Looks Like This Will Probably Work Out

Today, Bob and I celebrated thirteen years of marriage.

IMG_3480

Recently, Bob told me that the way I brush my teeth is absolutely ridiculous and super duper annoys him. Something about how I use too much toothpaste? So it creates too much toothpaste foam? I’m not really sure. I was too busy brushing my teeth when he was trying to explain to me how the way I brush my teeth is silly.

If the traditional gift for ten years of marriage is stainless steel or paper or something, it would appear the traditional gift for thirteen years of marriage is some sort of Airing of Grievances. Which, I’m not so sure is a road Bob wants to travel down.

So now, of course, I try to purposefully brush my teeth when Bob is in close proximity because spite is ALSO a way to celebrate thirteen years of marriage.

Obviously, the flame of our love still shines bright.

IMG_3517

Bob and I were married at this kind of fancy resort in Pennsylvania picked sight unseen solely for its location halfway between my family in the Midwest and Bob’s family in the Northeast. It was a perfectly lovely place but the resort’s execution of our event was fraught with problems, errors, and omissions.

I remember explaining to the hotel’s coordinator that the one thing – ONE THING – I wished for my wedding was for Bob not to see me in my dress before I walked down the aisle. It’s such a ridiculous tradition but it was my one thing. I cared not about any of the other things. “Not a problem,” she said. I rode the elevator with my father to the rooftop terrace where the ceremony was taking place thinking that Bob was already down the aisle. So, of course, when the elevator doors opened, there was Bob and his best man looking surprised to see me and totally confused about where they were supposed to be at that very moment. I remember uttering an expletive (classy!) loud enough that I was worried the guests had overheard. I’m pretty sure my father has blocked that part out. The part where he walked his dainty, lady-like, cursing-like-a-sailor daughter down the aisle.

There were so many other things that went wrong that day. A problem at each step of the way. From rehearsal to ceremony to reception. Whenever I tell people about how the hotel forgot to bake our wedding cake, how the catering captain pulled me aside after the reception began to tell me that there was (oops!) no cake, they assume that that was the worst part of our wedding day. But, it wasn’t. Nothing that went wrong that day was more egregious than the anticlimactic moment when those elevator doors opened and Bob was standing right there.

It’s funny because I knew, even as I was planning our wedding, that it was not the wedding I wanted. My ideal wedding was always one where we have our family and friends over for dinner and then get married somewhere between the appetizers and the entree. When my cheeks are rosy from the wine. Simple. Not fussy. There doesn’t even have to be cake.

So, at some point in the years since our hilariously hiccup-riddled wedding, Bob and I started talking about having another wedding. A different wedding. Something that was more… “us.” Maybe for our fifteenth anniversary. Or, our twentieth. I’d like to celebrate our union anew.

That is, if this whole teeth brushing thing doesn’t tear us apart.

IMG_3481

Six months into our marriage, I was pregnant with Henry so for most of the past thirteen years, our lives have been all about raising babies and toddlers and kids. Parenthood is all consuming and tiring and makes you forget why you got married in the first place.

But, now that our youngest child is in school full-time, Bob and I have been spending lots of time together. We’ve managed to meet up for lunch on occasion. Or, go swimming or hiking together. Sometimes, we just lounge about the house sshhhing the other person when they start to speak, lest it ruin the sweet silence of a (temporarily) kid-free home.

In a way, it feels like we’ve crested a parenthood peak and found each other on the other side. The kids and the noise and the chaos and the mayhem are still there but no one is in diapers anymore and everyone is sleeping through the night. It feels like there’s space for Bob and I – for us – now, too.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that we actually still have things to talk about. Namely, how I brush my teeth.

Advertisements

One Year Out

The thing about anniversaries is that some anniversaries are really good and celebratory and involve cake and stuff and some anniversaries are bad and make your heart hurt and your stomach fall and encourage you to crawl under the covers for the entirety of the day. Yesterday’s anniversary was the latter. It has been one year since Bob suffered a stroke.

