A Would-Be Platinum Fairy Tale
I hope in the end it’s a love story.
July 7, 2001. Twenty years ago, Steve and I got married on a sun-drenched veranda overlooking the hills, under a rose-embellished gazebo, witnessed by 210 of our closest friends, family, and total strangers (aka parents’ friends we had never met or who claimed to have known us when we were in diapers).
July 7. (Lucky sevens.) As a young couple who loved taking road trips to Las Vegas, it was the perfect date to commemorate our union as husband and wife. The newly introduced Mr. and Mrs. banking on our fairy-tale happily ever after.
Fairy tales, however, are either the happy, fantastical stories popularized by and for the mainstream audience, or the Grimm ones fraught with trauma and imperfect resolutions in the end. The latter tales are meant to show there is still life after tragedy even if that life is different than it was before.
My 14-year marriage follows that literary theme to a tee, and along with the years since, it has taught me profound life lessons I reflect on today on what would have been my 20th platinum wedding anniversary. Watching my husband, my once best friend, lose an ugly battle to mental illness was traumatic. I don’t and I can’t sugarcoat that.
I’ve envied other widows who’ve progressively lost their husbands to physical illnesses that allowed for heartfelt final words and goodbyes, which is the most ridiculous enviable point, I know. I’m most proud of the resilience and grace personified in our two teenage children. Gratitude begets forgiveness, enlivens the good times, and reminds me the reasons our paths crossed to begin with.
Twenty years ago, once upon a time, I got married with the intention of forever. Nobody ever marries thinking it will end prematurely, right? Divorce? Nah, we were going to be on the success side of that 50 percent statistic and make it ’til death do us part. And that “death do us part” clause wasn’t supposed to hit us until we were so old and senile, we’d be shamelessly flirting with each other like two strangers across the table in the old folks’ home our callous children put us in. Or so went the joke.
My favorite was when Steve would tease me with, “If I die, who’s going to drive you crazy with obnoxious, inappropriate jokes and eat your half of the dessert?” My plot twist has me missing his jokes with the ridiculous Russian accent (he was Korean) and hating having to eat all of the crème brûlée by myself.
The widow’s tale is painfully hard to live.
Healing is never a linear path, and though I often stumble, I choose to stay the course.
I have hope that in the end, it will be my love story because one day, I’ll know without a doubt how loss and grief taught me to deepen the love I feel for others and for myself.