After You Say "I Do"

We were married less then a year when Larry walked through the door of our small apartment in Beaverton, Oregon and announced, “we’re moving back to California, I quit my job, start packing.” 

“Shouldn’t we discuss this first?”

Oh the hell with it, I wasn’t sure what I thought about the pool freezing over in our complex, or the nonstop rain, and I was sort of homesick. I started folding, wrapping, and stacking our life in cardboard boxes. That’s when all our belongings fit in a U-Haul trailer and our need for stability was minimal. 

“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday.” Nicholas Sparks

It was the second anniversary when we realized we cared for each other even more than last year. 

Three years in we gave birth to our first child, a mini me, and she became our world. Larry presented me with a beautiful Lladro figurine, something he would repeat with the births of our successive children, and those figurines still live on the mantle in the family room, sparking joy in my heart whenever I pass. #MarieKondoThing

I think it was the fourth year, right after we moved to Kansas, when our beloved child split her chin open on the edge of the bathtub. We were in the recovery room when I realized I was wearing a nightshirt covered in blood, no bra, and bright pink sweats, but more importantly we learned how unified we could be when our child was in distress. We cried, we held her, we spoke words of comfort, and we no longer cared if she slept with us for the rest of our lives.

Six months later we welcomed our second beautiful baby into the world, there’s two things we know for sure, they were sent here from heaven, and they’re Daddy’s little girls (Bob Carlisle adapted). We decided being a parent was so damn hard, except for the butterfly kisses, morning snuggles, and the patter of little feet on the hardwood floor. My prayers were completely redirected, all I could feel was enormous gratitude, and sheer exhaustion, but God had my back. 

Year seven we moved back to California, I was eight months pregnant, and four weeks after moving half way across the country we welcomed our third child into the family, our hearts were on fire, and although outnumbered we learned to multitask. At this point in time I’d been pregnant or nursing for six years, hadn’t slept though the night in ages, and really had no business driving. 

We didn’t get the seven year itch, we got promoted, Larry moved from medical into high tech, and suddenly our lives were immeasurably easier. We installed a car phone, put up a play set in the backyard, and discovered fine wine. Our house and hearts may have been in full bloom but every now and then the weeds took over. You know what I mean? Bad seeds get mixed in with the good. It happens.

Larry doused that shit with roundup.  

I think it was the ten year mark when I realized I could not change the dude I married, it was the same month all of our children came down with the chicken pox, and suddenly his travel schedule was unusually packed?

Hallmark does not make a card for this type of occasion.

I called my Mom, “S.O.S., I’m sinking, send in the fu*king coast guard.” She was on the next flight and walked in the door just as I was throwing a shoe at the traveler for no reason. She caught it midair. Damn handy woman. 

It’s not a moment I’m proud of but I tell you this because I’ve learned it’s okay to ask for help. As most of you know I would rather pull my fingernails out one at a time then admit defeat, but as if a card game, you have to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run screaming to your Mama. 

We took our first vacation without the children during our tenth year. Mom flew in to guard the nest. I wrote out a complex daily schedule, loaded the refrigerator with food, and left the insurance cards on the counter. When we returned everyone was alive. A taxi was waiting in the driveway?

She couldn’t get on that return flight faster. 

It was year twelve, let’s call these the difficult years, when I realized I could survive just about anything but not on my own. Our fourth child arrived, traveler dropped me off on the curb, with the child still in the car seat, a sign on the front lawn welcomed the baby home, and he headed to the airport for a week long business trip. I was trippin.

But Mom was there waiting for me. She had the older children dressed in the matching sibling shirts and the kitchen floor was recently swept. For some reason this made me inordinately happy and I sat down in the living room and cried.

That night without a single word Mom heard my silent anguish, walked into the room, took the cranky baby out of my arms, and put me to bed. Then she crawled in next to me, rubbed my back, while she rocked the baby in her other arm, put us both to sleep. I would one day do this for my own child, but this is how I learned, her hand on my back, her heart holding my son.

One evening around year thirteen traveler called from a swanky bar in downtown Boston, he said, “what did you do today?” I thought he was kidding, we have four kids, a dog, a cat, and high maintenance fish. They all need to be fed, clothed, taxied all over town (except the fish) and he wants to know WHAT I DID TODAY? Yeah, I hung up on him.  

No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I’ve been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — till next time. Madeleine L’Engle

I decided it was time to go on strike (I may have overreacted a tad) but there is nothing worse then a women on a diet, premenstrual, and perimenopausal. The combination can be lethal, especially for husbands, poor guy had no idea what sort of storm was brewing at home.

I did absolutely nothing for four days and could hardly wait for him to walk in the door. When he did I was ready, a beer in hand (I never drink beer but it was the perfect prop), Magnum P.I. on the television, children running amuck, with no surface in the house visible. In fact we had to create a path in order to get around.

He stepped carefully over all the rubble, leaned in to give me a kiss, and without a word rolled up his sleeves, and started cleaning. Thirty minutes in I asked for a cold beer and if he could hold off vacuuming until the commercial break? He was ever so accommodating. 

I married a good one. 

By year thirteen we expanded the house. It was as if I could breath again. This was a good year.  

During years fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen, we had the time of our lives, sporting events dominated the calendar, our neighbor Brighton was officially adopted, the teens took over the house, messaging became a thing, the front yard looked like a used car lot, we needed more chaperons, because preaching abstinence seemed futile, and as everyone was learning to master their own lives, I was learning to let go. It hurt like hell. 

