Two years ago today, on a sandy beach under blue skies painted with perfect fluffy silver clouds, I married my husband Brian. He and Xav, who performed the ceremony, spoke their words loud and clear, to be heard over the sea wind by the sixty-some-odd friends and family who had come to witness. My words were quieter, and I think maybe only Brian and Xav heard them, but that’s ok. Here’s what I said.
"I give you this ring as a symbol of our vows, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you.
Brian, I take you to be my lawfully wedded husband.
Before God and these witnesses I vow to love you and care for you as long as we both shall live.
I take you, with all your faults and your strengths,as I offer myself to you with my faults and my strengths.
I will help you when you need help,and will turn to you when I need help.
I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.
As freely as God has given me life,I join my life with yours.
Wherever you go, I will go; whatever you face, I will face.
I take you now and forever as my husband, and will give myself to no other."
I haven’t been as good at keeping these vows as I would like to have been. Especially the part that said, “I will help you when you need help, and I will turn to you when I need help.” Because as much as I thought I loved him when we got married, the fact is that for some stupid reason, I didn’t see him as an equal. I didn’t really see him as a partner. I don’t know why. Maybe my own close experiences with marriage (my parents’ and my first marriage, especially) set me up to see relationships as essentially adversarial – two people fighting each other to get their needs met, never mind how much damage was done to the relationship over the course of each battle.
A couple of months ago, Brian and I went to Roxboro and left Duckie with her grandparents for the whole night. We got a room at a local motel. For the first time in what felt like years, we had a chance to relax on our own and just talk. Before Duckie came along, we used to do that a lot. We’d play chess for hours on end, we’d listen to music and not even bother with the TV. We would go on spontaneous picnics on the Parkway and other road trips where the journey was the point of the trip, not so much the destination.
That afternoon, we remembered the day Duckie was born. He told me he prayed a lot that day, and that he had asked God to send him whatever awful thing was in store for me or Duckie. “Give it to me, God,” he said. “I can take it.”
Until a few months ago, I don’t think I had ever experienced that level of selflessness. That kind of bargaining never really occurs to me, maybe because I don’t think of God as the kind of entity who can rearrange destinies like that – a different way of thinking, I guess. But when Brian gave me that gift in the Roxboro Innkeeper, that gift of his memory and his love, something in my heart opened wide to him, and I saw, once again, the incredible beauty that lives in his soul. And I saw my own self-centeredness, really saw it and knew it for what it was, for the first time.
Since then, we have had bad days and good days, like everyone does. We’ve had accords and disagreements, like everyone does. I haven’t always handled myself the way I wanted to. Sometimes the darkness just takes over and the Bitch returns. But the essence of our relationship has changed, and for the better, I think. I still don’t know where we’re headed, and that’s ok. The main thing is that I see us going there together.
Here’s wishing a happy anniversary to my husband, my dear love, the father of my star-child, the keeper of my heart. I love you.