Love gets better with time

As I start writing this piece, it is April 28, and I am in the car, on my way to church for the 6 p.m. Mass. It is Richard’s and my wedding anniversary. We turn 11 years old today. How time flies.

The sun is setting. I normally do not like this time of day (unless I am on the beach facing a sunset) because it seems suspended in limbo, a space in between — not quite daytime anymore but not yet night either. It seems like the loneliest time of the day, if there was ever such. But today I like it, maybe because summer lends it a brighter color than usual, but mainly because of the memory attached to it. Eleven years ago at just about the same time, I was on my way to church, too, in a white bridal car, Daddy and Mommy flanking me. Outside, on the streets in my small hometown, it was a scene straight out of a fiesta. The crowd would shake every car that passed the strip leading to the entrance of the church, including the one I was riding, hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrities.

I was getting married. To a man I may have loved since I was in Grade 6 at St. Peter’s College in Ormoc City. I say “may have” because, really, what does a 12-year-old know about love in all its greatness and mystery? There’s just the idea of it first, and then the synchronized feeling of giddiness and mystery, and general joy that sort of validates it, the way contracts do verbal agreements. Suddenly, it feels real. It is real.

At that very moment, my Richard was also making his way to church. True to his fun, spirited, and unconventional nature (when I first met him he was wearing a strand of tiny pink seed pearls around his neck, I’ve never seen pearls on a man before that time) he chose to get to church at the back of his giant of a truck, together with a handful of close friends, in a white F150 that to this day I wish we never sold. The sight of that amused me. This man still amuses me to this day, with his many unexpected ways. In our 11th year I am thankful and grateful for what we bring to each other, what we mean to each other, what we dream about together, all the seemingly ordinary days that I now know sufficiently feed this extraordinary experience called being in love.

The time we spend with each other, all the little talks we have — these make our marriage rich. We love much, and laugh a lot. He has accepted my being sometimes clumsy, the genetic flaw I have of being geographically-challenged, the non-speed way I (generally) choose to do things. He calls it very simply now my “pace.” I also know I will never be able to keep up with his energy level, I have surrendered to the fact that his desk and files will never be as tidy as mine, and that from time to time I will wake up to witness a cartoonish scene of all our helpers running up and down and around the house trying to find one little thing he has misplaced that he needs pronto! I also know that it is probably best that I do not even attempt to cook alongside him in the kitchen because I think I stress him out with how slow I am and how neat I want to keep things as I move along. That plus the fact that he has his own system, a very efficient and quick one, that I just have not absorbed fully. It is still all a bit alien to me, even after all this time.

But the things we agree to do together, we do quite well. We’re a pretty good team. We are hardly ever upset at each other at the same time and we do not have dramatic screaming matches. We constantly lean on each other and we’ve got each other’s back covered. Very simply put, this man makes me happy. It really is as basic as that. But on a deeper level, it is as essential as that.

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My honey, this sweet big man I married with rebellious hair that curls at the nape of his neck, just has to walk in the room and already the sun shines brighter on me. I don’t know why, but with him everything is just better — a bad day, a simple salad, the dance step I am struggling with, the weather, the dinner I butchered, the cookies I overbaked, water even.

In a manner of speaking, Richard is my sunshine, my burst of joy. Like the sound of Juliana’s laughter when she finds something funny or the way she calls me “Mama” sometimes or how she wakes me up with butterfly kisses on my face so we can start playing Hangaroo, my heart expands at the very thought of him. Such that when I hear the gate slide open or when I see his car come in the driveway I already feel the smile in my heart long before it even reaches my lips. When he bursts through the door in his baseball uniform, smelling of sun and sweat and chips, I feel the hug even before it actually happens. Isn’t that magical? It can be intoxicating, but at best it keeps me well in that cloud of love.

Yes, we’ve had our bad days but somehow when you’re in love, everything, even crying can be/is beautiful. Pain, when brought about by love, makes crying okay, romantic even, in a way that is not even twisted. You feel alive and beautiful, even in your sadness. That is just the way it is. And that is just the way he is, as far as my heart and the tips of my toes know. He makes me feel alive, whether it is a good or bad day with him.

Our wedding anniversary this year was a regular working day for him. He could not get permission to take the day off because we were leaving for our Vegas vacation and would be gone for quite sometime — in TV soap standards at least. But on the eve of our anniversary, a little before midnight he snuck back home. I had ordered his favorite chocolate cake from Roshan, a moist double-layer with custard filling in the center. We ate big, fat slices in the quiet of the night, in our big wooden dining table, just the three of us — me, him, and our chirpy, very talkative not-so-little-anymore eight-year-old. Three chocolate-smeared plates and spoons and two snapshots later he went back to work. For the moment, that was enough of a celebration.

It’s been 11 years. I feel like the same person, I am the same person. Back when our love was so young and so new, there was this constant need to always be together. Now, we welcome the time we spend apart because when we do come together there is so much more to share with each other. I still get bright-eyed and weak-kneed (I never want to lose that), my heart thumping passionately for this man who makes me lovely meals and always buys me flowers when we do the grocery together. I am thankful for all that he has brought into the marriage.

Along with all that sweetness and niceness he also brought his tattered sleeping shorts and a couple of white cotton shirts with holes — the latter is so soft I have taken to using them myself. He taught me how to eat butter in fat chunks and showed me how to unapologetically spoon chocolate from the jar. He has taught me about optimism and professionalism in work, creativity, foresight and adaptability in daily life. He taught me about quality over quantity, how traveling is a learning experience, how it is about experiencing sights and sounds, tastes and textures, not just about shopping. He showed me how to pack well, to make efficient use of every inch of available luggage space.

At the end of the day when I snuggle in the warm curve of his neck, my body pressed against his, Juliana beside us, I cannot help but feel flushed in a warm feeling of blessedness. It is lovely, this thing called love.

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