Unseen by me, Paul had been reaching around to unlock the back door of the sedan so he could slide in a basket of food that had been thoughtfully prepared for the long drive ahead of us. He saw me grab the door handle, and he moved quickly—but not quickly enough. When he pulled his arm back, there was a long, deep gash across the last three fingers of his right hand.
Everyone thinks these glistening eyes are welled up with tears of emotion:
Had I been thinking beyond the tin cans tied to our bumper or our honeymoon plans in Eureka Springs, I might have recognized the metaphor when it happened. Because the eleven years since that moment have been mostly one long, amazing wedding day for us—but with a few smashed fingers along the way.
I’ve already told you some of the things I love about Paul; what else can I say?
At eleven years, we’ve outlasted most celebrity marriages, but we’re still “the kids” to my parents, who have been married for 35 years, and to my grandparents, who have spent over half a century perfecting the art of living, laughing, and sharing the blankets with each other. They still can’t navigate their way around a street map without getting into an argument, but even when they are calling each other’s visual-spatial intelligence into question, the love is clearly there.
At eleven years, we’ve slogged through swamps of misunderstanding, and danced through easy meadow days, when everything around us seemed gilded with sunlight and I expected at any moment to hear a Disney princess burst into song in the background. We’ve been happy; we’ve been terrified; we’ve been hopeful; we’ve been giddy. I’ve hurt Paul and he’s hurt me, but underneath and forever, we recognize that we are on the same team, and the Coach of that team keeps us pulling together in the same direction.
At eleven years, we finish each other’s sentences, and laugh at the same jokes, and a single phrase can evoke a richly detailed memory of some shared experience (like this one: “must be an old fart.”) At least once a day I open my mouth to say something and find the words already hanging in the air, uttered a split second earlier by the guy sitting next to me. It’s a little disconcerting to have someone around who is so intimately acquainted with your brain’s little vagaries, but it’s comforting, too. Who doesn’t yearn to be truly known, and loved for the good and the bad and the weird together?
At eleven years, I am still madly in love with the man I married—with his goofy jokes and his morning breath and his thoughtful gifts and his changing moods. I love his generous spirit. I love hearing him pray. I love the moment when he comes home from work. I love watching him play with our kids. I love his concern for others. I love that he spends time every day on the care and feeding of my heart, and it makes me want to take care of his.
I wrote this sometime during the first year of our marriage:
Crossed over once more
into his strange country
hacking through the underbrush
of my own point of view
fighting the strangling weeds
of fear and self-concern
to stand at last on his mountain
seeing clearly again
free from the vines
the path between two hearts
At eleven years, constant trips back and forth have trampled down the underbrush and strangling weeds, but the path between two hearts requires constant maintenance. Fortunately, we’re becoming better gardeners every day.
Thank you for eleven wonderful years, Paul!
I love you.