The number of times I started this post – and then set it aside. COUNTLESS.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
I swiped right because he was passing through town…and from his profile he was looking for something casual. Truth be told, I wasn’t even supposed to be dating. I’d given up men for Lent. But I was bored…and I wanted to go on a hike. So one overcast morning he picked me up at 6 am…and then he picked me up the next morning too.
In the car, driving back from our second hike, he turned to me and asked:
Him: “Have you ever seen the movie There’s Something About Mary?”
Him: “You’re Mary.”
I smiled and laughed…and immediately went home and watched the movie all over again. I knew then that our “something casual” had just turned into “something complicated”.
A few nights later he came over with his brother (who is a chef). His brother cooked us a fabulous dinner…then left. We cuddled on the couch watching a movie. There was this thought in my head…something I felt but couldn’t verbalize. Thankfully, he could. He looked at me and said, “Doesn’t it feel like we’re falling back into something that has always been?”
Relationships are hard. According to Alain de Botton, the idea of “Happily Ever After” is a relatively new concept. For centuries, love and marriage were based on contracts. Two people (likely two families), would strike a mutually beneficial bargain. The concept of Love as we know it today, is nascent at best, and began somewhere in the Romantic period (roughly 1800 – 1850).
Now, unlike Botton, I am a romantic at heart. I remember reading the story of Charles Boyer when I was in Middle School. That was when a little poem about Kindergarten inspired a series of books by Robert Fulghum. Truth be told, I haven’t thought of those books or that story in years. If you’re unfamiliar, Fulghum tells it like this:
This is kind of personal. It may get a little syrupy, so watch out. It started as a note to my wife. And then I thought that since some of you might have husbands or wives and might feel the same way, I’d pass it along. I don’t own this story, anyway. Charles Boyer does.
Remember Charles Boyer? Suave, dapper, handsome, graceful. Lover of the most famous and beautiful ladies of the silver screen. That was on camera, and in the fan magazines. In real life, it was different.
There was only one woman. For forty-four years. His wife, Patricia. Friends said it was a lifelong love affair. Soul mates. They were no less lovers and friends and companions after forty-four years than after the first year.
Then Patricia developed cancer of the liver. And though the doctors told Charles, he could not bear to tell her. And so he sat by her bedside to provide hope and cheer. Day and night for six months. He could not change the inevitable. Nobody could. And Patricia died in his arms. Two days later Charles Boyer was also dead. By his own hand. He said he did not want to live without her.
He said, “Her love was life to me”.
This was no movie. As I said, it’s the real story — Charles Boyer’s story.
It is not for me to pass judgment on how he handled his grief. But it is for me to say I am touched and comforted in a strange way. Touched by the depth of love behind the apparent sham of Hollywood love life. Comforted to know that a man and woman can love each other that much that long.
I don’t know how I would handle my grief in similar circumstances. I pray I shall never have to stand in his shoes. (Here comes the personal part – no apologies). But there are moments when I look across the room–amid the daily ordinariness of life–and I see the person I call my wife and friend and companion. And I understand why Charles Boyer did what he did. It really is possible to love someone that much. I know. I’m certain of it.
One chilly evening, I took him and his brother to a house show that felt like a frat party. We were the oldest people there by at least a decade. The music was so loud it was nearly impossible to hear one another. There in the dark and hazy room, the screen on my phone lit up with a text that read, “And suddenly all the love songs were about you”. I looked up at him and saw a future I never planned.
A couple days ago, I introduced him to a friend and followed with…“And I’m going to marry him”. I said it in jest…the kind of jest that springs from truth. Later I asked him if what I had said scared him…he smiled and said…“No…quite the opposite. I felt twitterpated.” (He watches A LOT of Disney).
A week later he stood on a busy street corner in downtown Boulder and screamed at the top of his lungs, “Boulder, I love this woman”. And then it was his turn to tell a random stranger – “I’m going to marry her”.
My Mother says any two people off the street could meet randomly and decide to love one another and somehow make it work. Perhaps this is true. Perhaps commitment and faith matter more than romance or chemistry.
Lately I feel grateful. The kind of gratitude born of surprise. You see, I never expected to love someone like this. To feel this kind of love in return. Is it complicated? Overwhelmingly so. Are there moments that scare me? Absolutely. In those moments, I remember a phrase W and I have always passed back and forth with one another, “Channel Love and not fear”.
The only thing I know for certain – he is my person. I absolutely intend to marry him. It is my hope that we will spend our lives growing young together.