I admit that stumbleupon.com is one of my favorite ways to start the day. Armed with a cup of coffee, I love to sit in the wee hours of the morning, clicking that Stumble button to see what the rest of the world-wide-web is up to. Early last month, I stumbled upon a project that I had seen before and filed in my head under “Something to do, sometime”. Since Valentine’s Day was just around the corner, I decided it was the perfect time to move the project to “Saw it, liked it, made it my own”. It would be a fun gift for My Carpenter, and might even make a good studio workshop down the road (something I’m always looking for).
I was surprised at how long this took to make. I had decided to make the project my own by creating a picture or collage on every card, as well as using words. About 28 cards into it, I realized that, if I wanted to give him the gift this Valentine’s Day, I’d have to resort to some cards having only words. But I’m proud to say that the majority of them have silly clipart, chalk, and/or markers on them.
The biggest surprise, though was how hard it was to come up with the list, once I’d gone beyond the obvious good husband, father, provider kind of thing, and how much I laughed and cried before the project was complete.
The thing is, we aren’t newlyweds, full of gushy, blushy, bright-eyed sentiments about each other. We began dating over 41 years ago, when we were 15. We’ve been married for 31 years. So, a lot of water has gone under the bridge; much of it clean and bright, but some of it pretty muddy. Surprises are fewer now, but taking the relationship for granted is easy.
At some point in the painful first steps of making the list, I decided to think chronologically, hoping to recapture some of the “firsts” in our relationship. “You were my first kiss; you’ll be my last one, too” seemed like a good place to start. After all, how many people get to say that? Mind you, I said he was my first, not my only. After all, what is high school if not a backdrop for strong emotions and high drama? But the fact that we broke-up and made-up, over and over again, means that we were either destined to be together or incredibly lucky to have survived. I’ll take destiny (with a lot of work), thank you.
Having a history with someone is highly under-valued these days, I fear. The other night we were lying in bed, cuddling, and his hairy chest was tickling my nose. I opened my eyes and tried to do something to stop the twitching. In doing so, with my head still lying there, I had a little chest-hair epiphany. I had been in that position hundreds, if not thousands of times over the decades. In the beginning, I’d been able to count the hairs on one hand (much to his chagrin), and now his nose-tickling forest was a salt-and-pepper one, with the grey hairs outnumbering the others. I admit it made my heart swell and my eyes leak just a bit.
Recently, one of my nieces posted a quote on Facebook that read, “Always put your children above anyone else. They are a priority, not an option.” Never one to shy from sharing my opinion, I posted a comment about how I thought the relationship of the parents is the first priority. After all, it makes sense to me that happy, emotionally healthy parents will provide their kids with great nurturing, not to mention good role models! Her response was “Eh…spouses come and go; your kids are your kids forever”. Now, knowing this niece, I’m sure she said this at least a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but still, the idea that spouses will “come and go” is very disheartening.
On the flip-side, years ago, the marriage of an older couple I know, whose kids had long since left home, was in jeopardy. His behavior was out of the norm and many of us wondered why she stayed with him. When asked, she said, “I haven’t stayed married this long just to spend the rest of my years alone”. They worked it out and continue to grow older together, as happy as they choose to be. History can be a powerful tool.
Every night, when my head hits the pillow, I’ve created another 16 hours (give or take) of my life’s history. I remember bits and pieces of it as needed down the road, but I rarely contemplate it. The act of sitting down and creating a list of why I have loved the same man for so many years was very, very, powerful. I cried….a lot (after all, there’s a reason memories are often called bittersweet!).
Not all the reflections were warm and fuzzy. There have been moments when I’ve looked at him and thought, “Really? For the rest of my life, this is what I get?” and I know he’s done the same with me. We’ve screamed, we’ve yelled, we’ve slammed doors, thrown things, said things we wish we hadn’t, and not spoken for days (most of that in the earlier years, although we still choose to occasionally push each other’s buttons). The point is that the rough spots, the differences we couldn’t overcome, we just plowed through, until we found common ground again. It’s worked for us. It’s how our marriage has been sustained and how our history has been made…one day at a time.
For the record, I know it’s not me in the body bag on the 3 of clubs. My Carpenter IS good with a shovel, and has dug more holes, and moved more piles of dirt, compost and llama poo for me than I can count. But he’s told me for years that, should he ever need to dispose of a body, it’ll be in the foundation of one of his construction projects. Just sayin…if I ever go missing, that’s where you should start looking!
This started as a simple craft project, but became so much more. I encourage you to relive your own history and rediscover why you love someone whose relationship you may be taking for granted. Then share it with them. Make a deck of cards, write a letter, or sit in front of them and read it. Do it for a birthday, anniversary, the start of date-night, or for no reason at all. Just do it…it’s powerful stuff, I promise! My Carpenter couldn’t take it all in, in one sitting (fifty-three compliments is a lot for a humble man to take, all at once). When he finally did finish flipping through the deck, though, his eyes were leaking, too.