I woke up early this morning and am sitting in my beautiful sunroom, drinking a mug of tea, gazing out on our pretty back yard, recalling this day, 12 years ago. Another stunning late spring morning.
Twelve years ago, I was up early to paint my fingernails and have my makeup done by a friend and travel to my hairdresser’s house to get my hair put up. I slipped into a beautiful J.Crew dress and traveled the few blocks to my then-church where I walked down the aisle and married Dr Marry in an intimate, simple ceremony with 13 precious people in attendance. Twelve-year old Quinn played Bach on his violin with my mother on the piano, and we took family vows in addition to the vows we said to each other.
And we came home to celebrate with friends and family in our back yard on that picture-perfect day, and it was exactly what I wanted once I decided I did want to get married.
And those vows rang through my head over the years: to have and to hold, from this day forward. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health.
If you had asked me leading up to our wedding day if I was thinking seriously about those vows, I would have said no. After all, how often do we really think about anything that is basically rote? “The Pledge of Allegiance?” “The Lord’s Prayer?” “Happy Birthday?” I don’t remember having any special feeling about them as I said them out loud and heard them said to me either.
And I also didn’t feel any differently about Dr Marry or my commitment to him after we were legally married. I didn’t love him more; I didn’t feel more bound to him than I had in the nearly seven years leading up to our marriage. It was just a beautifully orchestrated event at the time.
But over the years, particularly as things started to erode in our marriage for reasons it took me way too long to understand, I held on to those vows. Not really the words, per se, but the outcome of uttering them out loud in front of our family and someone with power to transform my legal status from single to married. I held on to the idea that I had made a commitment to this other person, and I was serious about that commitment. As serious as I was about making the commitment to becoming Quinn’s mother—another moment that wasn’t an absolute given in my life, but rather a choice I finally came to with the assistance of an angel and a premature arrival.
One of my ongoing intersections, an element of me that is both a strength and a weakness, is that I simply don’t give up. I hold fast to the people and things I commit to—sometimes to my detriment; maybe sometimes to the detriment of them, too.
I was dogged in my efforts to revive Dr Marry, to recover the man I had married. And I stayed with him when there was little reason to stay beyond the fact that I had made this commitment to him, to us. *And I just believed with all my being that somehow I could trigger something and remind him of what we had had, of who he and we had been. And I held on for years like this, getting nowhere but continuing to hope in spite of how hopeless it often felt.
And then Dr Marry’s body gave him the opportunity to come back to the land of the living by nearly dying from the alcohol that was drowning him from the inside out three and a half years ago. And I began to see the man I had first met, the man who had intrigued me, delighted me, challenged me, courted me and won my heart.
And I have been grateful every day since he came home from treatment that I was so dogged in my commitment to those vows and to him and us. We lived through the poorer and sickness, and we are on the other side, and it is glorious and I truly do still wake up every day filled with gratitude because he’s even more fabulous today than he was when we met, and our relationship was never this good, this grounded, this joy-filled.
So today I sit in my sunroom, overlooking the yard where we happily celebrated making this commitment to each other 12 years ago, and think, as I often have done in these past three years, what if I hadn’t held on? What if I had never known that life and love can be like this? Who would I be today if I had given up on us or if Dr Marry had died instead of recovered?
I don’t have answers for what others should do if they are in the dark place Dr Marry and I were—that’s for each person to decide individually, but I am so grateful for those vows. They tethered me to a commitment like nothing else could have, and in this particular case, I firmly believe we will be together “til death do us part.” And my fervent hope is that we have years and years of more May 31sts to enjoy and celebrate together.
*It’s important to note, if you haven’t read our journey, that you understand that in actuality, no one can save another person from addiction; that can only come from within. I absolutely did not save Dr Marry from his alcoholism, and nothing I did ever really worked because he wasn’t ready to let it go. What an important, and challenging, lesson for me to learn!
Photo credit: Tamara Weets