Today Mike and I celebrate forty-three years of marriage. Forty-three years. I’m trying to wrap my brain around that. What does that feel like? What does that look like? I admit, it’s not one of the biggies, like the 25th, or the 50th, but it’s still significant. I sit here with all of these thoughts about what it looks like.
I think it looks like living. I think it looks like dying. I think it looks like joy and happiness, sorrow and peace. It looks like two young kids standing in a meadow pledging to love each other till death do us part and not having a clue what that means. It looks like moving how many times? It looks like two young kids losing their first baby in a strange hospital with no family around, the pain and sorrow threatening to drown us. It looks like losing three more babies and holding each other through it all. It looks like the joy of having three healthy babies, Mike by my side, coaching me through each contraction because back then you didn’t use drugs during labor, you had to breathe through it all. He was a great coach. Watching him hold our babies and giving them their first kiss are some of my favorite memories.
Forty-three years looks like life and death. We both stood over my Mother’s bed and watched her breathe her last breath. Nine months later we stood over his Mother’s hospital bed and watched her breathe her last breath. We grieved together. Both of our Fathers died too. We learned what it was to not be the children anymore.
We have had the joy of welcoming six grand babies into our family. And we’ve experienced the sorrow of watching five of them move across the country, out of the reach of our arms and laps. But the happiness in seeing how happy they all are, living somewhere other than this desert and heat, which is all they’ve known until now.
Forty-three years included a lot of “stuff.” When I was facing surgery and not allowed to eat for a month, Mike hooked me up to my feeding machine every night. I was sure I wouldn’t survive the surgery so I filled the garage with toilet paper and paper towels, the closet with shampoo and deodorant because I didn’t want him to have to find it in the store while he was grieving.
Watching each of our children leave home was hard. Watching them go through their own trials was even harder. These last eight years have been some of the hardest for us. Mike has walked through deep waters with me as I struggled with depression and anxiety including ER visits, thinking I was having a heart attack and finding out it was anxiety. The kind of anxiety that makes it difficult to breathe. Difficult to live. He had many sleepless nights wondering what was going to happen to us. But these last few years have been good too because we have found out that this whole time, when we thought we were clinging to Jesus, He was actually holding us through it all. While our love for Him was often fickle, His love for us never wavered. We are still discovering the freedom of His one-way love. We are learning what it means to rest in Him. I recently heard a podcast and he was talking about John referring to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. And Peter, who was always boldly declaring his love for Jesus, only to deny Him three times. We are learning that we are loved by Jesus without condition and it’s pretty sweet.
We’ve both changed so much, not just as individuals but as a couple. There is no longer a hierarchy in our home. We are two adults living as equals. Mike has encouraged me to find my voice, to find my “no.” Let me tell you, this is a much more harmonious way to live. Mike doesn’t have to live under the weight of making sure he makes all the right decisions or that he has to live up to some unattainable standard as a man. And I get to be me. I get to voice my opinion and walk with him as a companion instead of….well, you get the idea.
Forty-three years has brought other changes as well. We’ve seen 8-track tapes and cassette tapes come and go. Laserdiscs were all the rage for about a month. Video players/recorders came and went, along with video stores like Blockbuster and Sounds Easy. Telephones moved from the wall to our pockets. Bell bottoms gave way to skinny jeans. Personal computers made their appearance, along with the Internet and good old AOL. Gaming went from board games to Pong, to handheld PAC man to PS4, Xbox One, and Call of Duty. Our lives together began in trailers with wood paneling and wood-burning heat, to living in a house with wood floors and blessed air conditioning. Home video went from 8mm to Super-8 to handheld digital cameras to that phone in our pockets. I could buy a loaf of bread for 28 cents!
When Mike turned 40, a friend asked me, “What’s it like to get married to a 19 year old and now he’s 40?????” I told her it didn’t happen overnight. I didn’t go to bed with a 19 year old and wake up to a 40 year old. Time is hard to explain. Life is hard to explain. It unfolds slowly. We’re not really the same people we were on that day 43 years ago. That 17 year old girl is long gone. The changes are too many to list or even know. We don’t have the energy we once had. We have physical pain that we never thought we would have. But it’s good.
So this is just a little of what 43 years look like. We didn’t get here without pain and sorrow, but we also didn’t get here without a lot of joy and happiness. Mike is my best friend and I’m glad to have him by my side.
Happy Anniversary, babe.