I’m more excited today than I was the day of my wedding.
Sure, wedding days are stressful. I walked through that day focused on setup and my kids and trying to stay warm at an outdoor wedding in April in Chicago, wearing sleeveless dress over long underwear bottoms. There’s the inevitable anxiety over family and extended family, seeing guests you haven’t seen in years, and those vows you labored over, vows I’m embarrassed to admit I have long forgotten.
That day was everything to me, the realization of a dream I first had at 14, when Tim held my hand and walked with me along a river bank and we went steady for six months. One of the last times we were together as a couple in high school, I had a vision of us as adults; I looked at teenage Tim and saw adult Tim looking back at me, with graying hair and mature face, and there were children. It was just a flash, but I saw it so clearly; in our adult lives, we would be a family.
It took 20 years for that dream to come true. I had given up on the dream along the way, and for good reason; we’d both married other people, had kids, lived in different states, hundreds of miles apart. We were on separate paths, and it appeared permanent. What I saw must have been an adolescent fantasy. That’s all.
Our wedding day, then, was the culmination of years of longing and heartbreak and heart mending. It was an achievement, overcoming some discouraging hurdles and roadblocks and determined adversaries. It was The Day, despite the stress of the wedding and families.
But today is different.
Today, Tim comes home on an 11 p.m. flight from Albany, New York. Today, Tim brings home his winter clothes and summer clothes and the blue casserole dish he’s been using to make mac and cheese and pasta bake, the dish he bought because he knew I’d like it. Today, he packs up the inflata-bed on which he’s been sleeping for 18 months, stuffs it into the last available space in his overused luggage, and gets on a plane. Six hours later, he will be home. In our bed.
What we will do from this point forward isn’t clear. We don’t have all the pieces in place. The ground is shifting under our feet in many directions, but we’ve decided that, whatever comes, we’ll take it on together. It may be the job he’s being considered for, or a different job. It may be a new job for me, or a different path altogether.
But we’re finished with the long-distance portion of our marriage. Tonight, we start the next chapter.
The last two years have been trying, but not impossible. Tim’s job loss, my father’s death, Tim’s move to NY, our second cat dying, the election and subsequent turmoil, the snow and ice of last winter here in Portland, moving out of Landslide Central, upheaval at work, all heightened by the stretched out time between us.
But our distance helped us focus energy on our relationship in ways we never had before. Even though we had lived apart twice before for long stretches, this time was different. Now, our kids are grown, and our individual differences are more apparent. There’s no longer heft to the idea of staying together “for the kids”. Long before he left, we had reached that time in many marriages when people look at each other and say “Now what do we do?” We answered that question with some pretty intense discussions, a deep dive into couples’ counseling, and bareknuckle fights with our own individual demons.
When he left, we made some conscious decisions about how we would interact, how to connect and stay connected. Much of it involved sacrifice on his part; flying home once every six weeks, sleeping on the godforsaken floor in a godforsaken state across the godforsaken country (my words, not his). Some of it was just good fun, like watching movies or going on a Netflix binge together, chatting online with each other. Tim found a platform on which we can privately share conversations with no distractions; no Facebook interference, no other chat buddies tapping your screen for attention, just US, and our goofy thoughts and pictures and links. We stayed in contact all our waking hours, and during the times one or the other of us was asleep, we’d send material for the other person to see when they got up.
He became my constant companion in a wholly different way. In person, his presence is magnetic, intense and irresistible, and I have often been overwhelmed. This distance forced us into parity, our physical presence removed, our connection reliant instead on my native talent; words. By leaving my side, Tim was able to enter my realm of language, to meet me in the place where I have power equal to his. He listens in a whole new way, and I have discovered my Tim-specific verbal potential. This eighteen months has been a potent equalizer.
When he comes home tonight, we will come together as very different people; closer, mentally entwined, and practiced in the art of seeing each others’ emotional needs. Distance gave us that perspective, and I see and feel him differently now. And I’m even more protective than before.
When he walks off that plane, I’ll melt into a puddle of relief and joy. I’m sure we’ll embarrass the people around us with our effusive greeting. And we’ll walk out of the familiar airport that’s become the scene of far too many of our tearful goodbyes, and we’ll head into the plans and dreams and goals we have rearranged in our imagined potential space.
We’ve been kids playing with a big empty dollhouse, planning each room, discussing how we want the life within to look and feel. Our lives before had so many immovable pieces; kids, family, jobs, commitments. Now, we get to choose what goes into our life. The only two certainties are him and me. Well, three, including the dog.
Tonight, we start living in the next chapter.
Only 13 hours to go.