Last week, Mike and I celebrated 24 years of marriage.
We’ve never been ones to really jump on the train of public declarations that start with things like, “24 years ago, I married my best friend”… in equal parts because it’s just not us; because it seems somewhat strange and.. insecure, maybe?… to paint a public, rosy, perfect picture about something that is private (and also, if anyone’s been honest, not at all rosy or perfect); and because we find it all sort of nauseating. Nauseating too strong? Annoying. We find it a little annoying.
Still, it’s been 24 years – which is twice as long as 12, and just one shy of 25 – so I thought it deserved a little more than a passing mention. Not of the, “I married my best friend” ilk, but the real-life variety: where people fart and pets die and you live through a wheel flying off your car at 75 mph on the highway.
Here’s just a small, uncensored sample of what 24 years of marriage has really looked liked (one for each year of wedded bliss, plus one more for good measure):
1. Working a combined 3, 4 and at times even 5 jobs to put food on the table and keep the lights on
2. Spending a summer living in a camper (with a toddler) at a long-term campground so you could save up enough money to buy a house. Living with no running water for 9 long months at said house, because your well runs dry and you can’t afford to have a new one drilled.
3. A dog that got into so many non-edible “foods”, and caused so much trouble, that you could fill a book with her vomit stories alone. And… crying together in the vet’s parking lot after you had to have said dog put to sleep.
4. And speaking of pets: gently and compassionately and respectfully dealing with your wife’s cat’s body (a cat you hated with a passion) after it died in her arms
5. Staying up all night with crying kids and puking kids and middle-of-the-night sheet changes
6. Dealing with cancer scares, and shoulder surgeries, and kidney stents and 5 day hospital stays (when you have a newborn baby, no less.)
7. Sometimes going to bed angry, because despite the oft-touted rule of marriage that says, “Never go to bed angry”, sometimes in the real world… you just go to bed angry.
8. Occasionally justified and often ridiculous fighting about pets, and about politics, and about asparagus. Getting to practice, again and again, the art of “I’m sorry.”
9. Wading through four pregnancies…. two fairly text book, one with hyperemesis gravidarum (and its accompanying 9 months of vomiting and weight loss), and one with a self-destructive gall bladder and too many ER visits to count.
10. Camping trips and upscale vacations to beautiful places like Bryce Canyon and Pagosa Springs, Colorado… that are mostly spent indoors because all four of your kids come down with stomach bugs. Can I just stop right here and note the fact that 4 of the first nine points had to do with vomit??
11. Hurting when your kids hurt, and wishing you could do anything – anything – to take away their pain
12. Navigating the tricky path, and the highs and the lows and the really really low lows, that comes with a spouse with mental illness.
13. Broken appliances, broken cars, and leaky roofs… sometimes all in the same week.
14. Middle-of-the-work-day phone calls to tell you that your spouse has heroically saved a stray dog from certain danger, and that he’d stay just long enough to find his owner, and that, oh, by-the-by, his owner still wouldn’t be found three years later.
15. Getting talked into getting a cat (and while you hate most pets, you particularly hate cats), and dogs and chickens and rats and snakes and fish and mice and hedgehogs…..
16. Not realizing until after you’re married that you’re pretty much polar opposites… in politics, in personality (a very strong thinker, and a very strong feeler), in strengths and weaknesses (numbers and words, puzzles and ideas, practicality and creativity). And yeah, have I mentioned the pet thing?
17. Dealing with an extended family who thinks you’re utterly crazy for making the decision to homeschool, at which point you realize that your differences, those strengths and weaknesses, actually work very well together, and fit together like pieces of a puzzle … a sensible, creative, beautiful mess of a puzzle.
18. Making the even crazier decision to uproot your family and move across the country, only to find that despite the ups and downs, hard days and really hard days, that Phoenix makes you happier than any other place you’ve ever lived, by a factor of a hundred.
19. Making yet another crazy decision to start a homeschooling conference together, and again being pleasantly surprised at the ease of which you collaborate together, even four years in.
20. The red wine and Fireball incident.
21. Living through car accidents, rip tides, getting straight-up-lost in the middle of a mountain hiking trip, and the aforementioned red wine and Fireball incident.
22. Spending your anniversary at home, eating take-out, because one spouse just wasn’t up to going out… and being okay with it.
23. 24 Christmases, and 24 Thanksgivings (there was some vomit involved there, too), and 24 years of birthdays … 24 years of regular days and quiet days and boring days … 24 years of vacations and road trips and sporting events and rock concerts and movies … 20 years of celebrating and enjoying and rooting for your kids … 20 years of scouts and football and t-ball and basketball and gymnastics and dance and theater….
24. 20 years of collectively raising and watching and loving four gorgeous humans so much that it actually physically hurts.
25. Knowing, in your heart of hearts, in the deepest part of your soul… that you wouldn’t change a thing.