We survived, we thrived, we maybe even matured.

One evening I glanced around the patio, gathered at our ample table were some of our closest friends, sipping wine, laughing, singing along with the Eagles. It was a cool evening after a warm summer day, when Larry was turning on the patio heater, I remember catching his eye and smiling, because we both knew the rarity of true friends. It was these who picked us up when life won the round and they did it with such grace we hardly noticed. 

“Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?” Betty Friedan

I applied to graduate school somewhere around year twenty, got accepted, even graduated, but more importantly I developed my critical thinking skills, and landed a day job with a paycheck. When we looked at each other from across the almost empty nest and we deemed it as good. I think we started dating again. (Update: my sister just called, she wanted to know who the hell I was dating? Hello, each other!)

Our first trip to Europe with those same good friends marked our twenty-fifth year and we got bit hard by the travel bug. Italy rocks, I decided I didn’t want to change him after all, and we both became frequent flyers.  

Year twenty-seven we lost my Dad to an array of health issues, I had to learn to live with a gaping hole in my heart, I felt rudderless, so I just gave into the waves of misery, and we learned how grief ebbs and flows, but more importantly how to value the rapidly dwindling years.

Before long daughter number one married the love of her life, we gained an incredible new son, the morning of their wedding Larry handed me a gift with my coffee. I said, “what in the world is this?” It was a Lladro, something to mark this momentous occasion, just like he did after the births of all our children. I sat in bed with this little boy figurine in my hand and cried. He so gets me.

By year twenty-eight we bought a lake house in a desperate attempt to bring the family into one zip code. A place we could call our own, a way to stack up memories as if logs on a fire, and hope those embers would keep us warm in the winter of our life.

By the way, we’re toasty.

Was it year thirty when one of our children decided to move to Australia? He took a piece of my heart with him, I had to stop myself from chasing his taxi down the street, I hate good-byes. There, I said it. 

I’m still waiting for him to come home, but slowly learning home is where he makes it, I’ve had to let go of the idea that home was exclusively my place. Tissue please.

Less than a year later we welcomed our first grandchild into the family and our hearts grew three sizes that day. She lit up our world as if the fourth of July. We looked at each other with new eyes, we saw how love inflates, stretches, and repurposes everything we know to be rare and true. “To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous,” says Elizabeth Gilbert.

Somewhere during year thirty-two twin grand daughters came into our lives. It is not possible to understand how they doubled our joy, and just when I was learning to tell them apart, my beloved Mother went off to be with Dad. Did I mention I hate good-byes? 

Larry was my rock, but the pain of severing the umbilical cord from mother to child is indescribable, Nancy (my beloved sister) and I clung to each other as if our lives depended on it. As it turns out it did.

And we clung even tighter when her husband lost his battle with diabetes, left us in the middle of the night, and suddenly my sister became a widow. There are no words at a time like this, just presence, tears, and love. The family flooded in as did friends and neighbors, a beautiful tribute to the way David loved the people in his life. 

He would have said, “It’s all good,” because early on he learned to trust in something much bigger than himself. 

Life, ever a mixture of devastation and delight, we set off in celebration of daughter number two who said yes to the ring last February, and Tim finally joined the family slack channel. We looked at each other on our second flight out to Boston in one week, my foot still in a boot, and deemed us ever so lucky, my soon to be son-in-law pulled everything off without a hitch. Love is in the air…

I think it was year thirty-six when we bought each other cards and forgot to give them to each other. It’s the thought that counts.

“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.” Dave Meurer

The things we have collected over the years no longer fit in a U-haul but the things that matter do not take space, money, or go on strike. I’ve learned that real love forces you to weed out the rubbish, and embrace the good in each other, because as we know love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres as if figurines on a mantel, sparking joy in the lives of our beloved. (adapted 1 Corinthians)

I still love watching him walk into a room, I love when he pulls me into a warm embrace, and when he kisses me slow. As Kahlil Gibran notes to love is to melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully.” 

I end with these wise words from Shannon Alder who says, “When you find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of hot, who calls you back when you hang up on him, who will stand in front of you when other’s cast stones, or will stay awake just to watch you sleep, who wants to show you off to the world when you are in sweats, who will hold your hand when your sick, who thinks your pretty without makeup, the one who turns to his friends and say, ‘that’s her’, the one that would bear your rejection because losing you means losing his will to live, who kisses you when you screw up, watches the stars and names one for you and will hold and rock that baby for hours so you can sleep… marry him all over again.” 

This is what happens after you say, “I do.”

I’m Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, bring your wedding album.

Let’s engage in the comments! What has life taught you? 

  • “Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” Khalil Gibran
  • I love his good smell and his body that fits with mine as if they were made in the same body-shop to do just that. Sylvia Plath
  • “After all these years, I see that I was mistaken about Eve in the beginning; it is better to live outside the Garden with her than inside it without her.” Mark Twain


Leave a Comment

  1. I really enjoyed your post.
    Are you at all surprised you managed to cover the most significant moments of your life in such a way, and in so few pages? I think your choice of writing style was well-suited to allowing you to produce this wonderful testament of your life.
    You included adequate examples of both sadness & joy to make the journey an easy one for every reader.
    Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Kate, so glad you connected with this post. My intention was to explore lessons learned in marriage, what I ended up learning was how fast life has passed, as if a toilet paper roll, the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes! Thank you for taking the time to respond, I’m ever so grateful. All my best, Cheryl


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