In late August, just as the semester is about to begin, we spend a Sunday together after he offers to take me to Mass. He has never been, and despite the fact that I am not trying to convert him, he is curious and unflummoxed. We were sitting in his apartment, talking about all sorts of things: everything and nothing, as great friendships do. Only ours had some secrets, obviously.
I remember he was leaning back in a chair, his hands folded in his lap when he suddenly said, exasperated,
I love you! I'm in love with you!
I did not react the way you're thinking I would. Or should.
I vaguely remember starting to cry, although it might've been more of a weep. Hey, at least I didn't sob.
And then I started saying things like, You don't know what you're talking about. You can't possibly feel that way...this is all too much...
Yes, you can say it---I had some obvious issues to work out.
He then gave me a letter he'd written to me a while back and left the room. It was a love letter, entitled "Letter to Emily (never to be sent)". An honest to god love letter. It made me swoon, and not because of it's titillating romantic quality, but precisely because of how unpoetic his words were; so simple and real. To this day, every year on my birthday, four days before his own, I read that letter.
He always had this very calm and collected, formal aspect to him. He didn't even kiss me that day. He just wanted me to know how he felt. He wanted to know how I felt, if I could ever feel the same about him, despite our differences. He was very polite, but also genuine and warm.
I was so taken aback by his old-fashioned approach that I honestly had no idea what to do. I think I cried simply because of this fact. When he drove me home, I looked over at him and the windows were down; it had just rained. The desert air was so fresh and he began to blast Bach. I kid you not: Bach's Cello Concertos. This is a person who is known as a connoisseur of Punk. He had tears in his eyes and he was smiling in a way I'd never seen him do. He exclaimed, I'm so happy! even though I was still so obviously overwhelmed and had not really given him an answer about dating. But something let go in me in that moment and I knew that I loved him. He knew that I was just afraid. To this day he often knows me better than I know myself. But it was pretty terrifying; the jumping in. Finding the one person I knew would take care of my heart and trust me with his, the one person I couldn't just easily break up with because that was what I always did: date guys I could easily break up with.
But I couldn't do that to him. No, never.
Fast forward 8 years. Here we are in 2012.
Now we have our first child together. This tall, lanky guy still gives me butterflies. We've been through hell and back, he and I. Oh, people love to say that: We've been through everything together. But after listening to half the stories, I've learned that most of what people call "everything" really means something like We've finally learned to take turns unloading the dishwasher. But as soon as the Littlest Big Thing happens, people seem to throw in the towel. That's how I know this thing MAC and I have---it's rare.
We've held each other through family heartache, rejection, and death from overdose, personal paradigm shifts, chronic disease diagnosis and the mess it makes of living (and dying), job losses and no money, pursuing goals others scoff at, homesickness, psychotic bosses that even bring their poison into one's home, sudden cross-country moves with a baby.
Oh my, the baby.
The little boy who is our greatest delight. We delight in each other, but he is what we are most proud of about ourselves, about each other. We wanted him so much; he makes our family. He makes our Home.
So this is to you, MAC. On your 30th birthday.
You're the best thing that ever happened to me. You are, as an elderly man told me a long time ago about how you know when you've met The One:
Well, you'll know him when you find him. That's the person who makes you want to be the best version of yourself.
Your soulmate is the person who challenges you. And that, you have done well.
I loved you the day I set eyes on you, even as I feared I didn't deserve you---you in all your talent and quiet joy and laughter, you in all your radical ideas and dreams. You in all your radical love and light.
I am blessed to know you, to spend my life around you; hearing your thoughts as you listen to mine.
Truly, you are not only my better half, but my best.