“Love is complicated. Marriage can be hard. Living together poses challenges. It’s a lot of work. And, nowadays, in the mystical land of social media, you can’t help but feel like you’re always trying to keep up with the fairytale life everybody is posting about. But, listen, I don’t care how many perfectly staged pictures somebody posts, or how many times somebody writes about the #bestdinnerever or how great their kids are or that their husband is the handiest handyman around – everybody has issues once in a while. Everybody.
You might already know my story, or at least how it ends. But you might not know how it started. My husband and I met in high school, back in the 80’s when big hair and pegged jeans were cool. I fell in love with him, his hair and his Levi’s right away. He was my Jake Ryan, John Bender and every other John Hughes character rolled into one. And, boy, did I love him. I never stopped, even after our true love took a 13-year hiatus until we found each other again, got married, blended our families and started one of our own. It was great. It was fun. It was all things amazing.
But the first year sucked.
The first year we were figuring it out. We were finding our roles. We were parenting each other’s kids, dealing with exes. We bought a house. He started a business. We had a ton of stress. We were learning how to be in a relationship as adults. Instead of running out for ice cream like we did when we were kids, we were paying bills. Doing laundry. Cleaning dishes. Sure, there were some good times but as two really strong-minded and stubborn people, we were butting heads. A lot.
And, one day, it exploded.
My husband was a patient man, and before my hysterectomy, I was a full-fledged crazy woman half the time. Okay, most of the time, but whatever. I did, however appreciate it when I did finally have all the lady bits out that about six months later, he noted I was a ‘50% nicer person,’ so on a side note, ladies, if you’re done having kids and you’re crazy, maybe consider that option. It’s cheaper than therapy in the long run. I am a very content member of the ‘Happy Hysterectomy Club.’
Anyway, back to this. Who knows what we were fighting about on this particular day. I just remember I was about seven months pregnant and whatever he did that day pissed me off. Maybe it was him breathing. Maybe it was the way he slurped his coffee. I have no idea because I was cursed by raging hormones. All the man was doing was getting ready for work. But, in my ridiculousness, I told him I wanted his ring.
He must’ve had enough, because he handed it to me, and calmly walked out to his car to go to work. You think I was satisfied because he complied with my command?
Oh, hell no. I did what every non-reasonable, pregnant, insane woman would do.
I followed him. Oh yes, I waddled after him, appalled that he would give me his ring, even though I demanded it. But, by the time I caught up to him, he was already in his car, pulling away. So, I did the next most non-reasonable thing I could think of in that moment.
I threw it at the car.
The shock on his face was priceless as it hit the windshield and bounced off, rolling down the hill that we lived on. He drove away shaking his head while I held my pregnant belly in my hands chasing after the piece of platinum spinning down the asphalt to who knows where. There were a million words coming out of my mouth, but the most significant thing I remember was asking myself over and over, “what did you do?”
I made it to the end of the driveway, then to the road and down the hill, and it was gone. It was nowhere to be found. It literally disappeared. I looked and looked and looked. And, as I walked back up the hill, I realized there was a gutter, with a drop off at least eight feet down. I fell to my knees and looked in. It was dark. I couldn’t see. I had visions of ‘IT’ reaching out to me to pull me down, but I knew in that moment I would rather have a death by clown than tell him his ring was floating out to sea. I had to do something. I had to act fast.
I wobbled back up to the house and grabbed the phone. I thought about calling 9-1-1. I thought about calling him. But, instead, I called the city, all the while trying to compose my thoughts as the phone rang. I was ready to admit what a horrible person I was to the person who answered. I was ready to confess my sins. I was ready to tell them how stupid I was. Until they picked up.
My confidence dumped. My adrenaline took over. My voice increased by five octaves.
‘Um, yes. Hi. So, I have a problem.’
‘What’s that, ma’am?’ At least the lady on the other line sounded interested.
