I’m a date sensitive person. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t. But dates creep up on me and affect my mood – sometimes for better and oftentimes for worse. The day a cancer diagnosis was received and changed a loved one’s life forever. The day I lost a pregnancy. First dates. Engagements. Death. (Somehow, this sensitivity doesn’t extend to birthdays. Friends and family will tell you I am horrible with birthdays.)
But the one date I know will be forever etched in memory is October 20, 2001.
I thought about it approaching last week. Then I sort of forgot about it. Then this morning, while looking at my kids’ school calendar trying to figure out if today was a Chapel Day, where they had to wear their school t-shirts, it hit me right in the face. My first wedding. October 20. Thirteen years ago.
As weddings go, it was pretty damn perfect. Everything was absolutely as we wanted it to be. The church was out of a New England dream, but located in Southern California. The reception a swanky Yacht Club in my hometown. My mother and I lied to my father and spent more on flowers than we did on food and booze. And there was a lot of food and booze. The flowers. Amazing. People still talk to me about the flowers. My best girlfriends looking beautiful and standing by my side. The groomsmen all cleaned up (!!) and looking dapper and handsome.
My dress. My dress. My dress.
My goal was Grace Kelly elegant with my own personality infused. When I saw the gown at the store, it was exactly what I wanted. When I put it on, that thing that every girl hears about finding a wedding dress screamed true: this is THE dress. I didn’t need to try on anything else.
We professed our love and pledged our lives in a beautiful ceremony. We ate and drank and danced and laughed with our family and friends at an amazing reception.
And perhaps it was because so many things weren’t perfect in our real life that the wedding had to be so perfect. No room for error, absolutely perfect.
My soon to be husband was recently out of rehab – finally competing residential treatment for substance abuse – alcohol and pain pills. He had a history of incredible highs and devastating lows. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but didn’t want anyone to know. We had been through the ringer, and, above all else, we both felt we deserved this one day. Because this one day was supposed to be the start of a turn around. To better days. A promising future. Dreams realized. It was not supposed to be the highlight before the heartbreaking downward spiral.
We were married on October 20, 2001, almost a year to the day from his proposal in Aspen, along the banks of the Roaring Fork River, on October 21, 2000. My husband died by suicide on May 18, 2002. We hadn’t even been married a year.
I am remarried now, to a wonderful man who understands my past is a part of me – it has made me who I am. I have two beautiful sons. A dog. Both my parents. A sister. Family. Friends. So many things to be thankful for. So many gifts and blessings to count every day. Yet, this day stops me in my tracks every year.
I think part of the remembering is also to acknowledge what has transpired since. Love, pain, frustration, loss, death and rebirth. And not in any particular order – sometimes these all were happening simultaneously.
I went from a bride to a widow to a single woman who wouldn’t lean on anyone and swore she would never depend on anyone again to a woman who let love in again. And, on that roller-coaster, I had to learn to love myself again. First, I had to do that. If you don’t love yourself, there is no possible way to love anyone else. Not in a genuine way at least. Not in the ways that matter most.
So, I remember. Simply so I don’t forget.
Mamalawmadingdong can also be found on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mamalawmadingdong