Category Archives: marriage

“Without them, there is no this”

This is a polished version of the email I sent to my local NPR station for its Valentine’s Day program. The title of the show was “Without them, there is no this.” He solicited stories from listeners about the people whose love changed and/or sustained their lives. Reflecting on those people in my life, I was prompted to spill some words and see how they flowed. Not entirely smoothly, it turned out, but the content was compelling enough to read on-air. (Or there was a danger of dead-air.)

I’ve edited and extended it to make it a better read, but some turns of phrase remain unchanged.

My love story starts before my birth, when a social worker phoned Mary Maida, a 59 year old widow living outside of Boston. The social worker was interviewing members of a potential adoptive family for an infant yet to be born.

The social worker asked, “Would you feel like an adopted grandchild would somehow be less than a natural-born grandchild?

Mary replied, somewhat angrily, “What? I only have one grandchild! I need more, and I don’t care how I get one!”

And from the day I arrived into her family, she was the singular person who accepted all of me, with joy, and without any evident disappointment. The connection with her was seamless; I would have done anything for her, and she did everything for me. When my mother warned that she might be too ill to see me in a play, or come to my college graduation, or attend a night dinner in the city, my grandmother always surprised her with a Yes… but it was no surprise to me.

Even though she was legally blind, she could spot me walking in unexpected places, and ask my aunt to pull over. My aunt wouldn’t understand why, and then she would recognize me. I served as a benchmark for her less happy things. My aunt and mother let me know that she realized her
eyesight was failing when she could no longer know me by sight on our semi-regular visits.

And when her mind began to fail, somehow she always managed to give me her precious moments of lucidity – a gift of love if there ever was one.
She passed away in May 1998, a few hours after I left her room, but not before I could wash her hands, wipe her brow, and cry.

The following nine months were laden with grief. Levity came, ironically, in the form of my own layoff. Of course, there would need to be a new job, and rent, and all of the other notes and obligations. But losing her physical presence helped me find the words to express what she gave me: unconditional love. It also was a clue to what I would need to start giving to myself, no matter how many of my own weaknesses I acknowledged, or how much of the past vexed me.

And so, around the end of those nine months, I began a new job. On the first day, my eyes fell upon the man in the office next door, and kapow! He was the man who would become my husband – though I didn’t know it at the time. I was just angry that I had to work with someone so gorgeous. We became friends over the first few months, and then started dating, albeit in secret.  When he moved away to Seattle, we stayed together.

I left the other love of my life, Boston, to be with him, and we married in 2002. He met me at a time when I was grateful for everything, and while those moments have been less frequent than they should be, he always makes it clear to me that he is grateful for the choice we made together, to be together. It has not been easy for either of us, but we have done our best to weather the challenges in each other, and to find the right, honest, kind words to overcome those challenges.

Everyone has their issues, the questions that vex them. (I think, had my grandmother and husband met, they likely would have shared the position that neither of them have issues; a chuckle within itself.) And for me, one of the challenges of my adoption has been the lack of fit, which wasn’t simply a family issue. Where do I really belong? Who actually gets me? Can I be understood and accepted just as I am? (I’m not saying it’s an exclusive question set to adoptees, though that part of my own history was a major component of my young life and trying to understand who I was, really.) And all of those questions are separated from the nerve center, which is, “Am I lovable? Who would, who could love me?”

I feel my grandmother and husband have given me that love. My grandmother did it for over 31 years without blinking. My husband has been doing it for 12, sometimes blinking back tears (as have I). The pregnant pause between them gave me the time I needed learn and understand my grandmother’s love for me, to begin learning how to love myself, and be ready to begin to love another.


Filed under grandchildren, Grieving, growth, Love, marriage

five carat ruby

In my 20’s, the way I got out of marriage talk was to say that discussions began with a five carat ruby. Not that I was a gold-digger; most of the time I earned more than my paramours, even with an academic salary, and I was generous with what I had. Instead, the impossibility of such a lovely tchotchke making a home on my finger – due to both their rarity and cost – was an airtight barrier.

