To Have and to Squeeze

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This is my favorite picture from our wedding day. And not because I am not in it. I used to hate every picture of myself—believing my gigantic Prednisone-induced moonface could be seen from, well, the moon.

I can smell the Toronto spring air, redolent with lilac blooms and relief from winter’s passing. It was the first warm day of the year. 25 degrees Celsius. A veritable Canadian heat wave.

I now know you were upset because Ralph (a.k.a. Mr. Beagleman) would not sleep with you on the bed on The Night Before Wedding, punishing you for my first-time disappearance.

But look at you! My boyfriend, my fiancée, my Kevin.

Look at the adorable scrunch on your 22-year old face as if to say, “Mum! Seriously? Why are you taking a picture of me walking?” But can you blame her? You are picture perfect. Tailored tuxedo, Diet Coke in hand, marching down Geoffrey St. towards a rented minivan full of McIntyres, toward your future. Toward me.

It would be a perfect wedding. The Cinderella gown. Friends serenading us. A single long-stemmed rose for every woman. Even the mix-ups were perfect. The lost-then-found cake I never got to taste. Because I was so late to the chapel, the paused video camera would shut down, and there would be no record of the ceremony. But there would be no need. I will never forget the squeeze of your hand as you recited, “…in sickness and in health…” My heart stopped, and my life with you began.

But marriage is different from a wedding. What does any 22-year old know about “…until death do us part” when your life is just beginning?

If some kind of prophetic presence had been able to slip you a laundry list of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune we would endure over the next 2 decades as reading material for your drive to the church, would you have asked your Dad to pull a screaming-U-turn and head straight for the Trans-Canada highway back to Winterpeg?

No, Bridezilla never materialized, but Wifezilla sure did. And our story would swell to sometimes Shakespearean proportion. For many years, a Hametian cloud of doom and gloom hung over our cabin in Shadow Hills. But for some time now, a glorious and sober light has been shining down on us. It’s time to remove the bookmark from “Volume 9: The Hen-On-Pills Years” and place it high upon the bookshelf to collect dust.

After 22 years of marriage, much has changed. Now we own, instead of rent. I have your kidney instead of Mum’s, and we’ve both lost our hair. You found Judaism. I found pills. And then I found my god.

But one thing hasn’t changed. You are still walking towards me. You never veered off course, even when I did.

Sweetheart, my Kevin, there is no way to erase our stranger-than-fiction days. You were many, many days and nights stranded alone, betrayed by my pharmaceutical tornado. How many times was “I love you” lost in the winds that threatened to destroy us both?

So today, let me take those 22-year old hands in mine again, and vow to love you “…in sickness and in health…’til death do us part…”

And finally squeeze back.

One of the greatest love stories and ongoing evolutions I’ve “witnessed” through your sharing. Thank you for letting us see the depth and complexity and fierceness of your love. — Carmen Leilani
Pure poetry, Henriette. — Paige Moore
Amazing. Beautiful. Touching. — Johanna Moorehead
Your writing makes me pause and breathe pure joy. — Ann Lantello
We spend our entire lifetime trying to make sense of what love is. You have found a way to articulate it, and bring our hearts to a humbling understanding. — Susan Kohler
Here I am in Italy enjoying your writings, my dear friend. — Dale Stewart