was a late bloomer, and at the time I wasn’t anywhere near as boy-crazy as they were, but they were making lists and I was list-crazy. I didn’t know at the time, but this would turn out to be one of the most significant check-lists I would ever make.
Unlike just about all of my other lists, this one I didn’t throw out. This one I kept close to me for so long that I memorized it.
My Husband Wishlist:
Grew up in another country
Poet and/or writer
Fast forward almost ten years, two long-term boyfriends, and well over a handful of dates later, and I threw that list away. I couldn’t erase it from my mind, but I wasn’t going to be reminded any longer of the fact that this person didn’t exist. It was time to face reality and let go of my childish fantasy. After all, my dates weren’t all that bad. I could be more reasonable and accepting and just maybe I would find love somewhere unexpected. Thanks, falsehoods I learned from romantic comedies. The horrible boyfriend that followed just about destroyed me. That was the first and last time I ever thought it would be smart to let go of my dreams.
I don’t know that I could ever put to words what went through my head the day I met you. It was so magical that I often forget that the horrible boyfriend was with me that day. We were at the Tigard House, in the garage, just another day of hanging out with my new friends from work. I was just getting to know my future best friend, and in walked her brother and his friend Mark. Under your hat was shoulder length, fire-orange ringlets, and out of your mouth came rhymes and expensive words. I shrank back into myself and wished I was invisible. It was love at first sight. Completely inappropriate love. I had a boyfriend, and you were out of my league in so many ways. That’s not an exaggeration, nor an issue of my self-esteem, but the honest truth. I was still a kid and you had finished college. I knew that if you were as great as I thought you were, you wouldn’t be the creepy adult that dated someone my age. And I later learned just how true that was when one of my peers went after you and your first response was, “It doesn’t matter who she is, she’s way too young.” I was both happy to know you weren’t creepy, and sad that I was the wrong age. But, ever the futurist, I held on to the tiny hope that the day would come when I wasn’t a kid anymore, and maybe we would never date, but at the very least you would call me your friend.
Then one day you moved into an apartment on your own and we had talked enough for you to share some girl troubles you were having. I couldn’t say exactly why I thought it was “now or never”, but if I was going to gain your friendship the time was right then. I became aggressive and invited myself over, and then spent several weeks coming over to your place, watching TV with you, and saying absolutely nothing. You, being ever so patient, let me get away with it for much longer than I thought you would. But eventually the day came when I would have to speak, and I told you, “It takes me a long time to warm up to people, but once I do I talk non-stop and you’ll miss the days when I was quiet.” And that was good enough for you. You trusted me, and you were patient with me, and you filled the silence with stories. I learned that you loved philosophy, subscribed to Scientific America, and that you thought of yourself as a romantic. I learned that you grew up in another country, had a collection of poetry you’d written, and that you hoped to write a book someday. I learned that you matched every item on my list. You were everything I wanted. You are still everything I want.
You had already proven to be open-minded, but it really showed when you spoke about marriage. That whole first year we were dating we debated the subject. It wasn’t that we were on opposite sides, because ultimately I didn’t need a piece of paper or a ring or even a commitment. I was content to spend however long with you that you would allow me, and marriage was not on my “needs to happen” list. You argued that if everyone does not have the right to marry who they want, you shouldn’t have the right, and I tried out a number of arguments, to challenge myself and to hear your intelligent response. Then I read a book about the history of marriage, and presented to you that the definition of marriage has changed so many times, not by protesting marriage, but by new generations marrying for new reasons and thereby changing the definition of marriage and who could do it freely and for new reasons. If marriage hadn’t changed in this way, it would still be about property rather than love. Within a week you created my favorite story to tell. I came home on my lunch break and you threw a box at me. I opened it to find a ring with the infinity symbol, and you said, “So if you want to do the paperwork or whatever.”
“Wait. WHAT?! MARRIAGE?” I had thought it was just a nice gift, maybe a symbol at most.
“Yeah, if you want.” So nonchalant.
Then came the best wedding I have ever been to. Rick, a grown man, playing our flower girl, pulling rose peddles from his tool belt and throwing them angrily at the ground as he walked up the aisle, and then holding a boom box over his head that played “I walk the line” as my grandpa walked me up the aisle. Our mismatched costumes, and my best friend as the minister in go-go boots. And the assigned seating still makes me belly laugh. Everyone was assigned a seat number that didn’t exist and walked around confused looking for their seats. It was just bizarre enough that my family knew we were perfect for each other and yours asked to see the paperwork because they weren’t sure if it was real. That last bit really made the day for me, that we were strange enough to make anyone question if it was real. SUCCESS!
From there, things have only become better. You have made nothing but a positive impact on my life. The first things that come to mind are curing my insomnia, my guilt complex, and my fear that all good things must end quickly and horribly. We joke that I’m the optimist and you’re the “Debby Downer”, but really you have taught me how, when, and why to take life more seriously, and the difference between positive thinking and lying to myself. And you did it all just by being yourself and expressing your opinion, rather than saying “you’re lying to yourself.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the thought never crossed your mind. Your lack of judgement and openness to allow me to be who I am is like none other. The fact that you have never asked me to be someone I’m not, only makes me want to do better by you. The greatest example being my messy, cluttered nature. I have always resented anyone that complained about that bad habit, but you never do, and as a result I’ve never worked harder to change that about myself. And it feels GOOD to work to change that about myself, because you let me do it at my own pace and I get nothing but encouragement from you.
We avoided the usual big stresses to relationships. We don’t have kids, we don’t have a joint bank account, and we went into the relationship with similar religious upbringings that led to similar enough philosophies to keep us on the same page, but also different enough to keep the conversation alive and interesting. When our big stress item finally arrived, my cancer, we made it out the other side stronger than we were when it started. You spent this past year working a full-time, stressful job, taking care of the house and all of the chores, and taking care of me. Every night you rub my bald head until I fall asleep. Every day you call me beautiful, even when the chemotherapy made my face and stomach swell up, I still caught you the other morning watching me sleep, with a look of love in your eyes.
It’s not luck. It’s not magic. The romantic in me wants to call it those things because it certainly feels magical. But I love even more the simple truth, that we are just two nice people that deserve each other. I love our long talks. I love your strength of character and charisma. I love that we are both inseparable and allow for plenty of alone time to do our own things. I love that our whole is greater than the sum of our parts. Did I mention I love you? Thank you for existing.