It is night time. Bob and I are in bed reading. I look over at him and realize we are both lying in exactly the same position. Left hand holding the book, right hand under head. I think, "Which of us started in this position? How often do we both end up doing the same thing?" We looked like synchronized readers. My mind begins to wander...once again wondering what to put in Story #37. How do you sum up marriage? How do you paint a real picture - the good, the bad and the ugly. I often think Alicia Keys had it right - we spend our whole lives falling in and out of love with our significant other. Hear that newly engaged/married? In AND out...but then back in again. A never ending teeter-totter. When the out begins for the first time you panic...think..."Oh, no! What is happening?!" But you both shove and squirm and then somehow tip back into love.
I adjust my position - try to refocus on my book. I glance over at Bob again. Somehow we are once again in the same position - Right leg bent, both hands holding book. Weird. I glance sideways across my pillow at him. I think... the first thing I noticed about Bob, when I finally really LOOKED, was that he was strong. Not like...hey, nice body (although, he did have a nice body)....but - he could keep me safe. I felt safe when I was with him. I needed to feel safe. I felt safe being just me. I guess because I was not initially head over heels I wasn't worried about what kind of impression I was making...I wasn't trying to be someone I thought he wanted me to be...I was just being me. You can't back track from that, you know? Once you put yourself out there...that's it...they know who you are. This time, though it was okay. This time it felt comfortable because we were both comfortable - he wasn't trying to be someone other than himself. He wasn't playing any games with me. No yawn and stretch to put his arm around me - no dorky pick up lines. It felt...nice.
I remember the first time he held my hand. There was no awkward moment, no hesitation - he just reached out and held my hand. We were in his old Jimmy, returning from an evening of water skiing. I was looking out the window, when I felt his warm hand reach over and grab my hand. My stomach flipped. I glanced over at him. He was chatting with his buddies in the back seat...and just kept holding my hand. Isn't that silly...how romantic something like that can be? Madeline L'Engel once said that her favorite thing about marriage was the idea of knowing that even if you are half a world away from each other, there is someone out there for you. Someone waiting for you, thinking about you, missing you. What a wonderful feeling....that sense of relationship security - kind of like the first feeling of my hand in his.
There have been many traditional romantic holidays and gift giving occasions that Bob has missed...and some angry feelings about the red convertible mid-life crisis in the garage - but, also some unexpected expressions of love. One night I woke up feeling so sick. I stumbled upstairs, so I wouldn't wake anyone up and started to vomit. (Lovely, I know.) Amidst this awful literal gut wrenching experience I suddenly felt my hair being pulled back and a hand rubbing my back. Even in this wretched state I was touched. Bob, who can sleep through screaming children, annoying alarms, thunderstorms and probably bombs - somehow noticed me gone and came up to check on me. That is romance.
Of course, there are no guarantees. Marital life is not endless bliss. We have definitely had "the ugly" as well as "the good." So much so that we almost dove off the marital cliff of divorce. (How many random metaphors will I get going in this story?) I reached that moment of truly asking myself...do I want to stay married to this man? After much prayer, contemplation and inner turmoil we both decided, "Yes." We want to stay married and I find that incredibly romantic. To have been through hell together, to know each other's annoying traits, wonderful qualities and petty grievances and choose that person anyway - that is romance.
And so, days from our 19th anniversary I am glad that I am married to this man. I know that he loves me....and I love him. I glance over at him again....he doesn't look my way, but reaches over with his right hand and signals me to come closer. We both prop our books on his chest and continue reading. Ahhh, romance.