Wow, I can’t believe 17 years have passed since we stood on that beach in The Bahamas and promised to love each other forever. Almost everything about that day and those leading up to it is still crystal clear to me. I remember we didn’t have a lot of money so I bought my dress at a consignment shop for 100 dollars. I found a tailor to shorten it just a bit, you know, to make it sassy, just like me. She offered to make a little veil for me too and since we were pinching pennies, she did it for free.

We flew off to the Bahamas, telling only a few people what we were up to and my mom asked if she could come, remember that? Great, just what I envisioned, my mom on the honeymoon with us. Thankfully we saw eye to eye on that one. Do you remember the Reverend’s name? I do, Reverend Miller who we met the night before he married us for the low, low price of a hundred bucks, plus a ten spot for each for the paid witnesses.

I wanted to get married at 4pm; I don’t know why but it just seemed like a good time, as the sun was low in the sky. Someone had that time booked so we had to move ours to three. I wonder if they’re still married, not that I’m bitter or anything.

Do you remember what day of the week January 26th, 1994 was? I do, it was Wednesday. We chose it because we had to be in the country long enough to become temporary residents. The minute they said we were, we said, “I do”. We truly had fun that day, laughing as we filled out the paperwork in the shadow of The Cloisters. Do you remember what was so funny?  That the marriage license listed you as a divorcee but me as a “spinster”. Gotta love that old world charm. But really, it was a dream come true.

Can I tell you a secret? I wasn’t sure we were going to make it that first year. Maybe you weren’t either.  I had been single for so long and we were both pretty set in our ways.  I had also never been in a relationship that I couldn’t get out of cleanly and quickly with a phone call. But this was different somehow. Much more than words on paper, this was a promise, a commitment we carved out together. And so we soldiered on.

Before we knew it, we added two little babies to the mix who brought more joy than I ever knew was possible and more stress than I ever thought I could handle.  They continue bearing those twin gifts to this day.

You know when the minister says “In sickness and in health”?  I know now that it’s not just the literal translation. Yes, you have nursed me through some horrid stuff, the loss of my breasts, the loss of my job and there was a time, in the not too distant past, that you were a lifeline, reaching out to grab me as I felt myself slipping into the abyss. You have propped me up more times than I can count, so much that I wonder sometimes if you’ll ever tire of it. Or me. I hope not.

I remember when our marriage was immature, we used to hold hands and pledge not to let the outside world in. We talked about the figurative moat, filled with snapping crocodiles that surrounded our home; once we were inside and the drawbridge was raised, we were safe from the arrows and rocks being pelted at us from the outside. It was such a lovely picture. But in reality, some of the arrows made their way through the open window and left their mark.

You remind me a lot of my own father, which I supposed is why I married you. Not that I was spinning out of control or anything, but I’m not the most disciplined person out there and yes, I freely admit, my spontaneity and joie de vivre can veer off into recklessness if not kept in check. Of course, like a pent up stallion, that is the very thing I rail against. Funny how, over the years, you have learned when and just how much slack to give the reins, sometimes even before I do.

I am proud of you as a husband and father. Though your parenting style is almost diametrically opposed to mine, we somehow manage to make it work and our kids are better for it. And I am proud of you for leading by example, showing our son how a good man behaves and our daughter what to expect in a husband.

I would love to say the last 17 years were blissful, highlighted by straight A’s, restful vacations and white picket fences. But the truth is it’s been a bumpy ride. Our life together does have some of those things but there have also been crises, some so big and bad, causing rifts so deep between us, I wasn’t sure we could make our way back to one another. There were times I didn’t even want to try. I came so close to running away, certain you didn’t understand what I was going through. I mean, if you did, why wouldn’t you do something? Looking back on it now, I see you were doing the best you could, handling the only way you knew how. You put your head down and soldiered on, methodically, stoically, knowing that this rough patch would pass. And thankfully it did.

Just after we married, every so often I would catch a glimpse of my wedding ring, all shiny and new and be literally baffled as to why someone as together as you, would sign on to spend the rest of their life with me.  After 17 years, I think I have it figured out. You see, I can’t cook and have no desire to learn. I’m a slob who only wears matching socks when I can find them. I have a vague idea of how the washing machine works but can barely remember where the laundry room is. You, the neat freak, somehow manages to hold your nose and shake your head, accepting the fact that energy spent trying to change me would be better put to use elsewhere. In short, you accept me for who I am. Not the Rene the public knows, the one who’s dressed and made up, hair in place and on her best behavior. No you are treated to the tired, bitchy one at the end of the day, ripped jeans, no make-up and every single hair OUT of place. And you still look at me like I walked off the page of a high fashion magazine. Okay, that part is a lie but at least you don’t laugh. Or scream.

I hope I make you as happy as you do me (most of the time) and I pray we have many, many more years together. If that which doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, than together, we are invincible.

I love you honey.