It is ten years to the day since I met TTD. Met, mind you, not married, but still: ten years! A decade! My thirties, his forties: a whole era has passed. We are both thinner and grayer and more fine-drawn than we were when we met; we are the same people we were then, and we are also third entity, one which didn't exist ten years ago: us. We are, in some ways, one, and in others, very much individuals. We are ten years of history. Damn!
I had no idea, when I drove cross-country to South Dakota ten years ago, the court date for my divorce only three weeks past, that I was driving toward my future husband. I just knew I was driving toward my best friend, The Most Intelligent Woman In The World, who was working as a midwife at the Indian Health Service hospital on the Rez and who had helped me get a temporary job in the hospital's outpatient clinic. I was fleeing the scene of the crime, as it were, or at least the scene of my first marriage. I was, in the very best tradition, Going West, and though I didn't have Granny's china and my grand piano packed into the wagon, I did have most of my worldly goods stuffed into my Subaru. I had a map, which basically told me to get on I-90 and hang a left at the Black Hills, and some new CD's, and four days to get from Boston to the Rez. Other than that, I had no plans.
I drove and drove, and thought and thought. It was a quiet and healing trip. I watched the sky open up as I came onto the Great Plains, and something in my chest relaxed; it was as though I could take a deep breath again. I reached the hospital on the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend, checked in with Security, and sure enough, they had no idea who I was and no key for the room in the dorm I was supposed to inhabit. The Most Intelligent Woman, however, had thought this through and had left her house key with Security (she was at a conference), so I could stay at her place until Tuesday, when people would be back at work. So, I stayed, slept, and talked to her cats. Then, on Tuesday, I went to work.
I didn't meet TTD until a week into the job. He was away too, at some other conference, but I knew who he was from hearing people talk--he was The Man, the doctor who'd been there for six years already and who had the place wired. He was the Chief of Staff, he'd started Habitat for Humanity on the Rez, he had a hugely busy patient load, and he ran a lot of marathons. This was what I knew, and I was curious to meet him.
Every morning the whole medical staff, which consisted of two ER doc's, an OB, four or five midwives, three family practice doc's, one or two internists, four pediatricians, four NP's or PA's, four dentists and a Clinical Director, gathered for a quick report of who had been admitted, transferred, born, or pronounced dead in the last 24 hours. One day, a really tall, mostly bald guy with a greying goatee swept into the room at top speed, his white coat flapping behind him, and sat down at the table. He had a big, yellow, beaded nametag which said, "The Tall Doctor," and he wore threadbare black jeans, a marigold polyester shirt, a maroon tie, and size 14 white sneakers. "Whoa," I thought. "This is the famous Tall Doctor?" And it was.
In a few days, I discovered more about him. He was intimidatingly good at what he did; if I came to him with a clinical problem he dropped everything and helped me figure it out; he had light blue eyes like a wolf, and beautiful hands. He carried a little notebook around in his pocket, with every phone number he or anyone could possibly need in the course of a clinic day. His patients were crazy sick, but he never lost his cool, at least not visibly--well, except for the time I saw him kick a trash basket down the hall of the clinic. He had five brothers and sisters, and about twenty nephews and nieces, and he'd grown up on a dairy farm in Iowa, which meant he had an appealing competence with hammers and nails and engines. He was Christian, like me, but reticient about it, also like me.
In July of 2000, not quite four years after I met him, I married him. A lot happened in between: boyfriends (mine), girlfriends (his), India (me), Nepal (us), Ecuador (him, me, and half his family: a post for another day), one novel, a lot of letters, several knockdown-dragout fights, and about a thousand dollars in intercontinental phone calls. But on July 29, 2000, there he was, waiting for me at the end of the aisle. And you know, one of the really useful things about divorce is that, having made the wrong match, you tend to be pleasantly surprised when you make the right one.
It was a good wedding, and a better honeymoon. It has been a busy six years since: a move (us), grad school (me), one new job (him), two new jobs (me), another novel, two children, a mortgage, a minivan, some hormone-induced winters of discontent (me), and a relentlessly increasing busyness. There have been fights, and bad weeks, and bad months, and hard years. There has been the move from looking into each others' eyes, to standing together and looking outward at our children. There has been relentless fatigue. There have been dates, and quiet evenings when the children are in bed, and sleepless nights when the sick children are in our arms. In other words, there has been--we have made--a life together.
I don't think about our marriage all that often, really. I don't think about breathing, either. But once in a while--like, say, tonight, when TTD had to go upstairs and comfort an uncomfortable Urp, who refused to make shift with Mama--I remember a few things. Like, it's been ten years and I still like seeing him come into a room. Like, he's hot. Like, he says funny things which make me laugh. Like, by loving me, he is teaching me how to love him in return.
Happy Anniversary of sorts, my dear. You're my guy, and always will be. I love you.