I cried three weeks ago. It was the anniversary of my wedding to Rod and it has taken me three weeks to get up the courage to write about it. It’s been twenty years since he died and I thought it wouldn’t sadden me to write about it. But I was wrong. It is bittersweet.
I was terrified of getting married again. My first, starter, marriage had been a disaster on about every level. Coming out of it left me stranded in a town I disliked, with no money, in the middle of graduate school, and deeply scared of men. Most men. (My first husband has deeper issues, he told people I had died.)
Luckily Rod was not most men. He was a gentle giant who would call me on my shit and own up to his own pile of crap. We were very good at living together. So good I managed to avoid thinking too much about the future.
When the topic of marriage first came up – pretty early on he brought it up – I refused to marry him until he was twenty-five. “Your brain changes so much between now and 25. No way.” I was a tad older. Rod kept bringing up the subject. I would say, “No, no, no. You’re not twenty-five.” And I would throw him a bone – get another dog, wax the floors (really, no euphemism here), scrape paint off the old house we lived in with a heat gun at one in the morning. Our neighbors thought we were weird but … it worked for us. Our friends thought we were weird. We just smiled at them and carried on living our lives. Rod worked in a corporate setting and kept the pack of dogs we had accumulated. I finished my graduate degrees while doing some esoteric artwork on tubs, walls, and fireplaces.
All around us friends and colleagues were getting married. We went to the weddings, toasted them, got toasted, and went home to our lovely coupleness. I was happy.
I thought all was well until the night we were sitting at a bar drinking tequila and dark beer. We were in the middle of a highly competitive game of Trivial Pursuit when he pulled the plug.
“Do you want to get married or go to Greece?”
I downed a shot of tequila. “Greece,” I said wracking my brain for a song lyric.
“I’m twenty-five in three months and I want to get married.” He said the words slowly. The noise in the bar receded until I could hear the sounds of my ass shifting on the stool.
I knew I wasn’t ready. “Can we do both?”
I heard Rod put down his beer. “No.” His fingers drummed the varnished wood.
I looked up from worrying about my next piece on the game board. “Why not?”
“We don’t have the money for both.”
Looking into his eyes, I saw how much was riding on my answer. I had a weird realization of ‘this is it. He will leave me if I don’t ante up.’ I gulped. My brain flooded with panic. The thought, ‘I have time,’ barreled into my love for this man. My moment of truth with myself and him. Did I love this man more than my fear? That sounds so clichéd.
“Okay.” The thought of losing him was more frightening than the thought of facing my commitment fears.
That’s how we came to be engaged.
In my counseling office, people tell stories of their romantic lives; how they met each other, their shining moments, and the times they howl with wounds inflicted by the relationship. Coupling is never easy, and people want easy relationships. Immediately. I commiserate then I push the lesson.
I learned two important things during the night of the engagement. First off, a good relationship is full of pain from growth. Relationships are lovely in some moments and terrifying in other moments. Second, you are never really ready. But I would not have missed or changed our relationship for the world.