The 2 Words That Take on a New Meaning in a Special Needs Marriage
Life lessons are taught to different people at different times and in different ways, but they are always taught. You will never escape them. Some find themselves as pupils much earlier than others, but no matter when we find ourselves in the classroom, we’re never as prepared as we think we are for the test we’re about to take. So when I said “I do” to you, I had no idea how much education we had to look forward to.
When I said I do, I meant it. I love you and value you as a person, and I intend to love you and value you no matter what. It was easy to say it because of who you are. You’re talented and quiet and careful and deliberate. You don’t do anything without knowing it backwards and forwards. You are caring and stoic, which is an interesting combination because makes it more difficult for my hopelessly warped sense of romance — thank you, rom-coms — to truly appreciate all the care you show in all the subtle ways you show it.
It was easy to tell you I do that day because you stood handsome and smiling in a tuxedo and tie, looking at me in a way that makes me warm thinking about it five years later. It was easy to say it because our lives were easy, and it felt like saying it was the final step, but, of course, that was just youth and inexperience.
Then our daughter, Ellie, was born, and we were introduced to congenital heart defects. “I do” took on a new meaning. “I do” is still wrapped in all the sweetness my naïveté manifested, but it’s also something much different, something older, something I would never have been able to appreciate without her presence in our world.
“I do” means I promise to stand strong for you when you can’t be strong anymore. When you can’t keep it together for one more moment, I’ll keep it together for you. Even though I may want to fall apart with you, I never will.
“I do” means I promise to remember you’re always on my team, and we’re going to face every medical battle as a unit. There are never sides. There are never winners and losers. There is us — come hell or high water.
“I do” means I promise to recognize when you need a break, because you’ll continue to stand holding her hand and sleep with your head resting on the hospital bed bars until I tell you it’s OK to let go. I’ll cut you slack over and over because we both need it and deserve it.
“I do” means I promise to forgive you when we bicker over stupid things, because I know we’re thinking about how hard it’s going to be to put Ellie through one more procedure, and we just don’t know how to process the anxiety. I won’t hold a grudge and live in silence. I will swallow my pride and understand neither of us are to blame. I will talk, communicate and trust.
“I do” means I promise to love you even when it’s hard or when I feel like I have no more to offer. I promise to make the choice to love you.
“I do” means I promise that even though we’re not as young or carefree as we used to be, I will try to never sweat the small stuff and to fully appreciate the quiet moments we share, because it’s there in the quiet that so much truth can be heard.
“I do” means I love you. I will work hard to love you because you’re well worth the effort.
I said “I do” five years ago and I meant it…I just didn’t know how much. I do. I promise.
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