Twelve years ago I said “I do” in front of a big oak tree that had likely been growing roots on our ranch for close to 80 years. I stood beside a twenty-three year old man who I’d known since I was twelve years old, I held his hand and I made a promise to stand by him…in sickness and in health. For better or for worse.
At twenty-two years old, with the world and the big open road stretched out before us, we didn’t know the weight those promises would carry as they played out in the every day hours of our lives together. How could we? We were just kids, thinking we knew what love was. Thinking, perhaps, the sentiment itself would carry us.
“You may not remember the time you let me go first. Or the time you dropped back to tell me it wasn’t that far to go. Or the time you waited at the crossroads for me to catch up. You may not remember any of those, but I do and this what I have to say to you: today, no matter what it takes, we ride home together.” –Brian Andreas
I had this quote on table settings at our wedding that day along with a picture of that oak tree with those deep roots. We were on the cusp of starting our real, grownup life together with so much history already behind us, and it meant something to me then because it spoke to the “sticking it out” part of our relationship, the belonging together, best friend part that I didn’t know at the time would pull me through all of the darkest moments of my life.
Turns out what pulls me through looks nothing like the big speeches you see in romantic movies or prime time drama. Never once has my husband rushed to stop me at the airport. In fact, in all of our fights, rarely has he come running after me at all, even when that’s what I thought I wanted. No. Love, when it settles in, becomes much less dramatic than that.
This week we sat in the doctor’s office with both our children, my husband holding the three-year-old and me with the baby on my lap. And just as the doctor announced that the one-year-old had a double ear infection, our three-year old threw up. If my husband hadn’t been there holding her, that puke would have landed on me or the floor or the doctor and it all would have been fine, but it would have been harder.
But he was there, to grab the barf bag and tell her it was going to be ok. Which made me feel like we all were going to be ok.
Romantic? No. Not really. But that’s it right there.
When we were so young, we didn’t know about the trenches. We didn’t know what it felt like, looked like.
We didn’t know about the infertility, ailing parents, the house fire, home construction, job loss, long hours, big bills or the reality of parenting that would eventually come our way.
We knew we loved each other, but we didn’t realize how much we might come to depend on the other to ease the burden of the hard stuff. The messy stuff. The sickness that goes along with the health.
The worse that always comes with the better.
And I guess that’s what I’m trying to say about love and what I think it looks like now. It looks like countless little fumbles and glitches that make up our challenges. It looks like arguments turned to apologies. It looks like deep breaths and calmly making homemade soup between the pukes and the cries and the chaos. It’s Theraflu waiting for you on the nightstand when you get sick too and knowing if he says he will, he will.
And it’s waiting.
Catching up. Holding on and making roots to help you both survive the years, and the storms that come with love.
Just like that oak tree.