An Open Letter to My Husband on our 11th Anniversary

11 years and counting

11 years and counting

Dear Greg, Last night before watching you, my husband of 11 years, drift off to sleep in front of WWII PBS documentary with an architecture book draped across your chest, I asked you: "So we're good. Right? We're agreed that we're not doing anything tomorrow? Cards? Dinner?" And while mid-yawn, you answered in your usual-man-of-few-words way: "Yep!" And then promptly fell asleep.

And what you didn't see is this: I smiled. I was happy you said that. Because, you were on your couch and I was on mine. We were in our lovely little living room that you painted--three times--until I was happy (though we're still negotiating the fourth time--misty gray would look great, btw). I smiled, because our great kids were both asleep in their rooms (that you also painted). I smiled, because as I looked around I realized that everything around me was here because we built it together, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month and year by year.

When you said, "Yep," I realized how far we've come. No, it's not that we've given up or thrown in the towel. In fact, we actually do care. We care a lot. These past 11 years have been hard-fought. They haven't been easy. In fact, every year we look back, and in the same quick breath say: "Phew, I can't believe we made it," and, then quickly, "Where the hell did the time go?"

When you said, "Yep," I smiled because we're in the same place. Not just the same little living room, but the same place. We are so beyond dinner out and weekend getaways, let alone Hallmark cards. Though honestly, we've never really needed them. We even took Brigid on our honeymoon. And other than that crazy night we spent at the Cleveland Clinic for my heart so many years ago, we've never been away alone. We're okay with two or three dates a year. We're okay right where we are--here--as long as we're together.

When you said, "Yep" and fell asleep, I smiled because I know we're both busy. We're both tired. We're both smack dab in the middle of it all.  This is how it is. For now. And we're OK with it. Because, we know it goes by so fast. Because we both know that each of us is working as hard as we can, and is doing the best we can to just get by. By Thursday each week we're both barely able to keep our eyes open past 9. We've both logged innumerable miles of carpool, walks to the bus, work meetings, emails, arguments with bill collectors, piles of folded laundry, stacks of dishes in the sink, and mind-boggling questions from our children that we've fudged our way through. (Problem #10 on Brigid's geometry homework on Wednesday, for example. Thank you for taking that one by the way. Not to mention Colm's daily zingers from the backseat of the minivan: How does gravity bend time? If time is just a theory, how does it bend? Who invented the idea of hours and minutes? What if we measured it all differently? Could Mars support life? Why not? How do you know for sure? Are there other planets like ours in other solar systems?Can you be an astrophysicist and a construction worker? And that's all in one ride to swim.)

I smiled, because I sat and thought about the past 11 years and all we have to celebrate. We've faced two heart surgeries, tumor removals, cancer, serious childhood illnesses and injuries, depression, anxiety, meltdowns, car accidents, house disasters, house fixes, remodels, near financial disasters, deaths of loved ones, moves, an adoption (of Brigid), a birth, communions, holidays, family vacations, graduations, weddings, christenings, drag-out-last-for-days fights, promotions, layoffs, personal successes, epic failures, and everything in between. And, through it all, we had each other. We had dinner together every night in our kitchen listening to our kids tell us about their days. We had busy Saturdays of errand running, practices, and house cleaning. We had lazy weekends too watching CBS Sunday Morning and making breakfast for the kids. We've watched hundreds of movies together sprawled out all over the living room. We've spent hours hiking trails, walking through museums, and sitting on the sidelines of sporting events or in crowded theaters. And we did all this because we wanted to, because we genuinely enjoy each other, and because we hope that someday our kids will have some happy memories to tuck in the back of their mind after we are both long gone.

And so this morning, as we often do on our way to work together, we talked about all that we still want to do, all that we wished we could afford to do--travel, build our own house, send our kids to far-flung places. But, then we stopped. And we both got misty-eyed when we realized how fast the past 11 years did in fact go, especially when we realized in just another 11 short years we'll have a 27-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son. You'll be 51. (I won't be 50--yet). We won't have any young kids, piles of laundry, dishes in the sink, swim meets to watch, practices to drive to, bill collectors to haggle with (we hope), or homework to help with. We realized Brigid will be off to college in just 3 years. We realized there was so much we wanted to do with her, and it all just went by so damn fast. We looked at each other, you took my hand, and we both realized we're right in the middle of it all. Smack dab in the middle. Eleven. And there's no place we'd rather be. Right here. Together. No dinner out could celebrate it properly. No getaway could make it more clear. No Hallmark card could say it any better than the way you did last night. "Yep."

We're good. We're still good.

Happy Anniversary. Here's to a lifetime of Yeps, and many more good years to come.