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Love, 367 Days Later

A year and two days ago, I married the right man. How do I know? It is because of how we spent our anniversary, and how it represented the many days in between. It was not a fancy dinner, a resort get away, or a gift that showed me how much my husband loves me. Those kinds of gestures are lovely, may have even been what I wanted leading up to this June 24th. But they became inconsequential on Sunday, which would unfold much differently than I could have ever imagined.

I awoke that morning wrapped snugly in Simon’s arms while he peacefully snored away.

I decided to stay put, nestled in his tight bear hug, and reflect on the last year. Our wedding, and all the other life events that have occurred since. So much has happened... I became overwhelmed with the realization that I actually felt more LOVE for this human being then I did 365 days ago when I became his wife. Tears came down my cheeks. How is that possible? What if my love for him continued to grow like that each year? I lost my breath for a moment. Surely my heart would break, burst, it would be so full. What about when he leaves this earth? My heart will shatter for sure. I lost my breath again, this time in quiet sobs.

"What if I just stopped myself from loving him? That could prevent the pain," I thought. I knew I could do that, I've done that most of my life. I've run from the real deep love, fortified myself behind an invisible wall, only allowing in as much love as I could take losing. But then, what would our marriage be like? Our lives would be dull, without the vibrance that accompanies vulnerability. And I want that vibrant, rich, deep, joyful, ever- expanding love, so I will simply have to bear the pain that can come with that. I choose deep love. I want to spend everyday finding more ways to love him. More ways to enrich his life. More ways to be love for him. And then suddenly, it's clear: I know exactly how I want to spend our one-year anniversary and every one after- I want to renew our vows every year❤️🙏🏻✨

Then, of course, and just as suddenly I cannot wait for Simon to wake up- to tell him how MUCH I LOVE him and what I want us to do today. As if on cue, he begins to stir. Through tears I tell him my thoughts and desire. He loves it and we make a plan to renew our vows that night on the beach at sunset. We agree that every year, NO MATTER WHAT, we will take the time on our anniversary to renew our vows. This vow, to vow, actually makes us feel more bonded then we were just a moment ago. I feel sparkly and light. It’s like there is music coming out of our hearts as we envision the unfolding of our day.

I reach for my phone to begin actioning our lovely, best-laid plans of dinner reservations and sunsets, and just like that, the musical notes dancing around us fall to ground. The world goes quiet as I listen to a voicemail from my mother's assisted-living facility. They found her on the floor laying in her own blood and urine, with a massive and deep laceration on her leg, smaller ones on her face. Her face and head are swollen and bruised. She is conscious and complaining of neck and head pain, back pain, hip and thigh pain, and is overall disoriented. My mother also suffers from dementia, which further complicates matters.

Off we go.

As we close the door behind us it’s as if we are walking away from the best party we've ever been to, and don’t want to leave early.

I’ll cut to the chase here so you’re not worried about my mom, and so I can move on to the punchline abut “how I knew I married the right man 1 year & two days ago”. After 8 hours in the ER, running every test under the sun (or so it seemed), we learn she did not have a single broken bone in her body, nor any head or brain damage, just a ton of bruising and 37 stitches on the laceration on her leg.

Simon stayed with us the entire time. He never asked to leave to go surfing, although I know he was jonesing for it. He never asked if he could leave to go watch the World Cup, but I know he itching to do it. When I told him he could (multiple times) his response was the same. “Where will you be?”

Me: “Here”

Simon: “Then that’s where I’ll be."

He did relent to leaving the room when they performed the stitches- which took over an hour! I watched every single one, I needed to see it. Somehow it comforted me, made me feel like I was more in control by seeing and knowing. As if, as unexpected and chaotic as the day had been, seeing each physical, tangible stitch could ground me. I couldn't perform them myself, but I could be there, hold my mother's hand and sooth her.

When they give us the word they are admitting her overnight, Simon mentions something about “we can still make our sunset and dinner celebration." Poor guy. He doesn’t realize that there is no chance I am leaving my mother. In addition to her endless list of illnesses, she has severe anxiety, I’m really the only one that can calm her. When I break the news to him, he looks like I just stole Christmas. Then I pour acid on the wound, no better time then now; "I need you to drive home to Manhattan Beach and bring back overnight supplies, feed Metta..." My heart sinks a little with the realization that he is carrying the entire burden for us today. He is my oak tree, and like an oak tree I watch as he digs deep and stands strong for me and my mom. Off he goes without complaint to take care of his women’s needs.

Yes still not The Why, I know I married the right guy 365 days ago- sometimes I can be dense.

He messages me before he heads back to us. It’s now after 8PM. “On my way, be ready.” Ready for what, I wonder?

When he arrives, he hands me my supplies and a huge hug. He takes my hand and says “Come on, we have vows to renew." I am about to dig my heels in and scream “I cannot l leave her." I know that my mother's illnesses, combined with her anxiety and the extraordinary stress of the day, will only exacerbate her dementia. But he simply, gently, takes my hand and leads me from the room. Simon is on a mission I can feel it with each step.

We stop in front of the hospital chapel and he says, “We made a promise this morning to ‘no matter what renew our vows each year.’ We have a few hours left, let’s do this. No matter what."

He leads me to the alter, and on our knees and through sobbing tears (mine, anyway) we renew our vows. Every word seemed even more poignant, as if it were the first time I heard them. Indeed, maybe I was deaf the first time I heard them. The day couldn't have required the living embodiment of them more.

Simon made my dream come true. He didn’t take the easy road, he went the extra miles to make sure my needs and dreams were taken care of, he stuck by and kept me accountable to my commitments “no matter what” we said.

Certainly, my mother being in the hospital would have been reason enough to reschedule or abandon our plans, but in some ways, our love, and to the promise we made each other, was demonstrated more beautifully in that moment than any sunset could have captured. And THAT'S why.

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