Me (to husband), “Why do you love me?”
Husband (with sideways grin), “I have no idea. Why do you love me?”
Me (shrugs), “I don’t know why. I just do.”
This is our little inside joke. We do it at times to have a laugh and at other times to break the tension. More than that, though, we do it because in truth love is not easily definable. If it were there would be far fewer writers, poets and musicians in the world, no?
Please indulge me as I take a brief trip down memory lane to set the background here. Ours is not a story woven from the silken cloth of a romantic fairytale. There is no proposal set in a grand New York City apartment awash with candles and long-stemmed red roses. There is no movie quote moment ending with us slow-motion running into one another’s arms. There are great movie quotes, though, as I alternately amuse and irritate my husband by insisting there is, in fact, a suitable movie line for every occasion. (Ex. “Cheryl, I do NOT care.” This one comes from Remember the Titans and is to be used when husband is droning on and on about the complexities of building a bridge or a skyscraper or who won what battle by using what weaponry as seen on some TV documentary. Hint: This is where the irritation sets in.)
I must clarify here, before the husband reads this and feels compelled to chime in, that I was the first to establish the no fly zone for mushiness in our relationship. Having met on a blind date, we had the misfortune to start dating just a few weeks prior to the mother of all you-must-be-romantic-or-you-suck-as-a-person days, Valentine’s Day. I did not get my then new boyfriend anything. To his credit, he gave me a card with a sweet, appropriate message for a new relationship. Though I have no memory of this, he will swear to his dying day that I tossed the card on the counter with a dismissive thanks.
Our first I love you was said in a parking lot outside of his condo. I cannot tell you the date or the time, just as I cannot tell you the date we got engaged. I may have pushed that part along, however, by asking him if he was going to ask me then why didn’t he get on with it and ask me. He pointed out that he didn’t have a ring, to which I responded that I could not care less about the ring (Gasp…yes, I know, and I am sorry ladies, but I said it and meant it!), to which he answered by asking if I wanted to get married, to which I replied that I did indeed. Rest assured that a ring did follow, but you can see that the foundation had been set for a relationship that would not include grand romantic gestures. So it was that just shy of a year later we flew off to Jamaica to elope in a wedding ceremony/ reception that lasted for twenty minutes and included a preacher, a bridesmaid and a groomsman provided by the resort, and the two of us.
Fast forward, and this coming Monday marks our 17th wedding anniversary. Why, all these years later, do we still love each other? In some ways the answer changes, but in some ways it stays the same. We still don’t know why. We just do. Of course if pressed we could come up with a list of reasons. I could say it’s because he gets that I’d rather have a birthday gift of tickets to a football game than a dozen roses. Or that with him I allow myself to be silly in a way that no one else will ever witness. Maybe it’s that he thinks of me in the way that I someday hope to think of myself. For him, he could say it’s because I give him a confidence he didn’t always know he had. He might tell you it’s because he knows that I am his biggest cheerleader and supporter, and that I have been known to turn into a rabid, hissing cat if I feel that he has been wronged by someone. We could both tell you it’s because we prefer laughter to drama. We could say that it works because we seldom fight over anything more serious than a peanut butter-coated knife left in the sink overnight. Perhaps it’s that we cannot stand when there is a real fight, and we work hard to fix it and get back to good.
Yes, we have those days, too. The ones when I wish that he was anywhere but here. I know that he has them, too. I can see it- the wheels turning as he weighs the odds of being able to grab his phone, wallet, and gym bag and make it to the door before I can either catch him, trip him, or throw his car keys into the lake. Those days when my grits are overcooked, his last nerve just frayed beyond repair, and we both wonder how awesome it might be to be single again. And then we remind ourselves. I remember that he does not care one bit that I am quite possibly, and without exaggeration, the worst housekeeper in the entirety of the free world. He realizes that I make him laugh far more often than I make him angry. I recall how he forgave me for this, and how I forgave him for that, and that it is all worth it. All of it. Every minute.
As I write this it dawns on me that there may be some romance in this thing after all, and quite a bit of it at that. Maybe it is just our unique version of it, minus the jewelry, the champagne, and the sweeping grandeur. Rather it is the romance that comes in the form of my playful teasing of him, or his buying me new oven mitts after I burn my fingers baking cookies. It is the romance of being free to break down sobbing when the world gets too hard, knowing that he will be there to hold me tight until the storm passes. Or in the way we defer on sleep to sit and comfort our sweet cat during her last days. Yes, I think there could be a more than fair share of the romantic here.
Maybe in another 17 years I will be better able to articulate why I love him, but I hope not. I would rather allow it to be the series of random, evolving moments that make up our life together. I prefer that it remain difficult to summarize, as I believe that love defies definition. I don’t know why. I just do.