When I was a grad student at Case, just down the hall from the Math department was this little cutie who sat in an office with the door open. I would stick my head in and talk for a bit and over time Kim and I got to be friends.
Our first date was fourteen years ago on January 25. We went to see the play “The Heidi Chronicles” and then out for coffee. Although it was just friends going out, it was the perfect evening. It took each of us several months to realize how much more we enjoyed each other’s company than the people we were “dating”.
Kim said that she didn’t want to date me because she knew we would get married. She is Catholic and that’s a very important part of her. I’m Jewish and I’m struggling with how important that is to me. But in either case, neither of us wanted to change. She knew that her life would be easier if she married a Catholic man. They could celebrate this part of their life together. I’m not very observant (in a religious sense) but I wanted my children to be brought up Jewish. I selfishly assumed I’d marry a Jewish woman who would do all of that work for me.
We started going out on July 25 and got married a little over a year later on August 8, 1993. I don’t know why. We liked each other’s company. We made each other laugh. We made each other think. We were attracted to each other and loved holding each other. Are those reasons to get married?
The first year of marriage was very difficult. We were both eldest children who had been single and living on our own for two long. Compromise was not in either of our natures. At the end of the first year, Kim woke up and looked at me and said “I’m going to make a list of everything I’m unhappy with in our marriage.” This didn’t sound good. We had our coffee, not saying much to each other. As she left the house she added “and you can make a list too.”
We did. We talked. We listened. We are still married. Both of us say the same thing to friends when asked. We are very happy in our marriage – it has been a great 12 years and one not so good year.
After a year or so of enjoying our marriage, we discussed having children. People who know us and know how central our children our to our lives (I can’t use the singular form yet) may find it surprising that we could see ourselves being happy with and without children. But I think that was crucial for our personalities. The fact that we could live rich and fulfilled lives without children meant that we weren’t choosing to have children to somehow complete ourselves.
We decided to adopt a child and (if we could) have a child. So many of our friends either were adopted or have adopted that we wanted to start there. If we couldn’t have a biological child we would have adopted another.
This story isn’t about our children it’s about Kim. This woman I married because she was cute and smart and had a sharp tongue and a warm heart.
She is an amazing mother. Who knew. When you are dating someone or first get married, you have no idea of how they will be as a parent. She is wonderful and has made me better. I’ve watched her with the kids amazed at her patience and instincts. My heart swells with love for her watching what she has given our children. Of course we disagree about many things in parenting but, as my mom constantly and correctly reminds me, I was so lucky to find and marry Kim.
This isn’t a stop and smell the roses moment because we’ve lost a child. I tell Kim these things a lot. When she is feeling harried and overwhelmed I tease her that this is the life she asked for. She has a husband, two beautiful, happy, healthy, bright children, and a great house in a great neighborhood with great schools and wonderful neighbors. She works part-time so that she can help out in the schools. She’s been our kids’ room mother, gone on field trips, been an assistant troop leader for the Brownies, been a soccer mom. Who knew she could or would be all this.
Our biggest fights are over the stupidest things. The only thing she’s told me I couldn’t buy (yeah – couldn’t – that left me a little puzzled) was a $25 baking scale. This was ten years ago and she shook her head for years saying she didn’t know why she said no. She insisted I go out and buy one for a long time before I did. We’ve never fought over the important things and there have been plenty of important things over the years.
I wish I had never seen Kim as a grieving mother. There is nothing I can do to help her. As with everything else she touches she has been a strength to those around her. We chose Elena’s casket last night. As nice and gentle as the funeral director was, how do you listen to “do you like this one better” when you are talking about such a thing.
Neither Kim nor I wear a wedding ring. We both have them. We just don’t wear them. You are supposed to wear a ring as an outward sign of your marriage. There’s no one who has spoken with me for more than five minutes who hasn’t heard me mention Kim or the girls.
I have a fear in all that we are going through. There are so many families that don’t pull through. There are so many families that are destroyed by the death of a child. We both understand that danger and have talked about it. On the day that Elena died, I ran out to pick up the mail and to get Maggie from school. There was a program on NPR about a book in which a man had interviewed men about their marriages. The author reported that a surprising number of men ( 80% ?) said that if they had to do it all again they would marry their current wife.
I didn’t see what was so surprising about that.
Neither Kim nor I believe there is only one person out there for you. If that were true, what are the odds that you’d actually find that person. We think that there are many people that could be right for you. And once you are ready, with love and commitment (and each mean different things over the course of a marriage), you can build something wonderful. Once it’s been built, however, then I can’t imagine building it with someone else. I hope I never have to.