This is Marriage
My husband Joe and I have been married for twenty-four years. This is half my life.
Once upon a time, he and I stood upon a concrete campus, hands clasped. My heart was racing. The trees glowed with autumn sunshine.
If we knew all that was ahead of us, would we have stayed there, fingers intertwined?
If we had a crystal ball to show us this messy, ordinary life with five children, autism, work, and family?
Would we have walked to the altar, all white dress and black tuxedo, and exchanged our earnest vows?
I am routine to his spontaneity.
Risk-adverse to his entrepreneurial adrenaline.
I can be needy.
I tend to dwell.
I hand out forgiveness like so many gold coins in a Leprechaun’s silken bag.
I mean, he isn’t perfect either. He is a good man, yes.
But he snores.
If I suggest a movie and it’s, say, $3.99 to rent, he will search every single streaming service for a free version. In an effort to remain in somewhat good humor, I have come to call this tendency of his Not Sexy Behavior.
He does things that bug me, is what I am trying to say here.
Yet he’s the one I want in a rainstorm, or a dark alley, or a crowded airport.
He offers me the first bite of every meal he orders.
This is marriage.
It is small gestures and petty grievances.
It is umbrellas in the rain, mad dashes to catch a flight, the first taste of spaghetti.
Nothing is real until I tell it to him.
Our first terrible fight was about Oreos. We were newlyweds. He’d finished an entire package without even asking if I wanted one. Somehow, I thought this symbolized everything that was wrong with our young union.
Over time, our arguments became darker—more serious. There was a raw edge to them.
Money. In-laws. Autism.
As voices raised and accusations flew, it often felt like I was teetering on the side of a large abyss. He and I were separated by the deepest chasm. Married, yes. But also so very alone.
Our son Jack has autism. When he was little—maybe three or four—he screamed whenever we were in the car. He could do this for hours.
It was Joe who discovered he would stop if we played The Rainbow Connection from the Muppet Show. Kermit’s voice, it seemed, had magical powers.
Jack is eighteen now. He is one month into a college program.
We worry about different things, Joe and I. It’s always been this way.
We carry autism grief separately like colorful buckets of very red paint.
We thought one day this would be behind us.
It will never be behind us.
This is marriage.
Side by side we stand, firmly rooted to the ground, and stretch our gaze upward.
And on the days when it is all too much for me, when I can’t see the sun for the clouds and I can’t take another step in the name of spectrum progress, he takes my hand is his. He points out the stars in the sky.
His love is not the way of flowers. It is not the way of candy-coated Valentines, or Hallmark cards, or lavish birthday gifts.
It is the way of cleaning vomit from carpets.
It is the way of burgers on the grill when I don’t want to cook and waiting up for teenagers just licensed to drive.
It is the way of IEP meetings, and behavior plans, and guardianship.
It is the way of holding doors, and carrying bags, and a bite of chicken parmesan.
It is the ordinary work it takes to move a family forward.
He and I root for the underdog.
We root for the boy who doesn’t always have a voice of his own.
Have we done enough?
Have we explained and advocated and hurt and tried enough?
No one believes in him the way we do. That’s the thing.
This is marriage.
It is small pockets of time—moments of hope, and love, and loss, all mixed up with old-fashioned grit.
Funny birthday cards, goofy texts, the silent treatment, stolen kisses, give-and-take, compromise, failed attempts, and new beginnings.
Morning coffee, small smiles across the dinner table, a cassette tape in the car.
It is standing on the edge of the abyss and saying, I choose to stay. Today, I will stay.
Half my life.
Half my sky.
Happiest anniversary to us.
May the music play.
May the stars shine.
August 29, 2022 @ 12:08 pm
As soon as I see “Marriage” as a topic of what you’re writing about I can’t wait to read it. You are so honest and relatable thank you for sharing all aspects of your life. Autism brings many challenges. When I read 80% of Autism parents marriages fail my heart sank. Like you, we have our ups and downs. Times we almost left each other. The wisest pieces of advice I received while engaged was – forgive each other. This has stuck with me like mantra. At first I thought What!, what do you mean we aren’t going to hurt each other. It’s the little things that add up and the moments of lashing out. Being on the same page of bringing up a child with Autism and all things that includes can bring out the worst and best in us.
You and Joe are an inspiration. Cheers to another 24 years of bliss ;- )
August 29, 2022 @ 12:46 pm
I cried at this it’s so perfect. Funny how you used the word ‘grit’ here; my younger son and I walked passed a salt bin about an hour before I read this and my son asked what grit was. I told him it’s what I need every day. 😂
August 29, 2022 @ 12:56 pm
Very rude of me…Many congratulations on your anniversary, you are an inspirational couple. Hope you both have a lovely day.
August 29, 2022 @ 1:03 pm
Happy Anniversary…I too would look for the free streaming version of the movie…having kids means needing every extra penny for them…or for an illness that can’t be planned on.
TracyEllen Carson Webb
August 29, 2022 @ 8:01 pm
August 29, 2022 @ 8:26 pm
Happy anniversary Joe and Carrie!
September 3, 2022 @ 3:25 pm
In marriage, the ordinary is extraordinary. Congrats on another extraordinary year.
September 3, 2022 @ 3:26 pm
In marriage the ordinary is extraordinary. Congrats on another extraordinary year!