On Saturday out on this balcony I stood with Julian and witnessed an outdoor wedding taking place by the lake to our left. It was picturesque. Water, beautiful weather. We watched the guests arrive intermittently as we were getting ready for dinner to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary.
One problem. Up the hill from the wedding and behind us there was an outdoor tent party with band playing 80s music very loudly to our right. Below our balcony were two hotel employees (and suspected catering sales employees) with walkie-talkies and cell phones who were trying to get the music lowered because, as you might imagine, there were people with the wedding that were not happy.
We said to each other, “Oh, that bride. She is not happy right now.” “This? Is a rookie mistake.” “How did they let this happen? And why can’t the band just turn it down for 20 minutes?” “Well, it’s their event, I mean, they paid their money too.”
The parents, then the bride, were escorted down the path and the loud band music didn’t stop. Worried employees kept trying but were unable to stop the band or lower the volume. Luckily the Rabbi had a sound system and even we could hear a little bit which meant probably the guests could hear plenty. I mean they could hear the Rabbi and 80s music background.
While we were having a glass of champagne with the wedding completed now, and of course because the Universe can be cruel, the band on break and it’s completely quiet. We watch the (presumed) wedding planner be approached by the (presumed) general manager with hand outstretched to introduce himself who profusely apologizes, appropriately. He talks about an earlier sound check and how it was okay then, but somehow it wasn’t during the ceremony. The wedding planner offers her observation.
“The family isn’t so happy, but the bride and groom didn’t seem to notice.”
What? I was thinking, “Did I hear that right?” Julian confirmed. It’s not important how the GM responded, but know it was appropriate. The thing I want to focus on is the planner’s statement about the bride and groom’s reaction to the hotel’s faux pas.
They didn’t seem to notice. On the day when other couples would allow something like this to cast a dark cloud over their day. It impressed me enough that when we heard it I told Julian that I thought that was a couple not focused on the day as being the most important thing, but probably focused on the marriage. I thought a couple like that could weather some storms.
The storms I’ve known in our marriage of 18 years today.
I flashed back to those first few years of our marriage when our biggest issue was deciding where to go for vacation or which house to buy. Or maybe it was deciding where we wanted to eat dinner. Or maybe it was choosing which restaurant would have a perfect deck on which we would eat our perfectly cooked eggs served by a perfect server while we read our newspaper cover to cover.
Then all of a sudden we had appointments with a geneticist who seriously asked us if I could be cousins with Julian and he measured Gage’s eye and ear width. There were doctors who wanted to look at his brain, determined to find out what caused his vision disorder. Then we heard, “with kids like these…” and they talked about survival rates and organ transplants and we were faced with the mortality of our kids.
“I can’t believe it. How can this be happening? It doesn’t even feel real.” We said to each other on more than one occasion. No matter what happened, we always said we’d weather it together. Always together. It sounds good at the time, it really does. I wanted to believe that was the case of course, but until we went through some trauma I wasn’t sure we’d do it together.
Looking back as we weathered the kids’ trauma and surgeries, sometimes I feel it’s remarkable and sometimes I do not. We’ve watched our kids get evaluated more times than I can count and we’ve heard therapist after therapist talk about how far our kids were behind in putting their pincher fingers together or standing, or walking or reaching an arm up or saying three word sentences. Countless times we’d leave a medical office in silence. Silence because we were absorbing what a professional just said about one of our little cherubs, neither one of us wanting to admit what all of that discussion meant.
When we were hoping to stop Gage from wanting to kill himself we didn’t venture far from home. In fact, for months we were afraid to leave our home for fear he’d kill himself. For months we tried to get him proper treatment and we’d have one step forward, two steps back. It’s hard to feel romantic during years like that and I have to say, we felt connected, even in our unconnectedness. Our goals for our family were the same; keep our kids alive and our family together. We were united in our chaos.
There was that year we miscounted our anniversary altogether. We celebrated 16 twice. We joke about it but honestly, who forgets the year? It seemed perfectly okay for us because in the last few years we’ve been in chaos. We helped our daughter through a kidney transplant, our son through wanting to commit suicide and signing him over to a mental hospital and ventured with our him to a new school and middle school in the same year. We’ve helped our daughter bloom as her brain functioned again. We’ve been distracted. We didn’t take a trip together for non-work in 4 years? Or was it five? For a long time we were happy to just go out to dinner together alone. Taking what we could get as often is the case for myself and my beloved.
I don’t think we did anything special to stay married for 18 years through the stressors of raising kids with special needs. The emotional and financial impact can hurt any family but I think we started out pretty strong, which helped a lot. Julian is also really giving and loyal and puts our family’s well-being first in every decision he makes. Which helps a lot. I also jump in when I have to and carry more of the burden of their health and educational needs. Which helps a lot.
We weathered the storms of figuring out that balance. We figured out what we were both good at and we let each other have their crazy time when they needed it because of what we were facing in our family. In some ways that means we did the crazy together even if we weren’t in the crazy at the same time. Does that make sense? Maybe only to me.
As we stood there watching drama unfold this weekend for the couple’s wedding at the lake we looked at each other and kissed. ”Happy anniversary.” I said. “You too.” Julian said.
Thank you Julian, for embracing the crazy that is our life, for always putting us first. For letting me be me. For clipping your toenails outside because I am a freak. Thanks for never, ever considering that we wouldn’t survive through the chaos and intact family or couple. Thanks for getting me a Diet Coke before I know I need one. Thanks for holding me when I screamed about the unfairness of watching our kids suffer and for telling me that I was good enough to raise Gage during his suffering when no one could reach him. Thanks for hearing me through all the fears about raising Quinnlin and her innocent, trusting self. Thanks for always believing in their futures. Thanks for always believing we should and would survive the worst behind us or the worst to come. Thanks for looking at us and not seeing a family in chaos, but a family in bliss.
Except I suppose for that two year stretch. And those really stressful months and times we shall never speak of again (except for when we speak of them, you know, for blogging purposes).
I love you. Happy anniversary.
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