“You and me? We’s like peas and carrots,” Dan said to me again the other day, the same thing his grandfather used to say to him when he was a child. Each time he says the words, I smile and think of how lucky we are to have found each other twelve years ago, how I still get butterflies when he walks in the room, how he makes me laugh until I cry. For some reason, lately I have felt extra in love with Dan, filled with gratitude for him. I’m not sure why exactly I’ve overflowing with love right now, but it’s a wonderful feeling. I think what we have is perhaps even more precious to us, because we both went through very difficult times before we met. We know what matters now- what really matters.
When I came to Birmingham, I was ending a fifteen-year marriage, coming to a new job in a new city. Alone. The same week that I won the position at UAB, I won a job at North Dakota State University- a school that had a much more developed music program. Something kept telling me to take the UAB job, though. I like to build things, and I saw the potential…but there was something more- just a strong feeling in my gut that I needed to move to Birmingham. When I met Dan almost a year after starting my new job, I knew exactly why I had that intuition. All the years of challenge and heartache had prepared me to find this man, my other half. I can only describe the feeling of first seeing Dan as my soul smiling. All of the broken pieces fell into place in my heart. I know the same was true for him as well. Along with the love has come a beautiful friendship that has gotten us through the many challenges…opportunities…that life has thrown our way.
Relationships are the greatest teachers of our lives, and I have learned so much from loving Dan and being loved by him. Our twelve years are filled with memories, some joyful, some deeply sad. I think of Dan caring for me when I have been ill or had surgery, always with gentle compassion. I think of the courage and determination he showed when he was laid off from a wonderful job where he had put his heart and soul into building the place. I can see the countless kindnesses that he showed to my mother, including altering our house to build an apartment for her when she needed a place to live, and tenderly kissing her forehead when she died, tears running down his face.
No relationship is perfect- they are not meant to be, as if they were, we would never grow together. What I know is that in Dan I have found the one who is as close to perfect for me as it could get. Life is met with positivity and laughter, and the challenges along the way are met with our combined strength. I have never known anything like this before, and so I still feel a wide-eyed sense of wonder that I found this man. I wake up and smile each morning, seeing my sweet Dan sleeping next to me, one or both of the dogs draped over him. We have built a happy life in a real world that places many real obstacles in our way. It’s not about fairytale perfection, though, it’s about knowing what and who is important, and what is not. It’s about friendship, about love. It’s a choice to be happy, to be the calm in the storm. We just seem to fit together like a comfortable old pair of shoes…and like peas and carrots- it just works.