Eleven

I started to write this on the eve of Chrstmas Eve. The eve of our eleventh anniversary.

Eleven years. 11. More than a decade. Double digits.

Somehow, as I started to write, words failed me. How has my life been impacted by John’s presence in it? Could I ever sum that all up in a blog post? Really?

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by reporting on rose-tinted images of what we are all raised to believe of marriage. It hasn’t been all roses. It has been real work, real sruggles at times. There have even been times where either one of us was tempted to throw in the towel. We never have. Sometimes this is out of love for each other and sometimes this is simply because we are just too damned stubborn to give up on this life we have built together. One thing has remained constant: I love him and he loves me. He gets me. The career and education I value so much? They are fires that he started. When it becomes too much, and I am about to give up–when it would be so much easier to just give up–he is the one to tell me I cnnot do so. He is my best friend. Not in the cliched way, but truly. When I am off of work, I don’t crave time with female friends. Instead, I run home to my husband. Not because I have to, but because I want to. He is where I belong.

Over the past week, I’ve been pondering some of the memories of the past eleven years. We sure have had some good ones. And some bad. Regardless, we stick it out together. That is how it should be and just how it is. But as I think of these times, I am taken back to the day they happened, as if I am there.

January, 2001. We hadn’t even been married a month. But something was different and I sent John to the store at 8AM for a pregnancy test. And that is when we found out Evan was coming. John was so excited that he picked me up and spun me around and around in our kitchen of that tiny apartment. We were so happy. Looking back, I see how dumb this truly was. But then we had no idea of what was to come with the pregnancy. Or that we should have taken more time to be an “us” before we tried to bring children into the mix. But we were so young and so in love, and it just seemed perfect.

November, 2003. John was on academic probation because he had mismanaged his time and didn’t study. We were going to meet with the Dean of Academic Affairs at the college to speak to her about getting him back on track. And in the midst of the conversation, he told her I was “too smart to not go back to school”. With that one little statement, I quit my job as a third-shift clerk at a convenience store and strapped on a backpack for the first time in almost 9 years on January 4, 2004. After a 4.0 semester, I applied for early admission to the respiratory program and was accepted. After many semesters of petitioning that same dean for permission to take more than the maximum allowable credits, I finished. But it was like a fire was lit and I needed more.

May, 2006. I was graduating. John was supposed to graduate with me, but the night before his most difficult final, he stayed up watching dvd’s. He ended up missing the grade he needed by 3 points. It was heartbreaking for him, but that didn’t stop him. As I walked across the stage to be handed my degree, the lights were blinding. I walked down the steps and regained my sight, and there he was. Arms open. Beaming smile. He was so proud of me. It had been years since my mother and father had both died and I remember thinking that it was nice to once again have someone who was so proud of me, who was that invested in my success.

April, 2008. I was getting an MRI. They had found a brain tumor on the right side of the frontal lobe. I had been having blinding headaches, and had to be on a pretty strong cocktail of drugs to even get out of bed. I was sad for what could come of my family, scared we were going to lose everything, that I was going to need a surgery that, according to the neurosurgeon, would have wiped out my memories. Memories of my child’s name, my mother’s existence, my wedding day. All of it, gone. There was so much riding on that scan, which was to be the determining factor in whether I needed the surgery. But I was claustrophobic and the emotions and anxiety flooded me as they attempted to advance me into the scanner. “Get John,” I croaked. The tech tried to protest, citing radiation exposure. But I couldn’t do it. Not just the scan. The whole damned thing. I needed him. And I realized suddenly that it was the first time I really needed anyone, ever. And suddenly, he was there. Lead apron and all. And as they advanced me into the scanner, I told him to make sure he did something to let me know he was there, even when I couldn’t see him. He did. For almost an hour, while I lay in that tube, he rested his hand on my right shin. He never took it off for a second. Sometimes, he would even absentmindedly tap out the rhythm of the magnets as they spun in an orbit around my head inside the scanner, and I would giggle. I didn’t fall asleep. I didn’t concentrate on the music they piped in to me. I concentrated on the warm spot where his hand was. My John. And I realized that I could do anything with him by my side. Anything.

July, 2008. We did lose everything. I lost my job–wrongfully–after the brain tumor. And he is the one who prompted me, after medical clearance, to go and apply for a job in my hometown. And I did. And I got it. And though John and I were pros when it came to throwing our stuff into U-Hauls, this time they hired a moving company to come and pack my house for me and move it all to the new address. And John and I, since Evan was in school, drove to Cincinnati. That was the day he drove out of the way so I could see the skyline of my hometown as I made my big return. And as we did, he looked at me and said, “Welcome Home, Baby.” Because he gets me.

May 13, 2010. Zachary was in the NICU and I was in the recovery room. John kept running in, breathless and excited, to tell me something new. “Andrea! They took off his hat and he has this black hair that sticks up all over! It is so awesome!” Or to show me a photo on the camera. Or to tell me how cute Zach was as he curled up in his little isolette. And I had to keep telling him to go and sit with the baby. To go and be with him, since I couldn’t. And when they finally brought Zach to me, John led the way as the nurse brought Zach into the room. Almost like a little kid presenting you with macaroni art–that look that says, “Look what I made.”

John and I will have many more memories. Some good and some not so good. It’s life. It’s love. It’s marriage. But I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. Without him here, dreams have no meaning. Nothing would be worth it.

I’ll close this with a video. John and I don’t really have a song. We have a couple that come close, but the cool part of our relationship is that any love song I hear still brings visions of him wherever I am. But this one, though he doesn’t like it, is one of the ones that sums John up to me.

Here’s to another year.

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