A few months ago, Bob was formally released by his neurologist with the instruction to please, don’t come back. I believe the doctor’s parting words to Bob were, “You were very, very lucky.” Out of the host of physicians caring for Bob, his brain specialist was probably my favorite. Also, his work was the most critical of any of the doctors those first few days. Bob’s neurologist was handed the tricky task of finding the right level of intravenous blood thinner to administer. The blood thinner was meant to thin Bob’s blood just enough to ease flow while reducing the risk of additional clots forming but the medication couldn’t thin it too much or Bob risked bleeding in his brain at the site of the four existing clots. I remember talking to the neurologist in the ICU and him admitting that it was all a risk versus reward equation. The risk of a brain bleed with the reward of preventing clots. It was a fine line and there were no guarantees. Can you IMAGINE having that job? Being responsible for making the call in such a dicey situation? I can’t, but am exceedingly grateful for people gifted with that level of confidence.

I think I’ve worked to bury some of the more stressful memories of that first stint in the hospital, like the possibility of permanent brain damage. But, that’s the thing about anniversaries. The forgotten details tend to bubble to the surface.

IMG_5042

For someone who suffered a stroke twelve months ago, Bob’s recovery has been remarkable. So remarkable, in fact, that we’ve mostly moved past the daily impact his illness had on our lives. For the better part of a year, I’ve asked him several times a day, “How are you feeling?” But, I’ve noticed over the past month or so, that I’ve stopped asking. That’s a tidal shift for me – moving from the assumption that Bob is unwell to the assumption that he is well, unless otherwise informed.

The most lasting impact of Bob’s stroke has been his lingering physical exhaustion. It’s closely tied to the level of chaos and stress surrounding him at home. The part of his brain that was injured seems to be the part that deftly handles noise and mayhem, the type three young children tend to create. Weekends can be exhausting for Bob with the general insanity level of our home, leading to the need to rest at regular intervals. Recently, we ate dinner with dear friends and by the time we arrived at their house, Bob had been subjected to a full day of kids and their incessant demands with no respite. He was mentally taxed and retreated to our host’s basement after we arrived to nap for a bit. (Our friends are awesome and totally understanding and probably wished they could nap at random, too.)

However, even the physical exhaustion seems to be improving recently. One year later and Bob seems to be back running at 100 percent. Well, back to Bob’s version of 100 percent anyway.

IMG_5013

I’m not upset or mad that Bob suffered a stroke. It’s just something that happened to us. I started to move forward almost from the moment it occurred. My goal was to make Bob well, to enact improvement and progress. For everything to be better. To SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. I learned a few lessons along the way, too.

The first being that medical science is inexact. Throughout the past twelve months, I have been consistently surprised at the amount of just… guesswork that goes in to treating sick people. Before Bob’s stroke, I just assumed that, when diagnosed with a problem, for the most part, doctors knew pretty much how to treat that problem. Modern medicine isn’t really like that. There’s still a significant amount of surmising, speculating and theorizing. That’s not a bad thing. It was just unexpected to run into so much shoulder shrugging from so many people with so many advanced degrees. I mistakenly thought doctors had all of the answers. I learned this past year that they don’t, no matter how badly you wish they did.

I also learned that nurses are basically unheralded. We saw nurses more than anyone else during Bob’s hospital stays and almost without exception, they were kind and compassionate. They shared advice and reassurances and anecdotes and survival stories and ensured we had a single room and were just generally really amazing. I ran into Bob’s discharge nurse at Target several months later and although she didn’t remember me when I approached her with words of thanks, she still asked if she could give me a big hug and sent her best wishes to Bob.

