Forever in a decade...
Today I’m grateful to have gotten ten years married to one helluva dude. This week would have been our eleventh wedding anniversary.
This past week was a tough one. I finally started packing away some of his things. It was time. Aside from dealing with clothes and shoes, I read notes he wrote me in high school, I sniffed the perfume I wore on our wedding day, I opened the box filled with all the jewelry he’s given me over the years…my “something blue” ankle bracelet, my Tiffany bracelet engraved with the date he asked me out, a claddah ring he got me on a business trip to Ireland. I browsed through pictures, CDs, and little keepsakes I’d long forgotten we had. I even still had the little egg of silly putty he got me for our one month anniversary (because I’d told him I’d never had silly putty).
It was like a slow stroll through a beautiful existence we once had. Nights we danced like fools, where we laughed with friends so hard we couldn’t breathe. Exciting sporting events we cheered through, concerts we sang at the top of our lungs at, the many, many days we spent talking about everything and nothing. I sat and looked at all of our wedding photos, marveling at how young we were, how innocent.
The day Kenny proposed to me, he told me he had been so excited to propose to me, that he couldn’t wait to get to me to do it. He said it reminded him of anticipating a vacation, and that he wanted our lives to be like a vacation that never ended. It only fit that we ended up getting married on the beach in Punta Cana. We didn’t make up any elaborate speeches, we simply vowed to love and honor one another, for richer or poorer, in times of sickness and in health, til death do us part. I had no fucking clue what that meant then. We knew what people thought. We were so young, so naive, we had so much growing left to do. I’m grateful beyond words we didn’t let that deter us.
Nothing could dampen my mood on my wedding day. We woke up late, hungover, after a night of “celebrating” a bit hard until four a.m.—didn’t matter. It rained for a bit—didn’t matter. I’d get married in the lobby if I had to. I was in such a rush, I barely put on a drop of make up—didn’t matter. All I knew was that I wanted to get up that aisle and marry Kenny Courtney. I don’t think I heard a word the officiant said until it was time to kiss. And boy, did I kiss him!
Those first few years were incredible. Beach houses, trips to Vegas, Mexico, the Bahamas. Thursday nights out with coworkers, nice dinners out every weekend, or weekend-long guitar hero tournaments in our basement with our friends. Even after Cam was born, we made sure we “dated;” went on weekend trips to wineries, or Atlantic City. Of course, we all know what happened after. Our whole marriage may not have ended up being the vacation that never ended, but the years we did get were magnificent. I have no regrets when it comes to my life with Kenny Courtney. The vows we made that day may have just been words then, but we lived them.
Being married to Kenny was like living with my best friend. No matter where we were, if we were together, I was home. When he was next to me, I felt safe; he was the first person in my life to not cut and run when the going got rough. He held my hand through many of my dad’s binging episodes. He walked into hotel rooms my Dad had destroyed and didn’t bat an eyelash, he helped me sort through and pack up the apartment he died in. When I had two early miscarriages, he never wavered in his positivity that it would eventually happen. There was something about his presence, even when he wasn’t right next to me, I could always feel him at my back, and over the years I’d just “know” he was right behind me, giving me confidence to keep my head held high. I’d turn around, and every time, there he was, quietly grinning at me. Maybe he’d put a hand on my shoulder, maybe he’d just nod my way to say “you’re good, you got this,” but he was always there.
And when things went south…as we lost it all inch by inch, things shifted. Instead of him making me feel safe, I did my best to make him feel safe. I held his hand, I did my best to lift him up; to remind him why it was all worth the fight. I did whatever I could to take whatever weight I could off of his shoulders. I asked the questions, wrote the notes, I did anything I possibly could to give him a positive spin. For a long time it worked, and by the time it didn’t, by the grace of God, he didn’t know it. There’s plenty in my life I’m not proud of, but being there through it all with Kenny, is one of the things I’m most proud of. Not because it makes me so great, but because it makes me feel ever so slightly at peace to think I repaid him even an ounce of what he gave me in life. It makes me think maybe I helped make his transition smooth. I still genuinely can’t talk about those last two weeks (sometimes I can barely talk about the last few months), but I pray every day that he felt me at his back the way I always felt him at mine.
Living those vows with Kenny changed my prerogative on life. I don’t take living for granted. I don’t take the people I love for granted. I don’t take my time for granted; I don’t want to waste it, any of it. I want to spend as many minutes of my life enjoying it. I spend my time with the people I want to spend my time with, I do the things I want to do, and what feels bravest to me. I am learning to be myself with people. I spent a lot of my youth terrified of getting hurt, that people wouldn’t like me if I let them see who I “really” was. Then I think, if Kenny Courtney loved me just as I was, maybe the world will, too. And when I start feeling anxious, sometimes, I swear I still feel him at my back, nodding my way to say “you’re good, you got this…”
So, to my dude, happy anniversary. Thank you for everything. Thank you for the safe place to lay my head, and the confidence to grow. Thank you for our babies. Thank you for memories I’ll cherish for an eternity. Thank you for giving me a love that was so hard to lose. Thank you for giving me a marriage worth every ounce of pain and heartache I endured, and then some. Thank you for the peace in knowing you still have my back. When you insisted on our wedding song, I can only surmise you knew better than I what was coming…
Let the love I have for you
Live in your heart
And beat forever (together my love)
I've been so happy loving you…
So I'm goin' away
Mmm but not forever
I gotta love you anyway