Today is my husband’s birthday. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been together for almost eleven years now, that we’ve grown older, that we’re not that relatively young couple starting out anymore. I look at him, now a year older, and I know how incredibly lucky I am that he chose to love me and my daughter. I think about the life we have lived, how much of it was lived without him and how incredibly grateful I am that I didn’t have to live without him forever. We’ve had some rough years together. We’ve struggled with our families. We’ve buried two fathers. We’ve raised a child together, surviving her teenage years. And so many of those years we were figuring ourselves out, too. We’ve grown and we’ve changed and we’ve adapted. You know what? We’re still kind of fuck-ups, too. This week we’ve realized that out of the entire world, we really just prefer each other’s company. The world just seems to be daunting lately, like it’s just one morning after another convincing ourselves to walk out the door but our home? Our home is safe. And when I think of this brilliant man, that’s how he makes me feel, the only person in this world who has ever made me feel that way.
I wish I could say that I fell in love with this man the moment I saw him but I did not. He did not fall in love with me instantly either. It was a slow build. It took time. We took time to build because this man was smart enough to know that I wasn’t the kind of fool to rush into anything but when I saw him? I mean when I truly saw him? I saw the kindness in his eyes, the truth in his words, and this confidence that inspired my own. I loved the way he gave people the benefit of the doubt, the way he would just offer whatever he had to whoever needed it, the way he could laugh even when it was rough. I saw this strength that woke up something inside me. I saw the way he looked at me, this way no one ever had before. More than anything, I felt his love and I believed his love. We carry the scars that others give us and we put the blame on the next one to come along when it’s not fair. I won’t lie. This man had hurdles to jump but he never faltered, never hesitated, never gave up on me even when I thought he would. On our wedding day, I remember my mother standing next to me. She said, “I’ve never seen you this happy.” Barring the birth of my daughter, she was right.
I’ve quit smoking but every day when I get home from work, I do have one with him. It’s just decompressing and a small treat for me, a bribe for the anxiety that I battle. If you make it through the next eight hours, you can have this. It’s dumb but it works. We sit on our deck and watch our neighbors be ridiculous, shaking our fists at them like two old people yelling at kids to get off our lawn. We talk about our day, realizing that so much of our days are spent dealing with entitled, demanding people and how much it now takes out of us. I look back at us ten years ago and I see two people who didn’t seem to mind the outside world and now I see two old people that have very little interest in going beyond the living room. There have been so many changes in our lives, some good, some bad, and some are just whatever, but what hasn’t changed is our love for each other. He still gives me the same smile he gave me years ago. He still has this ability to make me feel secure when I feel like my insides are crashing. These small moments of sitting on our deck at the end of the day, of laying in bed when we wake up, of sitting on the couch making fun of the entire Bachelor franchise are the parts of my life that I treasure. Because in these small, insignificant moments, the rest of the world doesn’t matter.
There is a song called If We Were Vampires by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit that always makes me think of him. I was lucky enough to find this man at a time in my life when I was ready for him and young enough to spend the better part of my life with him. I realize though that this life will not last forever and one of us will go eventually. I’m not being morbid especially on his birthday but it is the reality of life. With this realization, I cherish all of the moments I am granted with him because one day that seat next to us will be empty. I get it and it's OK. People like to say that other people complete them but he doesn’t complete me. I am complete (though broken lately) all on my own. What he does do is inspires me, encourages me, helps me become a better person. I think about who we were before we met each other. I try to imagine what my life would be like if for some reason our lives would have gone a different way but I don’t even want to. All those ‘What ifs’ don’t really mean anything because I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but beside him. Sometimes I wonder if he knows how incredible he is. I hope he knows how loved he is, how many people adore him even if they don’t show it all the time. I hope he knows it is my honor to be the one who sits next to him, to partner our way through this annoying, wonderful life of ours. No matter what.