Eight years ago today, I stood before family and friends and declared my intention to share the rest of my life with my best friend. It was a long journey to that day, fifty-three years if you start with birth, and it was the happiest I had ever been.
It wasn’t my first start down that road. I was engaged when I was nineteen. It was for many of the reasons you would expect at nineteen: my friends were getting married; it’s the next step in becoming a grown-up; someone had told me they loved me; the wedding would be a fantastic, theatrical production – the best party ever. None of those are the best reasons for joining your life with someone else’s. Fortunately, the fickleness of being nineteen kicked in. I decided I was in love with someone else; someone who didn’t, who couldn’t love me back. But it was enough for me to put the breaks on. I broke off the engagement.
I spent the next five years experiencing the sexual liberation of the seventies, never being serious about anyone. I was beginning to believe I never would meet my “soulmate”. Everyone in the seventies had a “soulmate”. We were all looking for that person who could finish our sentences for us; who knew what we needed before we did; who would be our playmate for life; the yin to our yang. Then I met Lorenzo. He was older, charming, exotic and he swept me off my feet. On our second date he told me he was going to marry me. I laughed and said he didn’t even know me. He persisted. He took me out almost every night. He bought me jewelry. He took me on trips. He paid my debts. He cooked for me. I was treated like a queen. But I wasn’t sure. He talked about how he was going to make me perfect. Hmmm. He had fits of jealousy. And for good reason. I wasn’t ready to commit to anyone, never said I was. I broke it off. He responded by threatening to kill himself. He went to my family, begged them to intercede. He couldn’t live without me. He stopped eating and sleeping. He looked like hell. “Look at him,” they told me. “He really loves you. You’ll never find anyone else who loves you like that.” Maybe they were right. He obviously loved me. Who else would worship me that way? His anger scared me a bit but I was sure that once we were married, he would settle down. I still didn’t understand what marriage was about and I spent the next seventeen years paying for that lack of knowledge.
When Paul and I decided to get married, our relationship was built on twenty-five years of friendship. Our paths had wound around each other for a long time. We had both had our own share of loses and disappointments, of life beating us up. We knew that what made a marriage was conversation, being able to talk to each other about anything. Not necessarily finishing each others sentences. We don’t always know what the other one wants. Sometimes it’s a real mystery. But we’ll ask and when we know, we do our best for each other. There are arguments and hurt feelings and times when we go in different directions but that’s just being human. What we have that holds it all together is a love that is based on commitment. Commitment to help the other be their true self. Commitment to be willing to apologize and to forgive. Commitment to always be there, no matter what. And that is a great treasure, knowing that in this world, there is one person for whom you matter most.
Eight years ago today was the happiest day of my life. But I’ve had many days like that since then and I know as long as we both live, there will be many more.
Paul, I told you that day I would walk by your side for the rest of our lives. I told you I loved you more than anything. I still do.