On the eve of our sixth anniversary, I feel a bit reflective tonight. Six years ago, as I sat in a rented bedroom in Arizona, there is no way I could have imagined what Id be doing today.
Six years isnt *that* big of a deal, in the long run. Anyone can be married for six years really (unless you are Kim K, but lets not set the bar too low). Heck , in six years you barely have time to figure out all the things youd like to put down in your divorce degree.
BUT, for me, six years seems like a long time. Its a long time for two kids who dove in head first. Its a long time for a girl who had no idea how to be a wife - or, anything like it really (ha, just ask most of my ex's). Its a long time for two people who have never set down roots in the time theyve been together, who have only been on a handful of real dates, and who have been apart almost as much as theyve been together.
I, admittedly, had a lot to learn about love. I didnt grow up with any real male figure in my life as I navigated my formative years. I didnt know much about how marriage or families worked. Most of what I knew came from tv - that marriage should be fairy tale, it should complete you, it should be softly lit and always go right.
Over the years, I had to learn what love really looks like. Real life love - the kind that is busy, and imperfect, and not at all what you might expect. I had to learn that romance comes in forms that no one tells you about. I had to learn that romantic movies are like porn for women - they might be nice to look at, but it doesnt happen in real life.
Sometimes romance is a guy who will find a way to crash your birthday party, just for a chance to meet you (he may or may not be intoxicated - Im not sure that was part of the plan, but it worked in the end).
Love might be the guy who, when faced with the breakup speech, says "thats nice, lets go get married". Now, in some circles that would also be referenced as "creepy", but in this case he was good looking and wasnt on probation, so it was cute.
Romantic could be the girl who was so excited to see the boy, that she rode 20 hours on a Grayhound bus, each way, just to see him for 13 hours.
Love could be when the girl drives for 2 days to see the boy, to have a courthouse wedding ....
... with two strangers as witnesses (they wore cutoff jeans no less) ...
... and she hurried him back to the barracks and spent her wedding night alone.
Love is when you become a family, with no hesitation or footnotes. When you both accept that there are challenges ahead and it wont be easy - but whats his is yours, and yours is his.
Romance is a 4 day road trip, in a VW bug, 6 months after you get married, to create yet ANOTHER new life, in the one place you really didnt want to go to. Romance is being able to laugh when your AC gives out in the middle of death valley, and you see someone throw a TV over a fence as you drive by ... lost ... again.
Love is shacking up in a tiny apartment thats all you can afford, and all you can find, because you are in the middle of a huge new place with no idea how to navigate it, or the Army. Love is deciding you absolutely need a dog, and love is a girl standing in front of a cage at the Humane Society and MAYBE strong arming a little boy out of the way, for the perfect puppy. Love is Sammy Lou, who has been our faithful, hungry, loving companion since that day.
Romance is a mixed family, and flying (through winter storms and heart attack landings) cross country ALL THE TIME to keep us together, and where we needed to be.
Love is when your wife just has to have this little, feral, side of the road puppy. Love is when you dont say no to that, you name him Duke, and he's the worst dog that you cant help but love.
Romance is fighting your apartment complex in such a way that they actually let you out of your lease with no penalties, so that you can move your family on post in a much better neighborhood and bigger house.
Love was this Christmas / birthday where we almost lost our poor sick Sammy, and where he drove for hours to find what we needed to save her.
Love meant a lot (a lot!) of goodbyes.
And it meant that in ten months, this was the one time she saw his face:
But that ended with this:
and it REALLY ended with this.
Love is getting the post deployment surprise that you were told you never would ...
Romance is getting orders all the way across the country, buying a house before you see it in person, and moving 3000+ miles away while 20 weeks pregnant.
Romance is assuring your pregnant wife that she gets more beautiful every day (even if shes just getting fatter).
Romance is accepting all of your wife's crazy ideas about freestanding birth centers and no medication. Romance is holding her hand through 20 hours of labor, and being the one to pull your sweet baby boy into the world. Romance is being the first one to see his face, and him take his first breath. Romance is knowing you really did bring him into this world.
Love is learning how to navigate a newborn and a teenager, both who needed more than we ever could have imagined. Love is meeting it head on, even on the days when it got tough, because we knew that the kids needed us to be stronger than their challenges. They needed us to be the rock they could build off of.
Love is saying "see you soon", again ...
This time with just a little bit more to miss.
Romance is appreciating to the fullest when an Army decision actually goes in our favor (had to happen once!).
And romance is also deciding that if hes going to be home, then its worth driving back to Arizona to spend the summer with him. Even if it wipes your savings, even if its with a 9 month old ... nothing is worth missing out on months of time together.
Love is the joy on your faces the day you find out that your family is growing again!
And romance is the man who will hold your hand when you find out that your family wont be growing right now after all.
Love is the guy who will come home the day after the hospital, head in his hands, and break the news that you are moving back across the country, to the middle of the desert, in a matter of months.
Romance is when you get news that you are pregnant again. He will tell you to rest. He will clean and prep an entire house for renting. He will hold your hand as you get that first ultrasound. He will understand that you have to cry for a few minutes before the tech can even begin because you are shaking and terrified.
He will take you to Disney (pregnant and horribly sick) to help make up for it.
Love is when he drives 2 hours to find out what your rainbow baby is. Love is when he is so excited to have a baby girl, because its a baby her. Love is a man who loves being a father so much that he cant wait to do it again, and again and again.
In the past six years, Ive definitely learned a few things about love and romance. They are the things that are between the lines - the worry on his face when your baby is sick. The years you can look back on and say - he never left me. The way you can get mad at him because you are secure that, no matter how ridiculous you can be, hes still going to wake up tomorrow and want to be beside you.
Love is fighting, learning, growing. I see so many people now a days trade in for a "better" model. They want the grass that they are sure is greener, and maybe that works for them. Hey, Ive had to kiss a few frogs too, you know? But I am so hopeful that one day I can look back and I can see the same guy beside me that is now. That I can make 500 pages of these entries that detail all the things that you can see, and that show all the millions of things that you cant.
So here we are. Six years, 4 duty stations, 3 (almost) kids, 2 dogs ... 1 life. Its been a hell of a ride and I cant wait to see whats next.