I sat at my computer. Days in a row. Trying to write about marriage. My marriage. Usually I can write so much, but I just keep taking myself through years of photos. Of Dave and I when we first started dating. When we moved in together. When we bought the house and rescued Carter. Of our wedding somewhere in between. I think about friendships we’ve made and lost, and how marriage truly has been him to my family and me to his.
Marriage has been a true test of my commitment to communication and backing down. Chelley, the well-known firecracker, taking a respite from that life and learning to just shut-up sometimes. I’ve learned that walking away isn’t always a bad thing and that it’s not giving in or even compromise, it’s realizing that someone else being happy makes you happier than winning.
We have a few unwritten rules in our marriage, things we’ve just never done- and I hope never do… blasting each other on social media, sharing news with other people first, to name a few. Remaining open with each other, when we do something that breaks the trust or hurts the feelings of the other, we are not silent. In an argument, we do not dredge the bottom of our past to bring old issues to surface. And, most important for me, when we make each other happy- we give thanks.
Never stop thanking… I hold onto that.
As I look into our relationship, I see the patience Dave has with me. The guy who once owned a music store and biked to work had traded in late nights and east coast tours for two kids, a dog, a house, the suburbs and a stay at home wife.
There’s a fact of parenthood to a child with a difference, that it gets hard. The marriage suffers… and it brings me to the week of Addie’s diagnosis.
I had gotten Dave two tickets to Aziz Ansari up in Boston post-birth, so he could have a night away. I was jealous he was going- we both love Ansari’s comedy- but Dave, instead, sold them. He wasn’t ready for a night away, he said. A few weeks later, a fever would not break, and with a lethargic newborn, previously written a script for a bone scan and the doctor’s worry of hydrocephalus, we were told to head into the ER. I hurriedly packed my pump, extra clothes for Addie and a water bottle. I steadied my walk as I carried my sleeping newborn to the car, loaded her in and drove through the summer heat to Hasbro Children’s Hospital. I checked Addie in at the desk and texted Dave to ask how the event was… see, he went to a friend’s business opening party for a beer, and I didn’t want to ruin his one time out. He texted back that he was leaving soon. “Ok. Call me when you do :)” I typed back. I was shaking. The day was hot, but my body had lost all heat. And then he called. Addie was huddled into me as I answered. He asked what we were up to and I slowly asked him to meet me at the hospital. He sped like a demon. When he arrived he asked why I hadn’t said anything, why I didn’t tell him sooner… and all I could think was that I didn’t want to be a burden. I didn’t want to ruin his night out. As we both held onto Addie, unsure of what was ahead, I think we both came to realize that we were willing to shoulder the world for the other one- even if just long enough for a beer.
Since then, there’s been late nights with the kids, pregnancy pain (and weight), surgeries and hospital stays. Dave took a job 50 miles away and never complains about the journey. Or that fact that we eat, almost literally, his entire paycheck. His smile rarely fades… even through the early days, my rock to this severe roll doesn’t seem to falter. Our marriage has pulled through no less than 3 manic episodes and countless hormonally-driven tears, but depression nor illness has turned him away. I guess I could sum it up by admitting I don’t know the future and I don’t have all the answers, but I’m grateful, thankful, blessed and still in love with the guy I met 12 years ago, the man he’s become and the father he surprised me by being.