I recently marked my eighteenth wedding anniversary and saw my eldest turn seventeen. It was an oddly disorienting moment. Seeing a child who had once run about a farm in Rustenburg, (naked - because he could) stand before me, taller than I am. A young man, sensitive and brimming with love.
Seeing a man I’d loved as completely as I ever believed possible at eighteen, stand before me, greying beard, aging gracefully. Marking eighteen years, when at the time I’d scarcely imagined us making it to our eighth.
There is even a poem, written on our eighth anniversary where I’d expressed non-existent hope for our union. Yet, there it was. Our eighteenth anniversary, him all of 44 and me 36. My son muttering about marriage in two years’ time and me…?
Feeling stupidly worldly wise, imagining I have answers to questions about life, about marriage. Truth is, I have no answers. I merely have lessons. Ones that I learnt through much pain, often many tears.
While love may be the bricks that build any marriage, compromise is the cement that holds the entire structure together. How many times in the eighteen years have I not looked back, been bowled over by the weight of Imraan and my differences in personality. In the end when I accepted that just as I am not about to change the changes that life has wrought in me, so too is he as he is. Mine to either love or criticise.
Loving is the more fair of the two options. After all, he is the man who rubbed my back when I thought my body was being split in two during the two day long labour with my eldest. He is the man who cleaned my caesarean stitches after two of my births. He is the man who helped me build the dream that Lazeeza’s became. He will always be my fiercest critic, my most loyal supporter.
Granted, there are aspects of my being that he will never understand or appreciate, like my writing, just as there are aspects of his personality that I am unable to enjoy, like his passion for fishing. This does not mean that we love any less. All it says is that in spite of being a couple, we remain individuals, capable of respecting one another’s idiosyncrasies, even if we can’t appreciate them. I know that doesn't sound terribly romantic, but what is romance really?
It is not made of grand gestures, flowers, jewellery and chocolates. It is the gentle loving that is expressed in making breakfast and school lunches for the kids when he knows I’m not well, or have had an especially late night because of my need to write. Or accompanying me into an art gallery and standing patiently by when I gaze with rapt awe at an artwork, crawl into it with my mind. Or eating sushi with me and dousing it with sweet chilli sauce to mask the taste. It is tolerating my taste in music, calling it crap, but tolerating it still. It is allowing me to curl up in his arms each night because he knows that is the only way I am able to fall asleep, even though at some point he’ll have to let go because his habit is to sleep on his back, mine is to sleep curled up on my right.
There is no one perfect person, made especially for you. There are no perfect marriages. There is learning to love an imperfect person, perfectly.
And there is hard work. Lots and lots of hard work.
There is forgiveness.
There is respect.
There is laughter and tears.
There is being able to get excited about a body eighteen years on, one that was once much firmer or shapelier.
There is waking up to the same face every day, a face puffy from sleep, and seeing the stories written in the lines that have formed around their eyes.
There is looking at a scar on their hands and remembering the day it came into being, how you bandaged it, tried to get the blood flow to stop.
There is sitting together, knees touching and seeing their childhood replayed for you in the scars that childhood scrapes have left on those knees.
There is being able to see the beauty of their youth amplified as life softens their features with each passing year.
There is the owning of one another’s sorrows, their joys.
There is being able to celebrate their successes because really, they’re your own too.