Here comes a kind of post that I don’t usually do. I’m not big on birthdays and anniversaries and even less focused on lavish, public, I-love-my-spouse posts.
Today is different.
Sean is 43 today, nothing very remarkable about the birthday. Except that at our age, it now is remarkable to have a birthday. People get sick, men have heart attacks, breast cancer strikes moms. I woke this morning on day three of a nasty bug, he continued picking up the things I do, things I thought only I could do. Nope. He’s got them, the girls too. Life goes on, even when we fall out of our routine. I apologized for being sick, and he asked incredulously, “Why would you apologize?” I didn’t have an answer.
17 years ago I went to visit him in Framingham to try and confirm that we were a thing. We walked to a park, the whole thing had a very Zach Braff, melancholy feel. Except there was no great soundtrack, just the whiny screech of the chains of a swing as he said that he wasn’t sure about us. Everything felt colorless.
Three years before everything was in full color. I could feel you in the room. Acknowledging that I had feelings for you was still weeks off, and that was just to myself, not you—that came much later, but you knew before I did.
You walked lightly and confidently, on your toes I came to notice. I also began to adore it, sometimes I’d watch you from across the lawn—there he is. There was, for me, an irresistibility of boyishness, cockiness, and where-did-you-come-from? about you. Still engulfed in my insecurities and bitterness, I didn’t really dare believe that you might actually be interested in me.
I began to notice you walking into the room more frequently. You started making small talk with me and then, maybe flirting. I wasn’t sure, I couldn’t believe it. Oh, but I was slow, and you were persistent. And gallant.
On this day 20 years ago I hadn’t yet met you. Seems impossible with the way we fit, the way you call me on my shit, and allow me to call you on yours. I had a different last name and defined myself as a smoker. You were on the other side of the country not finishing things.
The girls asked for photos of you with them today. “Do you have any from when we were toddlers to share on Insta?”
I spent an hour scrolling through images, falling more in love with you. I forgave myself for the memories that skirt the edges of the photos, the harsh words or frazzled struggles. I see through smiles and remember the worn hands, weak-from-plaster-dust lungs, and empty bank accounts.
Just last night we were pressing dandelions on Ave’s wall, and all I could think was how it all flutters away. Today the snaps from hikes and playground visits, road trips, and walks to the farmers’ market reminded me that it all flutters back.
The two of us in our twenties (me much farther along in mine), the girls in diapers, last night and ten years ago. We are forever moving in and out of focus, learning, and forgetting, and with any luck forgiving and finding the patience to be ready when one of us comes back.
I love you for more reasons than I could ever write down. Thank you for the impossible things we’ve done together.