Ten years ago today, Bruce made me his bride, and we have had very few dull moments. It’s kind of strange, but the last year or so has seemed like history repeating itself …
We had a small wedding planned for Jan. 3, 1998 — just family (including the justice of the peace, who was my brother’s father-in-law) and two good friends (my matron of honor and our photographer, Barney, who didn’t charge us for any of it). My brother’s house, complete with Christmas tree, fireplace and white poinsettias, provided the cozy setting.
I had never dreamed of a big wedding, even when I was a girl, so the preparations didn’t cause a lot of stress. We spent less than $1,000 on everything — rings, dress, veil, suit, license, flowers, cake. My mom handled the flowers and the cake (both provided by friends), and even the punch — she suggested raspberry, and I said OK even though I didn’t care for raspberry. I just wanted things to be as simple as possible.
Things were sailing along, only 11 days to go. Then I got a call at work — the afternoon of Dec. 23 — about my dad.
We got to the hospital five hours before he died, but he was really already gone before we arrived.
Christmas was never going to be the same.
And the wedding? My brother gave me away. I walked on the wrong side of him. I barely remember the ceremony. I couldn’t tell you what the cake looked like. I was numb.
That was 10 years ago today.
Nine years ago, a couple of weeks before our first anniversary, Bruce spent 16 days (including Christmas) in the hospital. They diagnosed him with Crohn’s disease.
He came home with an IV needle in his chest. By our one-year anniversary, I had learned how to hook up the battery-powered pump that fed him via total parenteral nutrition (TPN). By Feb. 1, he had graduated to baby food. By March 1, he was back at work full time. He had another hospital stay in early 2004, and he recovered more quickly that time. But his little body would never be the same.
Fast forward to Dec. 3, 2006. We lost Bruce’s dad, an Army Air Corps veteran who had served his country honorably as a young man but could not beat Alzheimer’s in his 80s. We went to California and buried him in a national military cemetery on Dec. 7, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
After that, Bruce was ready to forgo Decembers for a while.
In early 2007, my sweetie began getting sick again. For most of the year, he battled the Crohn’s. He was in the hospital in late May, again in late June/early July … and in December.
Over the past year, we haven’t celebrated birthdays, anniversaries or holidays the same way as usual. In fact, we’re no longer sure what usual is.
I have a new job that — along with battling the disability insurance people, caring for a sick husband and just trying to get through the holidays with a bit of sanity — has again made me numb on many days.
But Bruce and I have never been closer. Having never walked in his shoes, I cannot say that his illness has been a good thing, but I see aspects of it as blessings in disguise. We’ve spent more time together this year than ever, and our appreciation of each other has grown. We have battled common enemies (illness, bureaucracy, financial hardship, dog poop), and we have grown extremely close.
Tonight I came home from work, apologized for not buying him a gift — or even a card — received his apology, and drove to Burger King for a buy-one-get-one-free deal that we had a coupon for. Our 10th anniversary is a big deal, but failing to buy each other gifts or dine out — no big deal. We ate the burgers, then crawled into bed to watch holiday bowl games, content just to be together.
It sure beats hospital food.
Bruce is taller than he looks here. He is slumping to show off where I “marked” him.
P.S. Happy birthday, Judy.