Every day is the anniversary of something. Not all of them have a pointed, clear memory pushing to the surface, reminding you why it’s an anniversary. But each year you age, the calendar becomes more and more a mine field of special anniversarys. December 6th is a special one for me…it’s the anniversary of the day I asked my Gretel to marry me.
It was a big day and according to her, she didn’t see it coming. She had mentioned that Dec 6th would be a full moon; an important event for her because she had only recently begun to notice things like that (she’s a moon sign child).
I told her we’d have to celebrate it in style. I hired a limo, made dinner reservations at the Watergate (yes that Watergate), and purchased box seat tickets for a concert at the Kennedy Center. She was so excited.
She had never been in a limo before, and the thrill of dining in such a historic restaurant made her feel spectacularly spoiled (spoiling her has become one of my favorite hobbies in life). After our meal and a second bottle of champagne, we left the Watergate. Being a stickler for details, she noticed we had a lot of free time between dinner and the concert. I had planned it that way, but just played it off as a mistake in timing. I asked our limo driver to circle the national mall a few times. She nodded and winked at me.
We stopped at the Lincoln Memorial. My Gretel was so beautiful against the dusting of snow on the ground. The moon lit the mall up in its overly bright glare. I don’t think I’d ever seen the moon shine so brightly.
Up the stairs and into the memorial we went, holding hands. She had a smile on her face so broad I thought her cheeks would pop. I stopped her between the two center columns. The park police officers who were standing watch by those columns (both female) grew wide eyed and slid gracefully out of sight when I dropped to my knee.
My Gretel was genuinely confused…until I pulled out the box.
“Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.”
Her words, expression and gestures will forever be seared in my mind. In fact, that whole night is among the most vivid memories of my life. Each detail, from her immaculately sculpted nails, her hair which she had professionally styled for the lavish evening, to the sleek, sexy cocktail dress and the black shoes with the tiny rhinestones on the straps, will linger in my memories until I no longer have life in me.
She remained tearful the duration of the night, too busy looking at her new diamond to focus on the concert. The National Symphony Orchestra performed an all Tchaikovsky program. On December 3rd, Yo-Yo Ma had been the featured on cello, but there wasn’t a full moon that night, so I forewent the extra star power and bought tickets for the 6th–and it didn’t matter anyway. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and she couldn’t keep the tears out of hers. I don’t think Yo-Yo Ma would have made any difference that night.
When we arrived back at my condo on Strong Court (not coincidentally the same condo Scott Wolfe owned a few years later in the series), candles and a dozen, dozen roses waited for her. I told her that there would never be a day I didn’t tell her I loved her, and that if I ever went more than a month without giving her flowers she should slap me.
The flowers got old and I eventually abandoned them, replacing them with date nights, special gifts or excursions alone. Our time on the Appalachian Trail, a new restaurant or even a special night huddled by the fire pit, replaced the extravagance of the flowers. But there has never been a day (in fact rarely an hour) that I haven’t told her or shown her that I love her.
It always gave us great joy to throw our guarded natures to the wind and express that love frequently (no matter whose company we were in). It was simple, easy and effortless to do it. We had exposed ourselves to each other completely and wrapped one another in acceptance that needs to occur in a truly loving relationship.
There’s a sad tinge to the love now. We tell each other more frequently how we feel for one another, but the cloud hovering over us makes it bitter sweet. Each moment has taken on a new desperation; a frantic grasping of richness in our devotion that reminds us what is lurking ahead.
I spent a lifetime looking for someone with whom I felt a whole heart connection. Someone I trusted with my soul, my secrets, and desires. Someone who ached to be wrapped up in love untainted by judgement and delivered the same and more.
It took time for her to realize that was the love she deserved; to understand commitment didn’t require relinquishing her soul or tolerating control, unending sacrifice and abuse. But she learned quickly, beautifully, completely–and taught me many lessons along the way.
We are always on the edge of tears these days. It takes very little to start the flow. From a sappy movie to an unexpected glance from one another, our eyes are nearly always glistening, awaiting the next trigger for the waterworks. It’s hard to be grateful for what you have when you know it will be taken away, but grateful I am, for every day…every second I’ve had with my amazing golden haired Gretel.
She taught me what kind of love is needed to last the ages. And now as we count and celebrate each agonizingly beautiful moment, each delicate memory, she has shown me why there is a belief in an afterlife; not because of dread, fear or wishful thinking, but because with love this penetrating and life altering, there is no way a single life could embody all of its enormity. There must be more beyond this life simply because this much love couldn’t possibly be contained in one lifetime.
Happy Anniversary my sweet, beautiful girl. There isn’t a moment of our life together that hasn’t made me love you more.