Half a Lifetime

Note: This essay originally appeared on Medium. It has since been deleted from the site. I have republished it here with a few minor changes.

I told you on our actual anniversary that our marriage was old enough to get drunk now.

21 years.

You laughed.

Of course, neither one of us drinks.

Making you laugh is my favorite thing.

We didn’t celebrate on our actual anniversary because I was sick with the flu, I was cranky and exhausted from taking care of our four kids who were also sick with the flu — and you were exhausted from working 20 hours in two days taking care of sick kids who aren’t as fortunate as our four, as part of your nursing school practicum.

We adulted instead.

Today we celebrated by getting our minivan back from the mechanic after sinking our spring break funds into emergency repairs and then going to a movie.

We skipped dinner and had theater food because the kids and the dog needed medicine and dinner — and we had to track down the damn choir shirt for the one child’s choir concert tomorrow. It had to happen tonight because in the morning three of the kids have to take their theory tests for the music festival.

We adulted again.

I guess it wasn’t much of a celebration. But, we were together, and that was enough.

I realized something else about this anniversary. We’ve now been married for half of our lives.

Half of our lives!

Do you even remember who we were back then?

I remember who you were. You laughed at some of my jokes. You had a great laugh. You still do. Your laugh is perfect — sincere, pure, and your entire face lights up. Then, after you laugh, you smile, and that smile is my world. You don’t just smile with your mouth. You smile with your eyes.

The way you smile with your eyes is my favorite thing.

You were smart, beautiful, strong, and kind.

I remember how I felt the first time we held hands. My whole body felt warm and electric. My heart was pounding so hard I couldn’t hear the television we were ostensibly watching. I think I could hear your heartbeat too — like our souls were trying to syncopate.

I remember being on the other side of the world from you and looking up at night and seeing the moon. It made me think of you. You know why. I wondered if you ever looked at the moon and thought of me. I know you did.

I remember how I felt the first time we kissed. It felt like two magnets that had been forced apart for too long slamming together, never to be separated again.

When we hold each other, when we’re alone — when we’re us — I still think I can hear your heartbeat. I still feel like we’re magnets — attracted to each other with the force and fury of the Universe.

We weren’t exactly opposites. But, we were different enough to make life interesting.

Not everyone thought we were right for each other. Not everyone thought we’d last. Maybe we won’t. Fuck them. We know how to adult — we’ll make it.

Neither one of us would have said “fuck them” 21 years ago.

You’re different now.

You’re a smart, beautiful badass.

I’m different now.

People pay me to write words.

We’re different now.

Half a lifetime has meant tragedy, grief, anger, crushed dreams, dashed hopes, and despair. But, we were there together. That was all we had. That was enough.

Half a lifetime has also meant miracles, laughter, new dreams, and new roles.

As I write this, you’re in one bed with a child, and I’m in another room in bed with another child. Our children are all you and they are all me.

Sometimes they laugh at my jokes. They all have your laugh and your smile. That’s my favorite thing.

You are the toughest person I’ve ever met. You’re fierce. You’re teaching our children to be tough and fierce. You’re teaching me too.

You are the kindest person I’ve ever met. You are loving. You’re teaching our children to be kind and loving. You’re teaching me too.

I didn’t feel like an adult when we got married. Sometimes, I still don’t. You already know that.

But, between the deaths of loved ones, the funerals for our dreams, and the trials of parenthood we learned to adult together.

Adulting means we don’t keep score or maintain a mental chore chart. We both try and give everything we have and do what needs to be done. Between the two of us, everything important gets taken care of.

Some days we don’t talk much. Some days it seems we only text about things we need at the store and the catalog of our children’s activities. But, even on days where we don’t see each other, we’re together — and that’s enough.

I’m proud of you.

You are beautiful.

I love you.

Half a lifetime ago, before I even knew what life was really all about, I asked you to marry me. You laughed and smiled when I proposed on the beach at dawn. That’s my favorite thing.

What will the next half a lifetime bring? At 21, I could’ve told you exactly what our lives would be like 21 years in the future. I would’ve been confident, but wrong.

At 42 I’m confident I don’t know the future. I’m sure there’ll be more heartache, more tears, and more grieving. I’m equally sure they’ll be more miracles, more laughter, and more joy. But, how it will play out is a mystery I’m in no hurry to unravel.

Our children are our lives right now. That’s what we wanted. But, someday sooner than either one of us wants to admit, these wonderful, not so tiny humans will be off living their own lives. Then we will begin a new life together again. It’s what we’ve wanted.

You’ll be different then. I’ll be different. We’ll be different.

Whatever happens, we’ll be together. That’s enough.

Being together with you is my favorite thing.

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