My parents just celebrated their anniversary recently. Last year it was their Golden Anniversary. Fifty years. It's hard to believe two people could stay together that long! They met at a dance. It must have been fate. If they hadn't met, 11 incredible people wouldn't exist -- four children and seven grandchildren.
I remember one time when we were at a relative's wedding they were going around to each table with a video camera, asking couples for advice to give the newlyweds. "What is your secret to a lasting marriage?" they asked my Mom. Without missing a beat she answered "Tolerance." Hardly the stuff of fairytales! But then Mom is more pragmatic than romantic. The truth is that when you are with someone a very long time, you do have to tolerate each other. There are times when they get on your nerves. There are times you disagree. There are times you just want to run and never look back but if you love each other, you stay, even through the worst of times. That's why they say "For better, or for worse" because there are times it will be worse. There is no such thing as "happily ever after" in real life. You can't be happy every day. Life isn't perfect. My Mom and Dad may not have an epic romance but they have a partnership that works. Mom is good at some things, Dad is good at others, and so everything gets done. They don't have everything in common. Dad likes sports and likes going for walks. Mom hates sports and likes to stay indoors. They each have their own space. My dad barely speaks. Mom barely stops talking. Like yin and yang, they balance each other out!
The reason I never married (well one of the reasons) was that I wasn't willing to settle. It seemed to me that there were two kinds of love. Some men (well, boys really) I loved as friends, a platonic sort of love. I felt comfortable and safe with them. We had fun together but it seemed like something was missing. I longed for passion and excitement. Then there were other boys that I loved romantically, that I was "in love" with. They gave me butterflies. I felt so alive. But it didn't last. Each time it would self-destruct. There was no stability, no security. What I really wanted and needed was both -- someone who could be my best friend and lover. Someone that I trusted and felt comfortable and safe with but who also gave me butterflies. That can be pretty hard to find. My longest relationship was nine years. That was as close as I came to a marriage or long term commitment. Actually nine years is longer than some marriages last! Mind you, we did break up every three years or so and then get back together. So if you deduct the time apart I suppose it was more like eight years! We kept breaking up because we were opposites and would get frustrated when we couldn't meet in the middle. Then we would get back together because what we had was so strong and we didn't want to trash all the memories we'd shared together (Europe, NYC and so many other adventures and inside jokes.) We had invested so much time in it that it was hard to let go. And we kept getting sucked back in. It's tough to keep a relationship alive after that many years. You take each other for granted. When you see someone day in and day out, you get so used to them you stop cherishing them. After we'd break up, we'd miss each other. So we'd get back together thinking, this time will be different. We'll change. We'll compromise. We won't fight. But nothing would change. At first it was wonderful. We were on our best behaviour but before too long we were back to the same old patterns. I wanted him to be more like me (emotional, intense) and he wanted me to be more laid back like him. The biggest mistake you can make in a relationship is thinking that you can change someone. If you can't love and accept them as they are, then they are not for you.
I always thought that if I met the right person that we would fall in love and stay in love, even into our old age, that we would still hold hands, still laugh, still dance, still say "I love you" every day. You see it in the movies but not as often in real life. Being a hopeless romantic, I kept looking for that fairytale love. Sometimes I would catch a glimpse of it, but it would fall apart. I had my heart broken so many times. I fell for all the wrong men. The weirder they were, the harder I fell. I had a penchant for broken boys. Somehow drama felt like love but it was more tragedy than romance. I wanted to believe that you could have passion and friendship in one person. A soulmate. Someone you could share forever with. But in my experience it seemed as though friendship and passion were opposites. You couldn't have both. So I swung back and forth between two opposite kinds of men. And it never seemed to work. I never found my Mr. Right. So I remained single into my 40s. And suddenly my world was turned on its head. I found my greatest love and it wasn't at all what I expected. It wasn't a man. It was a little girl. A miracle. An unexpected gift. Baby Michelle is the love of my life and my biggest commitment ever! It's an entirely different kind of love than any I've known. Everyone tried to tell me that the love you feel as a parent trumps absolutely everything else. I couldn't understand until I had my own child.
My Mom and Dad are very proud of their seventh grandchild. Michelle and I went to visit and she was in very good spirits, smiling and laughing for her Grandma and Grandpa. My dad was so pleased to see her smile at him. He was hurt when he tried to pick her up before and she'd cried. I told him not to take it personally. Sometimes she's just moody and doesn't want anyone but Mama. Other times she's quite friendly and will let other people hold her (which gives my poor arms a much needed break! My left arm was hurting so much from carrying her that I switched to my right, only to damage my right arm as well! I'm running out of arms!)
I'm so relieved to have the tree up. I still have a million things to do but the tree was the fun part! It is definitely tricky getting things done with the baby. She doesn't let me shop more than 15 minutes. She doesn't nap much during the day (if at all) and sometimes won't even settle down at night so it's a real challenge trying to prepare for my Mom's birthday party. You just grab a few minutes here and there when you can. At least I don't have to worry about cooking. I'm just ordering in. I was no Martha Stewart even before I had the baby!
I hosted my Mother's birthday party last year. That was before I knew I was pregnant. It was that night that Mike had taken one of the balloons and stuck it under my shirt as a joke. I told him not to put that into the universe but I must have been pregnant already because the next week I was late and when I took a pregnancy test, it was positive. It still blows my mind. If I hadn't met Mike, Michelle wouldn't exist. It was meant to be. Life leads us where we're meant to go.
I don't know if I'll ever find my soulmate. He would have to be a pretty amazing multifaceted guy. Strong and sensitive with a great sense of humour. Smart. Stable. Sincere. He'd have to be not only a perfect partner for me but a wonderful father for Michelle. That's a pretty tall order. So I won't hold my breath! I'm not looking for Mr. Right anymore. If he finds me, great and if he doesn't that's fine. My heart belongs to Michelle anyway. And I will love, honour and cherish her for better and for worse as long as I live.