October 14, 2000: Embro, Ontario
"So what's the standard gift for your fifteenth anniversary?" I asked Eva the other morning.
She applied Google-fu, and within seconds replied: "Crystal".
"Oh, that's great!" I said, enthused. "Have you found her yet?"
...and that earned me a slap and a giggle. "Smartass," she said. "The other option is watches."
"Right...I get Crystal, and you watch."
Apparently I like getting slapped.
All kidding aside, fifteen is supposed to be a big one. They stop numbering individually after this and start counting by fives...I guess we're supposed to go to "China" on our 20th. I'd rather do
People have expressed--I don't know what it is. Surprise? Awe?--that we have been married so long. It baffles me, really. First of all, fifteen years is not a long time. My mom and stepdad have been married over twice as long; Eva's parents were married almost three times as long (it'd be more than three times as long by now had her father not passed away...I miss him.) We have friends in our generation with longer-lived marriages: you get the point.
And really, why do we even acknowledge these milestones? It seems strange to me, somehow. I'm just sharing my life with a woman I love. Isn't that...normal? Since when is "normal" worthy of congratulations?
I had two 'starter' relationships before Eva. One of them even had (engagement) rings involved in it. Neither of them had the immediate depth, strength, and clarity of purpose that I found with Eva. Not even close. I thought I knew what love was long before I met my wife. I didn't.
We bought a bed on our second date, on the grounds that I wasn't going to subject her back or mine to that God-awful futon of hers ever again if I could help it. By the end of our third date we were discussing wedding plans. People say we moved fast. We didn't. We simply knew, and in the knowing, acted accordingly. Where there is Love, Time ceases to be.
"How long you been married?"
"Fifteen years, but it's 23 with the wind chill factor."
Not in this house. Marriage chills are few, far between, and very short-lived over the length of our relationship. (Guys: the key is to (a) realize you're wrong and (b) actually admit you're wrong. Even if (shhhh) you're not, sometimes. Pick your battles: if you've picked the right spouse you won't have many, and when you do put your foot down, she'll know you're serious.)
There was one instance when I felt a powerful urge to slap my wife. One. It was when she offered me a divorce after it became clear we wouldn't be able to have children. Kids *were* a part of our vows (they make no appearance in the standard set)...but kids don't make a marriage.
What does? What IS a marriage, to me, to us?
Not long before I met Eva, I read the third volume of the Conversations with God trilogy, by Neale Donald Walsch. Practically everything in all three volumes resonated with me immediately--in much the same way Eva herself did, come to think of it. Within that volume, Neale reproduced his full wedding service. Over the years, I have repeatedly come back to this passage, each time with a deeper awareness and appreciation of its vision. This is an excerpt of the service, at the point just before the vows are exchanged.
Minister: Now Nancy and Neale, you have told me it is your firm understanding that you are not entering into this marriage for reasons of security . . . . . . that the only real security is not in owning or possessing, nor in being owned or possessed . . . . . .not in demanding or expecting, and not even in hoping, that what you think you need in life will be supplied by the other . . . . . .but rather, in knowing that everything you need in life . . . all the love, all the wisdom, all the insight, all the power, all the knowledge, all the understanding, all the nurturing, all the compassion, and all the strength . . . resides within you . . . . . . and that you are not marrying the other in hopes of getting these things, but in hopes of giving these gifts, that the other might have them in even greater abundance. Is that your firm understanding tonight?
(They say, "It is.")
And Nancy and Neale, you have told me it is your firm understanding you are not entering into this marriage as a means of in any way limiting, controlling, hindering, or restricting each other from any true expression and honest celebration of that which is the highest and best within you - including your love of God, your love of life, your love of people, your love of creativity, your love of work, or any aspect of your being which genuinely represents you, and brings you joy. Is that still your firm understanding tonight?
(They say, "It is.")
Finally, Nancy and Neale, you have said to me that you do not see marriage as producing obligations but rather as providing opportunities . . . . . . opportunities for growth, for full Self-expression, for lifting your lives to their highest potential, for healing every false thought or small idea you ever had about yourself, and for ultimate reunion with God through the communion of your two souls . . . . . . that this is truly a Holy Communion . . . a journey through life with one you love as an equal partner, sharing equally both the authority and the responsibilities inherent in any partnership, bearing equally what burdens there be, basking equally in the glories. Is that the vision you wish to enter into now?
(They say, "It is.")
--from Conversations With God, Book 3 by Neale Donald Walsch
Knowing what you know of me, and knowing what you know of Eva and I, you can perhaps see how we have chosen to interpret and live this vision.
For us, it works.
It's worked for fifteen years...really a little more than sixteen, because we considered ourselves married on that third date; the actual ceremony eighteen months later was a formality (in no way "mere").
Life isn't always easy. Actually, I think it's fair to say that over the last year or two it hasn't been easy at all. But being married is easy. I can't imagine facing the crap we've faced down together...alone. I just can't.
I have written Eva quite a few poems over the years, but as far as I'm concerned, I've never outdone or even matched the first one I wrote...on our second date.
And Every Day...
I've never felt this way before
I miss you and I love you more
than I could ever hope to show,
and every day I'll tell you so.
I'll tell in words, I'll tell in deeds
I'll tell you as we plant the seeds
of life and love: they're ours to sow,
and every day we both will know.
We'll know that love is ours to share.
We'll know it is forever there.
And through the years our seeds will grow,
and every day, my love, we'll go...
We'll go to places yet undreamed.
We'll go to places often deemed
to be where streams of kisses flow,
and every day the breeze will blow.
The breeze will blow us joy and cheer
and laughter, and a fleeting tear
and Life will lead both high and low
and every day, new rows to hoe...
I love you, Eva, don't forget
I haven't even started yet
to demonstrate so that you'll know:
But every day, I'll tell you so.
--written by Ken Breadner, June 1999
Does that read like a second-date love note to you? Even I--a man who falls in love easily and deeply--knows that any other woman would read that on a second date and run far far away. But we just knew, and acted accordingly.
We've done a lot of living in fifteen years. It feels like four or five lifetimes--or four or five minutes. Where there is Love, Time ceases to be.
Life has indeed led both high and low. Both of us have had to recognize, and rekindle, each other's light in times of darkness. Both of us have had to remind each other who we really are. Because that's what a partnership is for. Oh, yeah, and to scratch those damned infernal itches in the exact MIDDLE of your back. That too.
I love you, Eva Breadner. I always have and I always will.