It’s easy to say when an anniversary rolls around that you wouldn’t change the year you’ve made it through for all the good times in the world. I know because I’ve said the words myself two years in a row, meaning them completely, thinking that we had really experienced some measure of life. There was a time I really thought that our marriage, because it was ours, was impenetrable to the forces of growth. Call it the honeymoon effect; I don’t know, maybe it was. I never thought that marriage would be easy or that we were really above anyone else’s threshold for love, but I definitely underestimated the unmerciful hold that just a small twist in the wind had the power to put on us. Us, of all the people in the world.
Standing at the other end of all we’ve been through this year makes this anniversary feel a lot like the end of a hard, hot run. The good part, after a long, satiating stretch, once you’re back home getting high on the feeling of a hot bath. It’s been a tumultuous year outside of our marriage - our daughter’s hospitalization, Spencer’s accident and consequent brain surgery; each event just a jumping off point for a dozen smaller problems to be spawned - it’s no wonder our marriage suffered the splints and sprains that it did.
I still remember Spencer yelling at Matthew his first day home from the hospital. It had been a week since he’d seen his father and now that he was, the man looked like something out of an R.L. Stine series. What’s worse, it had been almost as long since Matthew had seen me, after living half a month without me earlier that same, awful year, while I bunked at a different hospital to be with his baby sister. And he was being hollered at. It wouldn’t be the last time, either. (This is the same man who, just this morning asked me, ‘what did God sprinkle into that little soul of his to make our boy so sweet?’.)
Spencer wasn’t himself until at least December. For a very long time, he was detached from all of us, resentful and unapologetic. It was like being thrown into a marriage with someone you didn’t know - someone you didn’t even like, much less respect enough to award say to over your children. Before he’d recovered enough for me to tell he was any different, I was clued in by the recovery unit staff that changes to his personality and demeanor were likely to be permanent because of the impact location. On a separate occasion, a friend of ours called to see how he was and told me that after his own father had lived through the exact injury, his personality was never the same. While everyone else in our larger family circle celebrated his homecoming and recovery, I never really had the chance. I wanted to be happy, I wanted achingly to be happy, but it conflicted constantly with this hard pull that it was never actually him I got back.
I don’t hold any of that against him. Once he started to come back around, it became abundantly clear that whoever I was living with in those subsequent months wasn’t my husband the way that I knew him. It wasn’t that he was just in a different frame of mind, gripped by some newfound perspective on life - which would have been perfectly understandable to some degree - it was that he was of a different mind altogether for a while, one that I didn’t know and didn’t get. To compound matters, for three months, he couldn’t even go to work. We were boxed in together with three kids for the miserable duration of an entire winter; morning, noon, and night, without relent.
Maybe I can’t say that this year has been perfect, or that I wouldn’t change any of it if I could, but I can say that for what it’s worth, not a minute of it made me ever question the choice to go through it with him, and to get through it for him. Even in the worst of it, I never felt like we weren’t ultimately on the same team. And that’s always meant more to me than the nature of any great romance.
It turns out, what doesn’t kill you, makes you really good at apologizing. So our recent relationship has more than harvested the rewards of every hill his
These past few months have been filled with the kind of days I would have killed for six months ago. I feel like I have my buddy back and I know it’s an overdone, watered down cliché, but we have a better appreciation for what the other is willing to go through for us, because we’ve actually lived the proof. There’s nothing cliché about that; it’s not an easy place to reach.
It’s funny because the third year is really the first of all the early ones that isn’t a big deal. Your first anniversary is big because it’s your first, and your second anniversary is thrilling because it’s an actual number, you know? You’ve been married for “a number” of years, and that’s cool in a wow, this is really happening sort of way. The face of our marriage has changed this year. It’s grown into something we can be really proud to say that we’ve made, instead of just lucky to say that we have. So celebrating this third year in with my husband means something to me in a way that almost trumps the day we got married in the first place.
I told him up until the day we got married, ‘It’s not a wedding I want with you, Spencer. It’s a marriage.’ I could have given a shit about the day going off without a hitch, or every detail of our reception being perfect, so long as our marriage was a thing of real integrity. I wanted that to be the thing people walked away from saying, wow, those two really put a nice thing together, didn’t they? He tells me every year that he remembers me saying that, and every year I mean it more. This marriage, to me… it means everything.
Lying adjacent to me on the couch the other day, he rubbed my feet, kissing my toes the way he does after a day that I’ve run or worn heels, and we talked about our third anniversary. I wore a fifty dollar dress to stay home, pull out the nice tablecloth, rent a movie and make his favorite meal. He planned a weekend getaway for us in Atlantic City next week and he thanked me for choosing him, for being his wife, for letting him love me. Falling asleep that night to the strum of his voice on the subject of appreciating everything we’ve built, I felt lighter than I have in a very long time. I felt happy in a way I’ve been aching to reach completely since Scarlett got sick. I felt proud.
It’s going to be a good year, I told him, feeling very comfortably loved. I can feel it.