My husband and I have been together for about 23 years. We have been married for 16 of those. It never ceases to amaze me when I think about this. There’s something about thinking in terms of numbers. They feel irrefutable — cold, hard, and “just the facts”. Twenty-three years, at this point, is more than half my lifetime. I have now been with my husband for longer than I was without him. Maybe it’s silly, but it kind of blows my mind.
I am not a person who enjoys other people. I am happy by myself, and I enjoy the peace and quiet of alone time. I don’t make friends easily, mainly because I have trouble trusting others. I am introverted, and I don’t enjoy socializing with large groups of people. I can do it, but it always leaves me feeling emotionally drained and mentally exhausted. Before meeting my husband, I never thought I would find any person I could stand to be around for the better part of my life. I couldn’t fathom the possibility that someone I liked enough to spend that kind of time with might exist out there … somewhere in the universe. It’s not that I was sad about this. Or that I desperately wanted to get married but despaired of ever finding my match. On the contrary, I never thought about it at all. I never pictured myself engaged or married or having children.
But then, I met my husband. Actually, he picked me up at a football game when we were in college. I had gone to the game with one of my friends from the dorm, and he was also friends with this girl. I think, initially, he came over to our seats to ask my friend to go out with him, but she wasn’t around at the time. He stayed for a bit to wait for her, we talked, and he ended up asking me out, instead. I guess I was all right for a “second choice” at the time. We went out that night. And the next night. And the next. And even the next. And, basically, we have been together ever since. Ah … young love. I don’t think there’s anything quite like it.
I have so many memories of my husband. Memories of him as my husband. Memories of him before he was my husband, back when he was just a boy who, potentially, held all my dormant hopes and dreams in his hands. Did he know these things back then? Did he have any idea how fragile a girl’s heart can be? Or how she squirrels away her hopes and wants and dreams so that even she doesn’t know they exist? Did he know how my heart beat faster each time I saw him? How just thinking about him made me smile? How being with him was like the most fantastic dream ever, and I was constantly terrified of waking up to find out it was all just that — a dream and no more? Did he know that, when I saw him smile at me, it was like I could look into the future and see our children, laughing and calling to me from some distant place where they already existed and were just waiting for us to catch up to them? Did he know that, without my realizing it, he became the center of my universe? My beginning and my ending and everything in between. Did he know how absolutely terrifying that was?
I doubt it. He was a silly boy back then. He was full of laughter and fun and games. And he never seemed to take anything too seriously. He was everything I wasn’t, and he made me feel alive and wanted and loved. I don’t think he was trying to do these things, at least not at first. But this is the way he is. This is the man who is my husband. He is larger than life and playful and full of silly little jokes. He is impatient and stubborn. He is calm when I panic. He is safety when I feel afraid. He is strong and beautiful, inside and out. He is the person who always tells me the truth, even when I don’t want to hear it. Especially when I don’t want to hear it. He is my world. He was a boy that I knew … and then a boy that I loved … and then a man I wanted to marry … and now, he is my husband. What more can be said than that?
My favorite memory of my husband happened before we were even married. We dated for a long time before deciding to get engaged. But, once we decided to do it, we went to look at rings together. Neither of us knew what we were doing. We were young and goofy and in love. So, we went to a place a friend had recommended to us. We spent most of a day there, learning all about settings and diamonds and the “4Cs”. It was a bit overwhelming, and I’m sure my husband, at the time, felt more than a little shell-shocked by it all. We ended up buying a setting and a diamond, which surprised me. But it was all so exciting!
When our ring was ready, we went back to pick it up. I can’t remember the name of this place where we bought the ring, but I remember it was in this sort of industrial-looking area. It was on an upper floor of the building, and we took the stairs up and down. As we were going down, after picking up the ring, my husband stopped me. Right there, in the middle of those stairs, with the sounds of doors clanging shut on the floors above us and the hard coldness of metal railings and peeling paint, he got down on one knee. I can still see him kneeling there, holding out that little box. Offering me the universe. Offering me the answer to all of my beautifully silly, girly dreams.
“Will you marry me?” he asked. “Will you marry me and make me the happiest man on Earth?”
It was a simple thing. There weren’t any flash mobs or photographers or big, elaborate plans or champagne or fancy desserts or balloon rides. Just me. And him. In a dingy stairwell. And those words. Those wonderful words that came from his heart. It couldn’t have been more beautiful or meaningful. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
And I said yes.