Anniversary Wishes: Truth Spoken in the Silence

Yesterday, my husband and I celebrated our sixteen-year wedding anniversary. (Yes, we are older than we look and yes, we were married as mere children.) Unlike many couples celebrating such occasions, there was no talk of how we’re just four years away from our twentieth or of the gray-haired, porch sitting, rocking chair moments before us.

You see, my husband, my sweetheart since the pubescent age of sixteen, is, at the ripe old age of 39, well past the median age of death for his illness. This means that we go through each day with the ticking of the clock echoing deafeningly in our ears. Birthdays and anniversaries, meant to be joyful celebrations, act as double-edged swords. On one hand they signify that we have, once again, beaten the odds. On the other, they force us to wonder how many more odds-beating years we will be allowed.

Though this is constantly on our minds, brought even more to the forefront when mothers of young children recently diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, the disease from which Sean suffers, reach out to me, saying desperately, “I heard that your husband is 39! Is that true? I hope my baby lives to be that old,” it isn’t something of which we often speak. Instead, it shows up in the words unspoken, the phrases typically spewed without thought at occasions such as anniversaries, that, in our case, are carefully omitted, their absence echoing loudly.

Anniversary greetings that are shared with us focus on the wedding day (past) or this anniversary moment (present) but are careful not to speak of anniversaries to come (future). I can almost feel the care being taken as people choose their words, a bit of melancholy behind their congratulations as they, too, feel the pain of this double-edged sword. You see, over time, a silent agreement has been made that our vernacular and that of those around us, should eliminate talk of the far-off future.

Apparently, our new financial planner did not get this unspoken memo. We had explained a bit about our “situation” at our first meeting, but he clearly wasn’t facile enough at this new gig of his to be able to use that information to adapt the spiel he always gives on visit number two with clients, which means that he talked at length with us about retirement. This man had charts and graphs on which the age of 65 was a landmark. He spoke in great detail about what we should do in these years leading up to that age so that when we retire at 65 we’ll have plenty of money to use for our remaining decades of life. He used so many phrases from our prohibited list, that it was all I could do to not slam his laptop shut, obliterating the view of those charts and graphs revolving around the magic age of 65, and to yell, “Our graphs do not look like your graphs. 65 is not something we talk about. Retirement is not a word in our vocabulary.” He’s new, both to this job and to our life, and doesn’t yet understand that many of the square feet of our lives are consumed by an elephant about which no one speaks, that phrases that apply to many are banned from this household.

On our anniversary yesterday, there were many things I did not say. And, there were plenty of things that I did. I told our daughter that the wedding on June 15, 2002 was the first step in a path that led to her joining our family. I told my high school sweetheart turned husband that I feel ridiculously grateful that I met him at such a young age. I told him that this life of ours is a beautiful joy-filled one full of love. I told him that I am happier than I ever imagined I could be. I told him that he has been (past), is (present) and will always be (future!) the love of my life.



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6 Responses

  1. We celebrated 37 years this past May. 29 of which have been deeply embedded in my husbands chronic illness. We celebrated with a 35th anniversary party two years ago because he was worried he won’t make it to the "landmark" 50th (or even 40). I so understand this.
    Every day is a gift..we try and enjoy the good days, push through the difficult ones. We mark small, and not so small, milestones- coming home from cardiac rehab, coming home from an extended stay in Bostons Brigham and Women’s Cardiac, a quiet Christmas with just us and my mom (who lives with us), seeing our son and daughter in law for the first time in two years (he serves in the military) and finding out we are going to be grandparents for the first time, sitting out in the yard and him being able to walk to see all the flower beds this spring, and more.
    Life is hard, life is good, life is challenging. Its a journey we do together. Yes, it could be easier, but I love this man and couldn’t think of my life without him in it.

    1. Those little things end up being the big things, don’t they? I will say that that has been the gift in all of "this," that awareness and then gratitude for those tiny moments that I may have otherwise overlooked. Sending love to you both!

  2. A tear and a cheer for your inspiration and words about what love truly is. You touch a heart and teach to others in so many ways. Your honesty and story are a gift. Please never stop sharing. . .

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