Now a few weeks shy of 41, I take a detour into a jeweler’s shop while my husband brings my son to play on some bear sculptures in a shopping center. Wandering through the store, I came upon case after case of completely unnecessary and indulgent possibilities to mark another year. I still like rubies, and have a ruby and diamond band from friends to mark last year’s birthday and my July son.

And then I saw it. I haven’t priced such things in many years, and so I asked timidly if it was over 10,000. (Of course.) It was a favorite piece of the women who worked in the jeweler’s shop – the stone was polished and smooth, a cabochon. We checked the weight – 5.62 carats. It was set with strings of small diamonds, thin highway on and offramps around a smooth ruby hill. While the setting was not my style, it fit.

I guess it’s time to have that discussion.

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Filed under autonomy, Humor, jewelry, Love, marriage, relationships, ruby, wives

five years and counting

Last night, before turning out the light, I smiled at himself and said, “We did it!” He smiled back.

“It” was complete 5 years of marriage. We begin year six today, under a slightly more hazy sky that in 2002. Entering the competition for understatement of the year, I’ll say it’s been bumpy. I feel like we’ve been through some sort of horrible full-body version of truth or dare. Yet at the end, we’re finding ourselves on the same team. Peonies to the winners, or at least, to the survivors.

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Filed under ambivalence, anniversary, autonomy, Love, marriage, partnership, post-parenting marriage, relationships, struggle

heartsick, inspired

Some thoughts on the Edwards’ press conference yesterday, which left me somber and not a little heartsick.

A counselor mentioned the unusual, strange public-ness of the announcement. I agreed with her, but took exception from the perspective of media – that in the current media climate, they made the best decision they could, to be proactive (even if coerced) rather than reactive; to communicate privately to those close to them first, and then present a brave (and loving) face to the public.

Regardless of politics, their union is nothing short of inspiring. They love and respect each other, they celebrate the best of each other, their example is one that would serve any aspiring couple.

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Filed under 2008 elections, cancer, children, courage, Elizabeth Edwards, Grieving, heartbreak, heartbreaking, inspiring, John Edwards, loss, Love, marriage, Motherhood, Politics, public discourse, public experiences, public relations

oh, tell me something I don’t know.

“The main reason that educated and high-achieving women have trouble finding or keeping mates, according to observers past and present, is that they won’t play dumb enough to assuage a man’s ego or act submissive enough to put up with unfair treatment.”

So what happens when men begin to pursue women they consider their intellectual equals, and strive for more egalitarian divisions of labor?

“Studies have shown that men whose attitudes become more egalitarian during their marriage report higher marital satisfaction, and so do their wives; they also have better sex lives and more socially aware children.”

Amen, sister. Read the full story.

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Filed under marriage, relationships, what i did for love, wit, women

40 in 94 days?

Through my late 20’s, my birthday was the center of my calendar. I usually knew how many days remained until the day upon which I hoped to be lavished with gifts. And it wasn’t just the day – it was the year, too. I did cooperate with the Gregorian calendar, but always kept in mind that we were really living in, say, 27 JD, instead of 1993 AD. I reminded people – even one confused ex-boyfriend – of their actual ages based on the fact that I recalled theirs based on my own.

Well now, the tables have turned. My “much younger” husband will be 37 next week, but does not hesitate to let me know that soon, I will cross the chasm into middle age, and that he’d like me to let him know how it goes.

And you know, reading about the activities of people in my industry, I see how the men get to experience 40, whether they are fathers or childless, and I am jealous. They get to have fun – mostly, imho, because they have wives to manage the children and detritus. Some even head for marriage number 2 – getting a fresher model to handle detritus. But what about women at 40, in the tech business, but not techies? Do we get some fresher models ourselves, or do we get replaced by one? (I am reminded of remarks from a tech “notable”  about techpr women in brown lipstick and I check my purse to make sure I haven’t slid into stereotype.)

Do we arrive at 40, or do we get a new disorientation? And is it dictated at all by the washroom you use?

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Filed under 40th Birthday, aging, Birthdays, IT, lipstick, look at me, marriage, men, women