I used to watch soap operas with my mom. It was one of our things to do – especially on long, hot summer afternoons. We loved to see the storylines unfold – the drama, the heartache, the exhilarating romance! In those days before we had the ability to videotape or DVR the programs, mom would record the shows on a cassette player for me when I went back to school so I could still listen to what was happening on the show. I didn’t want to miss a bit of what Danny and Tracy were talking about on the Young and the Restless, or what Bo and Hope were up to on Days of our Lives.
I learned about love from these shows – well, about a version of love. Love was: roses, stolen glances, passionate kisses, dancing close, oftentimes the woman being rescued by a handsome man, music rising, the fervor of twisted bedsheets. Love was to be transported to a different time and place – a place of beauty and perfection.
However, if I wanted to notice love, I would have been better served by turning my attention away from the television and paying attention to my own mom and dad. There was little of fluff and romance in their life together – but there was plenty of real love. Mom caring for dad as he suffered decades of illness. Sticking together for 52 years. Raising a family together. Enduring near poverty conditions. Staying true to each other and being one another’s support and helpmate through times when there was nothing in the cupboards, when their kids disappointed them, when dad got hooked on his prescription meds and needed to get help, when they were swindled out of the tiny bit of savings they had managed to accrue. There was joy, too – but most of it did not come because the life they had been handed was easy. They worked hard to make life good for each other even when the circumstances were not so good.
It’s not surprising I preferred the soap opera version of love. It looked so much more interesting and inviting than the love I saw in my own home.
Today is my husband and my 16th wedding anniversary…and over these years, I’ve come to see how the soap opera kind of love is paper thin. It is like papier mache – it might be fashioned to look like something beautiful, but one hard blow and it is ruined.
Stolen glances are thrilling, but you really can’t build a life on them.
Passionate kisses are great – but even better is knowing that Chad will run to the store to get 7-up when I’m recovering from stomach flu.
Dancing close – well, we tried to take dancing lessons before our wedding. I think it is so great some couples love to dance together. We are not that couple.
The woman being rescued by the handsome man? Chad is handsome, but I think we pretty much take turns rescuing each other.
Music rising and twisted bed sheets? These things are good – but what really thrills me is coming home and seeing that Chad has made the kids help him do the laundry AND the dishes. Now THAT is sexy.
After sixteen years, I love my husband more than words can say, but I’m thankful for our life together in ways that I never could have understood a couple decades ago.
I’m thankful to share my life with the person I have been most angry with. He also happens to be the person I have laughed the hardest with.
I’m thankful to share my life with the person who has stood next to me during the most immense times – the deaths of our parents, the births of our children. He held a little dish for me to throw up in the day Owen was born. I was having a terrible reaction to some meds and I was in the middle of the C-section – my arms strapped down – so when the huge wave of nausea hit, he held the little dish while I heaved up whatever was in my stomach. I was mortified…but I was also acutely aware of the true love and tenderness of that moment. Chad may not have ever held up a stereo to play a song for me out my window like John Cusack in “Say Anything” or run after my departing airplane like Ryan Reynolds did for Sandra Bullock in “The Proposal” – but he did hold a little dish for me when I was throwing up. Loving gestures come in all shapes and forms.
I’m thankful to share my life with someone who sees things very differently than I do. His irreverent, sharp, practical perspective is invaluable to me.
I’m thankful he is good at fixing things, can help me lift the heavy things. Sometimes he drives me places when the roads are icy – I love that.
I’m thankful he is a good cook…and he can always fend for himself if he doesn’t want to eat what I have cooked.
I’m thankful he has never failed even once to encourage me in something I wanted to do – except for the time when I was distinctly caught up in baby fever and thinking three children would be even nicer than two. At the time we already had two children under the age of two and neither of us had slept for months. That was the only time in our marriage he said a decisive and final, “no.”
I’m thankful that he is plentiful with “I love yous”. Even when we are both dead tired, or peeved at each other, or running in a thousand different directions, he says, “I love you.”
Sixteen years. It’s not a soap opera romance. It is real and gritty and imperfect. It is dear and true and treasured. My heart is full.
Happy Anniversary, Chad.