I’m married to one of the best human beings on this earth. I’m not sure how that happened. Perhaps I won the life lottery a billion years ago when we were all just stardust.
He’s handsome and funny and irreverent and hard-working. He’s a culinary genius, and he can repair, replace, or rebuild anything in our home. (My favorite chair needs to be reupholstered, so while the kids and I sit on the beach for Spring Break, he’s learning from his father how to make that happen.) He’s highly-opinionated (which, of course, stokes the fires around here), brilliant, visionary, fun, and loyal. He’s a student of both academia and of life, always learning, always stretching, never content with the breadth and depth of his knowledge, but always at one with his place in the world. He’s a loud-talker and a loud-laugher, and he might just drop the F-bomb even more than I do. He’s the see to my saw, the teeter to my totter. (And let me assure you, that’s no easy job. That totter is up, down, up, down. It never really rests comfortably in the middle.) He eats and drinks with gusto and delight, and his hands are well-versed in baby and toddler care. He, in fact, was more comfortable with diaper-changing than I was in the beginning. “You gotta get in there and get him really clean,” he explained, scrubbing Sam with a baby wipe. “He’s not going to break.”
Time and time again, former students, colleagues, peers, and parents come back to him and say, “Thank you for giving me this opportunity. Thank you for helping me see this another way. Thank you for making a difference.” With every particle of his being, he was born to teach, to challenge, to broaden others’ perspectives.
He makes me more cognizant of and careful with my words. He rounds out my sharp corners of insecurity and anxiety with his calm, rational approach to life.
“Wait,” I say to him. “I need some lipstick before we go.”
“Honey,” he says to me, “you don’t need lipstick. If you want lipstick, that’s a different story. But you’re perfect with or without it.”
“Gah!” I sigh, holding my saggy middle in exasperation, c-section scars slicing a path below my belly button. “How can you possibly be attracted to THIS?”
“I’m not attracted to your parts, I’m attracted to you,” he says. “All of you. You are not your stomach. You are not your thighs. You are not your ass… although I love that ass. You are you, all of it, every part.”
“I’m so stressed out about money,” I say. “We have $364 in AP fees to pay in two weeks, $195 for yearbooks. Then it’s time for Gus’s driver’s ed class, then Sam’s graduation. I feel like all we do is bleed money.”
“That’s the price we pay for having smart, active kids,” he reminds me.
“What happens if I lose this freelance contract?” I ask. “What if this one falls through, too?”
“This,” he says, drawing a small circle with his hand, “is your circle of influence.” He points to a spot far outside the circle. “This,” he says, “is outside your circle of influence. You have no control over that… as much as you’d like to have control over everything. Let it go. When have we ever gone hungry?”
“I’m afraid,” I admit to him in the dark of our quiet bedroom, “of what the doctors might find.”
He rolls over to curve his body protectively around mine. “Whatever they find, we’ll deal with,” he says. “We have always figured things out before. We will figure this out, too. I love you. We will get through it together.”
“I have offended her in some way,” I sigh. “I don’t even know what I did, but she’s different now.”
“That’s about her, not you,” he says. “You cannot control how people react to the things you do and say and write. Were you mean? Vindictive? Spiteful? No? Then move on. You cannot own her reaction. She gets to have her own experience of you.”
“There’s so much work to do on this house,” I say. “I’m worried that our neighbors think we’re lazy slackers. But there’s only so much time and so much money. I’d like to have it all done now, but that’s just not possible.”
“Are you being serious right now?” he asks, rolling his eyes. “Because worrying about what anyone else thinks of us? That is one fuck you simply cannot give.”
“Do you ever miss them?” I ask.
“I choose not to miss people,” he says. “If we’re thinking about the past, we can’t appreciate the present. Do I think about them sometimes? Sure. Especially around Gus’s birthday. They were once so good to us and for us. But they’re not anymore. It’s okay. Life moves on.”
“If I die, will you remarry? I want you to remarry. I want you to have someone who loves you forever.”
“If you’re dead, you don’t really get a vote,” he says. “You can’t control everything here, and you certainly can’t control things once you’re dead. I’ll take your wishes under advisement, but I’m no longer having this conversation.”
“I got another agent rejection today,” I said. “It feels like this is never going to happen.”
“You got a rejection? I’m sorry. That’s her loss. Now send another letter out. This gig is like selling a house. You might have 1,000 people come through to look at it. They won’t like the colors or the layout or the size of the bedrooms. But then #1,001 walks in and she sees all the love and hard work that went into making that house a home. She says, ‘Yes. This is it. This is the one I want.’ #1,001 is the only one that matters.”
“I wonder sometimes how you can even love me,” I say. “I’m moody and irrational and passive-aggressive and unstable. I can’t cook, I make bad decisions, and I cry all the time.”
“Yes,” he says, agreeing with a quick nod of his graying head. “And you’re also beautiful and loving and talented and empathetic and kind and fabulously fun. And someday, I’m banking on those books of yours to make me a kept man. I get the whole package, Baby. Who wouldn’t want that?”
Whatever else I might wish for my kids, at the top of the list is this: This love, this partnership, this best friend with which to balance and share and grow. When all the freelance contracts fall through, and all the medical bills mount, and all the the agents say no, and all my skin continues to sag, there he is… steady, strong, true, beloved.