‘Um, well…’ I stammered. Think of something to say. Think. Hurry up. ‘You see, my husband was leaving for work and he forgot his wedding ring. So, I ran it out there and he was putting is on, and he dropped it.’ I face palmed myself. I sounded like an idiot. ‘Anyway, it rolled down the hill and I think it’s in the gutter.’
‘He dropped it?,’ she asked, unbelievingly.
Oh, please lady, please just let me out of my personal hell. I pursed my lips, closed my eyes and wrenched my face. I should just tell her the truth. She would understand, right? She’s probably married. Maybe she’s pregnant. I clenched my fist and quietly pumped it in the air. ‘Yes, ma’am. Slippery little thing.’ Long pause. ‘Hello?’
‘Uh-huh. Well, I will get somebody out there to see what we can do.’
‘Thank you.’ Click.
I couldn’t wait inside. For the first time in my 210 days in pregnancy, I wasn’t hungry. I was panicked. My husband’s wedding ring was surely on its way to the Pacific Ocean and there was nothing I could do about it. I toddled myself back out to the street and looked again. I went back to the gutter, to the scene of the crime and tried to crouch down. I wanted to lay down and look, just reach in, even though I knew I would never be able to get my arm in that far, not to mention there was no way I could lay on my basketball stomach. But it didn’t stop me. No, I was going to rip off the safety gate and squeeze in there. I could see a ladder inside. If I could just get on my side and scooch in, maybe I would fit. I had to try.
In my cute maternity dress, I laid down on my side, and pulled my way over. I knew I wouldn’t fit, but it wasn’t until a worker from a construction crew next door walked up and asked if I needed help that I realized that the idiot in me had taken over my life. I got up. Rubbed my hands on my skirt. I was ready to admit defeat. That was, until I looked past him, and a sparkle caught my eye under the tire of his truck. Oh, thank you construction man, thank you! Thank you for parking your truck right there, and that moment, and catching the ring under your tire. He had no idea why this pregnant woman was clapping and squealing in delight, but my best guess was that he had a wife, too, and learned long ago not to ask questions. I ran and picked it up, held it in my hand and then to my heart vowing never to throw it at my husband again.
A week or so later, when my husband was finally speaking to me again, I apologized profusely and begged for his forgiveness. He smiled, leaned forward in his chair and took my hands in his. I asked him how he could be so nice to me after I was a wretch to him. He laughed a little, gave me a crooked grin and responded.
‘I choose to love you.’ I cocked my head to the side as if further explanation was needed. ‘I’ve made a decision. I choose to love you. Whether that’s in the good times, bad times, whatever it is, I choose to love you through it all.’
And that’s when I knew I had married the greatest man in the world. A man who recognized that love isn’t always a feeling. It’s not always an emotion. It’s not only reserved for the times when things are great. But he understood that love is a decision. A decision to promise commitment, safety, dedication and above all, patience and forgiveness. He taught me that. He taught me how to choose to be the better person. He taught me how to be better. He taught me how to love the un-loveable, console the un-consolable and how to always make sure I was doing the right thing. He taught me how to choose to love, and he did this until the day he died.
That ring, oh yes that ring. We lost it one time after that incident, some 15 years later when he lost so much weight during his cancer journey that it slid off when he didn’t expect it. That time, I thought it was lost forever, but like true love, we found it again. It sits safely now in a shadow box I made him after he left us, along with his police patches. It’s mounted on my wall, under the flag that was draped over his casket, a flag that represents the same honor, commitment, and courage that he lived his life by. The same values that he had in our marriage and imparted on me and my children. He left a legacy for us, and while we would much rather have him here, I can’t ever thank him enough for loving us so much that he left us with all the good things.
No, marriage is not easy. Love can be hard. It’s not a Facebook post or blog or the thing of movies. Sometimes it’s messy hair and spit up on your shirt. Sometimes it’s arguments and ring throwing. But in the end, as you hold the hand of the person you love and watch them leave the earth you stand on, you remember what love is. It’s a choice. It’s a great, big, beautiful choice.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “My Kid Is an Asshole, and So Is My Dog” are now available in print and kindle. You can follow her work on her author Facebook page.
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