Chad and I have been married for eleven years. There have been easy years and there have been hard ones. There have been years with many changes, losses, or achievements. There have been years that were more ordinary, our time filled with work and weekends together and household chores. Some years look very much like others, with just a few milestones to mark time passing. Our eleventh year was a year all its own, unlike all the others.
We began our eleventh year with a 13 month old and pregnant belly. Just two months in, our family of three became four. It was, of course, a significant transition for us all, and probably the most positive thing to come out of this year for us. Our little daughter has been a constant source of proud moments, toothy grins, and snorty giggles. Her brother has grown to love her, learning to play with her as she learns to move and interact more and more. And he has grown so much too, now running and climbing and talking as fast as he can. These two have brought Chad and I a lot of pride and love and joy in a year that otherwise was very hard.
Our extended family entered the holidays with a dark cloud shadowing our celebrations as cancer tightened its grip on my sister. January and February became darker and darker. Chad supported me in ways I wish he never had to as I navigated a loss that seemed inconceivable. He didn’t flinch when I suggested a plan to take our two kids overnight once a week to help get my sister to and from treatments. He never flinches at any plans that will help other people. And when it seemed that Mel’s last days were approaching, Chad left work early, he took over parenting duties, he drove to and from the hospital over and over again, he kissed me goodnight as I left for the hospital several nights after tucking our kids in their beds. Chad was in the waiting room with our kids, managing to get them to nap in unlikely circumstances, the day Mel passed. He was right there to hug me when I came back from saying goodbye. He held me as I sobbed myself to sleep that night, and other times since.
And then, six months into that eleventh year, the world shut down a bit and we began our shelter-at-home. This pandemic has brought us many losses of the every day life we were used to. We’ve had less time with friends and family, less outings and travels, less options for filling our time. It’s placed constraints on us. It’s forced us to slow our life down. It’s changed our guest bedroom into an office. Perhaps one of the only good things to come from it is that we have more time together as a family. Chad’s three hour round trip commute is gone. He gets to have breakfast with us and see the kids before starting his workday. When work is over, he’s here. Most days he takes a break around noon to eat lunch with us. He has gotten to see the kids so much more these past few months, to see their daily changes and accomplishments almost as much as I do. We like having him around.
Last year, when managing my post-partum depression took most of my daily effort, I didn’t feel like I was able to be the wife I wanted to be. I wasn’t able to dedicate time or energy to our marriage. So for Christmas, I gifted Chad the promise of twelve date nights that I would plan and carry out over the course of the year. It was a meager attempt to make up for my lack of effort. We managed one date night before my sister’s passing and the pandemic took over. So I’ve had to be more creative about how we can have date nights at home since we haven’t been comfortable leaving the kids with anyone. Date nights start after bedtime most times, but we make it work … candlelit dinners and delicious wines, Broadway productions enjoyed from the couch, learning to make French pastries in our own kitchen … We’ve shared many special nights despite the world outside.
And then recently, when post-partum reared its ugly head again, we lost touch with each other a little bit. Once more, we leaned into survival mode, both doing what needed to be done to get through each day, each week. We haven’t been working as a team. We haven’t been communicating and touching base with each other. We have been letting each other down just a little bit at a time. It’s hard. This year has been a series of hard.
My fear is we sometimes let the darkness overshadow all the good. Because there has been a lot of good despite the hardship of this past year. This year has been more grief than celebration, more loss than gain. And yet. We can’t let the losses devalue the gains. We promised eleven years ago to choose to love each other every day. There have been days where this was a harder promise to keep than others, but I think we’ve still managed it. And we’ll keep at it by remembering how very much we have despite how very much we’ve lost.
Chad, love, I know that I retreated recently. I know that I withdrew into myself again and that’s been hard. But the difference this time, I hope, is that I had more tools available to me to recover. We went through this last year, so this time I was ready. I had a counselor to call and advice to fall back on and strategies to implement right away. I hope that’s made a difference. I hope my readiness to work on myself and heal faster made — makes — a difference. In short, I had a place to start this time around and I’m trying.
We have lost many things this year that we will never recover. We’ve had to let go in ways that we never expected. Thank you for standing beside as we walk this hard road. Thank you for standing in for me when I fall short. Thank you for being a good husband and father. Walking through life with you is one of the few things I’ve always been sure of in this life. I love you and I choose you once more.