Friday, May 22, 2015

To Her, With Love

     Since this is a blog about my CF journey designed in part to keep driving me toward the goal of writing a book, I have and will continue to avoid making these posts about giving advice.  But I make an exception here because, as of today, I have been married for 11 years, which qualifies me speak on this subject.  My advice to my friend who got married a week ago today, and to any couple, is that expressing your gratitude for the things your spouse does, from the small everyday chores, to the major tasks, is a cornerstone of marriage.  It sounds simple, because it is simple.  But it is the simplest aspects of a relationship that can be overlooked, taken for granted, or lost under the stress of everyday life.  So, today, I dedicate this paean to Kayla Green, who has made my life better in ways that I can't adequately express.  But that won't stop me from trying.
     As a kid with CF, I didn't think too much about whether or not I'd get married some day.  I knew I wanted to be a dad, and recognized that having a wife prior to that is a social norm, but that's about where the thinking stopped.  I didn't believe with certainty that I'd get married, but I also didn't have specific doubts that someone would ever choose to spend her life with me.  I guess I never gave it a tremendous amount of thought either way, but recall acknowledging that CF could be something that "scared off" girls.  Instead, I handled all the "scaring off" on my own.  My experience with girls was a pattern of unrequited crushes, all because I was pretty annoying, even by middle school / early high school standards.  Since my health then was never in the spotlight, CF wouldn't have interfered with a romantic relationship anyway.  Nonetheless, I knew when I was in a serious relationship some day, my illness would be something that my partner would need to be accepting of.

     I was probably in the majority as a 17 year old who did not take the longview in relationship matters, but I had been doing just that in regards to other aspects of my life for quite some time: grades, graduation, college, and my career.  In tenth grade, I had my heart set on some day teaching high school English.  I think, perhaps, at the time, it was easier to focus on those things because they were drastically less complicated.  AP tests are nothing compared to figuring out the heart of a woman.  And besides, I didn't need a girlfriend-- I had a best friend who was a girl, and I'd seen enough movies to know nobody wants to get into a serious relationship right before going off to college.  

     I probably should have known when Kayla left for Michigan State a few days before I left for Eastern that I would marry her some day.  Even though we'd met in pre-school and known each other for our whole lives, we weren't actually friends until the beginning of our final year of high school.  In that year, we formed an amazing bond, and us going to different colleges threatened that.  She and I cried together a whole bunch on her porch before her parents drove her to East Lansing, and then I went home and slept for the entire afternoon wearing one of her sweatshirts.  It was all very "third-act of a rom-com" type stuff.  The funny thing is, I wrote a screenplay about the senior year my friends and I had just shared, and the final scene of it was my character showing up at Kayla's character's dorm as a romantic surprise.  I guess my creative side was telling me what my practical, don't-begin-a-long-distance-relationship self didn't want to admit:  that I was already in love.

     A proposal and a three year engagement later, we were married 11 years ago today.  On May 22, 2004, we said the vows that we had written ourselves and became husband and wife.  I remember commenting specifically on the standard "in sickness and in health" portion, and emphasized how it applied to us, since less than a month prior she had just stood by me as I dealt with my first ever hospitalization as a result of a cystic fibrosis exacerbation.  Little did we know then that I'd be on the lung transplant waiting list when we celebrated a decade of marriage.  

     I could fill this entire blog with ways in which Kayla shined as the star of my support system during the years, and in particular the intense 15 month period in which I found out how dire the situation was, went on disability, and adjusted to being someone who could do just a fraction of what he was previously capable of.  Somehow, no matter if it was a physical task, an added responsibility, or a pep talk, Kayla met every new requirement that our life demanded of her during that time.  She was the light which kept me from seeing the shadows that being so sick could have-- by all rights, should have-- cast on my attitude and perspective for the future.  

     As we look back together on 11 years of marriage and forward to one hundred and eleven more, I thank God for this person who accepted all of me, looked at the possibilities, and said "Yes" without hesitation.  I'm glad I didn't think too much about getting married when I was a teenager, because anything I'd predicted then would have been laughably inferior to the amazing woman I've shared over a third of my life with.  I could have never anticipated the way Kayla would redefine what "happiness" means to me.  We've shared a love unlike anything I ever dreamed I would experience.  And I am grateful for that--for her-- every single day.

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