When Erik and I were planning our wedding, we decided that we’d have his brother get ordained on the internet and he would marry us. We didn’t want a priest and we didn’t want any mention of how we were marrying Jesus or obeying anyone or anything like that, so why not, right?
My sainted mother, who wrote checks without blinking an eye and who stole flowers from other people’s yards in downtown Naperville when our flowers fell through and who tagged along for the ride as I rejected over 100 wedding dresses, my mother took a little pause and said, “Hmmm. This is my one thing. Please don’t do that. Please use someone real. You don’t realize it, you can’t know it now, but the words. The words are so important.”
And so we had a Justice of the Peace, and we did not write our own vows. We did not say anything about Jesus and we didn’t promise to obey anyone, but we said the same words that millions of other people have said before us, and we faced each other, shaking a little bit, smiling and crying, so nervous, and so happy, and we said the words, “For richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, for as long we both shall live.”
I never thought that getting married would change things that much. Erik and I have known each other since I was 17. We lived together for almost four years before we got married. I assumed it would just be more of the same. And I don’t know that I should even say that things were different after we got married because I can’t really even explain how they were different, but they just were. We went from “cool, I like you a lot” to “forever”, and it changed things. It just did.
This is not some kind of anti writing your own vows treatise. You get on with your bad self and write reams of marrying each other poetry. This is just to say that for me, for us, the words were so important, and I think of them almost every day. I have thought of them a lot this year. We have been through a lot this year. “In sickness and in health” weaves itself through my hours, while I drive to the grocery store, when I go to bed early again, when I feel better, when I feel worse, when I realize the Target pharmacist doesn’t even have to ask me my name anymore.
The thing about my marriage though, is that when you really come down to it, even though we said those words to each other and I know we meant them, even though the words are important, even though I think of them almost every day, they don’t mean anything unless they mean everything, and it’s the not the words that made that happen, it’s the person who stood across from me with that nervous smile on his face, the person who stood by me through thick and thin, the person who said those words back to me.
The truth is I married the best person I know. It has been a privilege to be married to him for ten years, despite the thousands of socks of I have picked up off the floor and the millions of beer cans I have moved from the counter to the recycling bin, despite the fact that I myself do not drink beer. Because this man? He is the soul of patience. He is nice to everyone. He is interesting and funny and so smart, and he is the best father there ever was. Everyone wants to talk to him, everyone wants him on their team. And he’s on my team, and for that I will be forever and eternally grateful.
And because it was Erik who said those words back to me, they have always meant everything, and I have never been afraid. There have been good times and bad, there has definitely been poorer, there has been more sickness than I would have chosen, but I have never once worried that those words would stop meaning as much to him as they did to me. I have never wondered if he would leave. I have never wondered if he would forgive me. I have never worried he would walk out the door and not come back. I have never not gotten what I needed, not received what I asked for. I have never had to wonder if he would sit with me and hold my hand while I cried. He always always does whatever I ask him to do, he laughs at my jokes, he wakes up with our kids every single morning of every day, he plays ponies with a three year old every night and when something wonderful happens, he is my first phone call.
I am really looking forward to the next ten. Maybe there could be a little less poorer and a little less sickness. But even if there’s not, we’re gonna be ok. We said those words, and we meant them. Till death do us part, as long as we both shall live.
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