Love in the time of CoVid . . . and always!
Today, my husband and I celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. This morning, I woke up to the sun streaming through our bedroom window, warming my face. I drifted in and out of sleep, dreaming of past anniversary trips to beaches and tropical getaways. The sun was a welcome break since we've had nothing this past week except rain and dreary skies promising a LONG winter. At the time I'm writing this, it is October 2020. The year has held many pitfalls, and we are all looking forward to 2021 as though everything will miraculously change when the clock strikes midnight. Let's keep our fingers crossed! But through everything this year has thrown at me, I've had my husband by my side. Calm, patient, and reassuring, he was a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen when my anxiety overwhelmed me. I couldn't ask for a better partner or friend in life.
Instead of spending our day outside enjoying the nice weather, Stefan and I got tested for Covid-19, . . . something I never could have imagined on our wedding day 21 years ago. That day was filled with family and friends all together under one roof, dancing, celebrating, toasting, hugging. Today, we spent three hours waiting in our car, only to be called into a shabby waiting room where they nearly pierced our brains through our noses. All because I have a sinus infection and started running a low-grade fever, but we chose to be safe rather than sorry. Thankfully, our tests came back negative. And we were together through this experience, just as we were every day on October 30th since 1999.
During our many hours of waiting, I recalled a piece I had written quite a few years ago about my husband. Once we returned home, I went through my old writing and found it. I wrote it seven years ago, and sitting down to read it once more, I found myself smiling at the memories. I hope you'll smile as you read it as well:
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"At the end of this month, my husband and I will be celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary. When I think about that, I'm amazed that we've been together so long. Then again, he's so much a part of my life, I can't imagine a time when he wasn't in it. I love to tell people the story of how me met. We were at a wedding. He asked me to dance. It was love at first sight. I even remember thinking, while we were dancing, that I would dance with him one day at our own wedding. He came into my life at a time when I was definitely ready for love. I'd had a string of rocky relationships, and had all but resigned myself to never dating again. I had even considered not going to the wedding. But my high school friends had all come home for it, and my mom gave me an added nudge, saying, "Who knows? You might meet someone." I didn't believe it, but I went.
At that time, I was in the best shape of my life. Being single was great for my figure! After a recent messy break-up, I was determined to look and feel good, for myself. So I dressed up, put on make-up, and joined my girlfriends for a 4th-of-July boat ride rehearsal dinner, followed by a black tie wedding event.
I first saw Stefan on the boat. I was standing at the rail, nursing a drink and catching up with my friends. Stefan was part of the wedding party, and I glanced over to see the group of honored guests having their picture taken. It was instant attraction. He was the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome. My girlfriend saw me watching him and leaned over and whispered, "I met him yesterday and instantly thought of you." I laughed and brushed it off, but I secretly watched him the whole evening. He seemed so cool and self-possessed. I couldn't imagine he'd have any interest in me.
The next night, I was determined to see him again. Sure enough, there he was, walking a bridesmaid down the aisle to "Sunrise, Sunset." I had never been more jealous of anyone than I was of that bridesmaid. And boy, did he look good in his tux! Stoic, tall, face unreadable. What I originally thought of as his "tough guy" mask was really his shy persona. At the reception afterward, I was seated with a number of girlfriends at the "singles" table. After the bride and groom were introduced, the toasts were made, and dinner was served, the dance floor began to fill up. I joined in on the fast dances, and watched the couples that danced to the slow dances with nonchalant indifference. I sipped champagne and stole glances at the table where the wedding party sat.
At one point in the evening, while I was standing in a small group of girls on the edge of the dance floor, I heard a voice ask, "Why aren't you guys dancing?" I glanced up to see him standing right in front of us, tie loosened, jacket discarded. He smiled gently. I smiled bashfully. I noticed how he looked at each of us in turn. Did his eyes linger on any of my friends? On me? It was when the next slow song started and he asked me to dance that I felt like every dream I'd ever had was coming true.
We moved onto the dance floor. I remember him gently taking my hand and almost self-consciously looking away as we started to move. At one point he asked, "Do you have a date here who will beat me up for stealing you away?" I shook my head. He held me a little closer and it was then that I had the epiphany that he would be my husband and we would dance like this at our own wedding.
That was the start of our love story. Our first meeting was when the spark ignited. What followed was a long-distance relationship and ultimately a love that blossomed into something true and special when I moved to join Stef in Rhode Island. Those were some of the best years of my life!
Recently, I reflected on some of the romantic movies and classic love stories I've ever enjoyed (You've Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, The Holiday, Pride and Prejudice). Most of them end when the couple is just starting off, when the commitment is made, when "happily ever after" is assumed. All the juicy stuff worthy of story-telling happens in the courtship, in the beginning when there is strong attraction and erratic, heated emotion. But that is only part of a true love story. Our beginning was like that, full of passion and romance. The times we were apart seemed to drag, and the times we were together seemed to fly by.
Now, our relationship has mellowed into something different. The nights when we used to fall asleep in each other's arms have given way to debates about the temperature of the room and the use of nasal strips to stop snoring. The long hours spent on the phone and the romantic e-mails we sent have been replaced by quick calls throughout the day to "check in" or texts about what's for dinner. Little things he does makes me crazy, and I KNOW he can say the same about me. But at the foundation of our relationship is a love that is based on trust, affection, history and genuine friendship. I couldn't imagine a better father for my children. He is kind and gentle with them, plays better with them than I do, and has more patience for things like homework, whining, and messes. He is also my biggest supporter and cheerleader. He has never scoffed at any career change or new idea I've come up with in my constant quest for self-discovery. Instead, he offers words of encouragement and suggestions of how to pursue my dreams. He knows all my faults, and I believe I know all his. But in the end, we are still there for each other.
I think back on all the plans we had when we first got married. We were going to travel to Europe. He might open a restaurant or start his own business. We would save for a summer home in Rhode Island. So far, the closest we've come to Europe is a ten-year-anniversary trip to Las Vegas to see "Paris" and "Venice." The other plans have become dreams on a bucket list we'll revisit one day. But for now, we have each other and our lovely girls, and a wonderful home life built around a stable kind of love. There is no one I would rather grow old with. What more could I ask for?"