On January 3rd 1976 the USA performed a nuclear test in Nevada. It was called the Muenster test, which is funny because Marty and I lived in Muenster Texas.
On January 3rd 1976 and Marty and I got married in Dalhart Texas. It was a perfect blue sky day. It was cold, clear and we had our first argument as a married couple. I was driving too fast, she was right.
On January 3rd 2006, on our 30th anniversary, after surviving a ruptured brain aneurysm in 2005, after returning from a Christmas trip to Dalhart to see her mother, Marty had a devastating ischemic stroke. It kind of takes the fun out of anniversary celebrations.
On that day, when she sat in her chair and slumped over, her face slack with no tone I wanted to drive fast, to the hospital. It was dark and cold as I stood behind the ambulance looking in the back as they secured Marty’s gurney to the floor of the vehicle.
The thought of it still makes me epically sad.
On January 3rd 2016 (can you believe its 2016, as my son says, “Where’s my flying car?”) Marty and I celebrated two things, a long marriage and survival from a devastating illness. I guess when you really get down to it if you do anything for 40 years it’s about survival. I know for a fact if you make it ten years from a big stroke, it’s about survival.
Marriage is all about love, caring for one another, self-sacrifice, partnership and acceptance of another person with other opinions in your life all day every day. It’s about hard work, getting down in the dirt with someone, loving them past the anger and ignorance and accepting them in spite of what they may or may not do.
Marriage is about relationship survival and it often isn’t easy but having a partner, that other beating heart is worth the fight.
Living through a cataclysmic illness is an endurance contest. It is about love, it is about self-sacrifice and partnership and acceptance. To live through strokes you get down in the dirt and find yourself doing things you never thought you would do. You have to get through the anger, the denial, the resentment and you have to find a way to accept the care giver and the cared for in spite of what they may or may not do.
Just like marriage, it is about survival and it isn’t easy at all but having your partner continue, having that other amazing beating heart next to you is worth the fight.
In 40 years of marriage I have learned a lot. I know for certain if I had listened to Marty all of the time, if I had done what Marty had said all of the time, if I had done what Marty said when she said it all of the time….well who knows, that was never going to happen. I have learned to ask about feelings, I have learned to identify my own feelings, and I have learned to not let “no” be my first reaction to everything.
In the ten years post stroke I have learned a lot and tried my best to make the changes necessary to survive and help Marty survive. I’ve learned and try to live one day at a time and one issue at a time, I have learned to not over look or procrastinate about care giving stuff, I have learned to listen and to watch and to pay attention, I have learned to be nice to doctors and health care providers and I have learned to touch Marty’s cheek every day and say “I love you”.
Mostly, I have learned I have never loved anyone the way I love my bride, I have learned she is the most amazing person I have ever known, I have learned to understand and admire what real survival is and I have learned she is the person I was destined to be with for the duration.
The strange thing is, I knew most of that, it just really hit home the last ten years. Walking the fine line between here and not here really focuses what you know.
Here’s to another ten…..