Sixteen years ago, my father walked me down the aisle, whispering in my ear twice that I could turn around and run away. He promised that he wouldn't get mad, not even a little bit.
He was kidding. Sort of.
I didn't run.
We were both 21. Young. Naive.
We were the picture of all the hope and optimism that the future could ever hold. We had magnificent plans for the life we would live. We knew, we just knew, that things would be a certain way. We were so sure of ourselves, of our relationship, of it all.
That first year was interesting, adjusting to life with one another. Settling in to routines, becoming accustomed to the idea that we had a spouse now.
It came easy, really, at first. We'd been together already for so many years that there weren't many surprises. There weren't any large and looming secrets to be revealed. We already knew about the quirks of the other, we already had a pretty good idea about who they were. Who we were.
Or so we thought.
Then cancer showed up, and when cancer shows up, everything changes. When cancer shows up and changes everything, especially when you're 22 and still firmly entrenched in the newness of marriage, it changes more than you even appreciate at the time.
It changes the big things, the little things, the things you can understand and the things that won't make their way to the surface, gasping for breath for years yet.
We grew. We regressed. We panicked. We softened. We weakened.
Then we added children. The children we were told wouldn't come. The children we weren't supposed to have.
And children brought many things with them, more similar to the changes that cancer brought than different.
They changed things. They changed everything.
Cancer, children. Once they enter your life, there's no going back. You are past the point of no return. You may never again be the person you were before.
Some of the ways that they change you are good, hopefully most of them are.
We were busy. Distracted. Disconnected.
So busy that we were just going through the motions.
We lost our way back to one another, until we found it again.
That losing and finding, the process of it all, unplanned and unscripted of course because this was never supposed to happen to us. We were different, or so we thought.
You don't anticipate that one day you'll be in that place, certainly not when you are young and blissfully in love and naive about what the future will hold and walking down that aisle to a hopeful life.
And then one day, you're there, wondering what happened.
These are the things no one warns you about.
The lessons learned in the last few years, some of the most important in our personal history, both as individuals and as a couple.
They are the lessons that put us back together. That solidified the bonds we thought were unbreakable. We know now, because of cancer, because of everything else, that we aren't invincible. Our physical beings are not the only vulnerabilities. Our relationship won't sustain itself in any self perpetuating way like we thought it would. We have to do it.
There is power in that realization though, because it forces accountability. It demands effort. It mandates engagement.
We know we can't let our guards down. We know we can't become complacent. We know this now.
And because of it all, this marriage that we're in now is a conscious choice on a level that we couldn't possibly have conceived of before.
It's bigger. It's more. It's deeper. It's real.
It isn't grounded in illusions and irrational hopes and dreams anymore.
And it is better.
It's fitting to be here, in this place now, with this many years and this many experiences folded into the story of our past.
It's fitting to be at this particular year now, the sixteenth. The one generally associated in the lives of adolescents as the year they are able to finally drive. The year that they can finally take the wheel in their hands.
We've been married sixteen years.
We've finally learned the lessons. We finally know what we're doing. We finally know where the dangers are and how to avoid them. We finally know how to drive this thing.
Happy anniversary, Mr. Hive. I love you. I love us.
I love this, right here and right now.
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