This past year proved that while almost everyone knows what to do to help in a crisis, almost no one knows exactly what to say in a crisis. They will undoubtedly say the wrong thing a good percentage of the time. It is inevitable and we should probably accept this as a universal truth and cut everyone some slack. It’s hard to find the right words when someone is suffering and sick. Some people will offer standard platitudes of “everything happens for a reason.” Some people prefer denial and will tell you that “he doesn’t even look sick at all!” Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of… finiteness and will change the subject entirely. Some people don’t know what to say so they won’t say anything at all. This is all okay. Really. WITH ONE EXCEPTION. We need to all agree to ban the practice of telling a sick person a story about this other sick person that they know from work or their cousin’s wedding or their mom’s book club that had a stroke too – “JUST LIKE YOU!” – and was incapacitated for life because of it. Tales of death and despair told to someone facing death and despair is never helpful. We need to work together to knock this off.

While I may have been downtempo and reflective during yesterday’s anniversary, I don’t think Bob was. We didn’t talk about it much actually. He spent the day cleaning up flower beds, giving Cub Cadet rides to the kids and practicing marksmanship with Charlie. Maybe that was Bob’s way of commemorating such a transformative day.

IMG_5159

May happens to also be American Stroke Month. HOW CONVENIENT, people who decide these types of things. Also, I kind of feel like it should be called, “American Stroke Prevention Month,” people who name these types of things. American Stroke Month sounds a little too glamorous. Kind of like something you’d like to catch. Anyway, I had no idea what was happening to Bob the evening he suffered a stroke and described his condition to the 911 operator as a “cardiac event,” since I assumed something in his recovery from the cardiac procedure he had had the day before was causing his problems. She knew better from my description of Bob’s symptoms so the EMTs that responded were therefore ready to treat a stroke victim. Remembering the “FAST” acronym is easy and identifying even MILD symptoms early on can make a huge difference in treatment success.

F.A.S.T.

So, maybe cut this out and paste it to your fridge or something. Do it for Bob and stroke survivors everywhere.

One Decade

Today, Bob and I celebrate ten years of marriage. And, by “celebrate,” I mean Bob is working all day while I shepherd our three children through the school routine and then haul them to an afternoon birthday party where one or more of them will inevitably have a Friday Afternoon Meltdown. Do not ever accuse us of not knowing how to party.

IMG_3514

For our past nine anniversaries, Bob and I, instead of exchanging gifts, have exchanged love letters. (I know. I KNOW. I apologize for the incredible schmoopiness. Especially first thing in the morning. You were probably enjoying a nice breakfast and now I’ve ruined it with all of the romantic love thoughts.)

Anyway, I don’t remember the exact reason we started writing each other love letters. I think it probably had something to do with the fact that I was heavily pregnant with Henry when our first anniversary rolled around and we were, at the time, paying someone an exorbitant amount of money to paint the interior of our home. We probably didn’t want to spend money on gifts. Or, go through the effort of shopping. We’re pretty lazy gift givers so we could have used anything, really, as an excuse.

Regardless of reasoning, we have kept up the letter writing every year since our first anniversary. It has become a lovely habit and something we look forward to as the calendar turns to October. Some years, our notes are lengthy. Some years, they’re short and very sweet. All of the letters capture and summarize our married life during the previous twelve months. They are extremely precious. I hope, one day, our children read them and realize just how deeply their parents cared for and loved one another.

This year, one decade in, I felt our anniversary deserved a little more attention. Ten years is a lot of years and I wanted to do something special to celebrate the longevity of our somewhat unlikely union. So, I made Bob a movie filled with my favorite photographs from the past decade of our marriage. Sort of a twist on our love letter tradition; celebrating with pictures instead of words.

I still put pen to paper and wrote him a love letter though. It states, essentially, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, HERE, ENJOY THIS THING I MADE THAT TOOK UP ALL OF MY HOURS FOR MANY MANY DAYS! CUE SLIDESHOW! (I’m serious, putting this thing together took forever. He better love it and cherish it for all time because I probably should have just written him a letter and called it a day.)

Happy anniversary, Robert. I am so incredibly excited for the next ten.

(And, because my parents will ask, you can click here to view a larger version.)