I am a little jealous of people who can remember meeting their spouses. I know there are a billion stories of people meeting the person they would spend their lives with. Some of them are funny, some sad, some awkward, but all very real.
I do not have that story. I lost it somewhere along the line.
Saint Daddy and I met in the seventh grade lunch line. Sometimes, I think I remember it, but I cannot be sure it was him that I remember. I was new to the school. He had been in the district since kindergarten. I met over a hundred people that same day. And unfortunately for Saint Daddy and for me, I cannot remember him in the sea of other faces.
When I ask him about it, he says he remembers. And sometimes, he acts as if he knew, at that moment, that I was someone to him. He is pretty mushy sometimes.
The first real memories I have of Saint Daddy came in ninth grade. He and I had Spanish together, and in my mind, he was “the weird kid in my Spanish class.” When he tells this story, he says I was the weird kid. I, however, was not the one who brought green food coloring to tortilla making day in order to make green eggs and ham.
About a year later, my best friend at the time told me that she had a crush on Saint Daddy, and since I knew him mostly as the weird kid in Spanish, I gave her a quizzical look. She yelled at me for judging her and said she wished she had never told me anything. We were not friends much longer, and the year Sunshine was born, she was convicted of murdering her son. That is not really part of today’s story, though.
At the end of sophomore year, Saint Daddy and I spent much of our school’s Memorial Day picnic together. He told someone I was his girlfriend, and I laughed at him.
Junior year, Saint Daddy’s friend group and my friend group began mixing. We spent Saturday nights together bowling or hanging out in someone’s house. When my almost junior prom date spread rumors about me and I cancelled on him, I asked Saint Daddy to go with me instead. He said that he was not interested in dances with friends. Around the same time, when a mutual friend refused to drive three miles to pick me up so I could join the group, Saint Daddy came over himself. He said that picking me up was always going to be worth the drive.
In June of that year, we pretended to get married in our mutual friend’s living room. I had found the veil attached to a plastic tiara her mother had worn to her bachelorette party, and I demanded that a groom step up to marry me. Saint Daddy obliged. A week later, we went to see a movie at the drive-in theater and Saint Daddy said he had to be close to me because I was his wife.
I went away to astronomy camp that summer. While there, I told my roommate all about Saint Daddy. I did not think I liked him as anything more than a friend in my group, but maybe I did. When I went on vacation with my parents, I bought him a souvenir. I am not sure I ever gave it to him, but I remember seeing something and feeling it would be a nice gift for him.
By the beginning of senior year, it seemed that Saint Daddy and I dating was more a matter of when than if. A friend of ours confessed to me that she liked him but she knew he liked me, and she said, “You can have him if you want him. Do you want him?”
Saint Daddy and I would laugh about that conversation later.
Before we began dating, I knew Saint Daddy was right for me. I had a feeling, a premonition, something deep within me told me to take a chance I had never taken before. I had never dated previously because I was not willing to put myself out there. I did not want to risk the hurt. But something within me told me that I needed to this time. I knew that Saint Daddy was always going to be worth it.
We shared our first kiss late one October night. Saint Daddy had his Cinderella license and an 11:00 curfew, and I can tell you, with certainty, that it was 11:38 when we shared that first kiss. We were standing in front of a friend’s house, all of our friends were pretending not to be watching, and it was magical.
Saint Daddy was my first boyfriend, but he was not my first kiss. And let me tell you, something about that kiss… It lingered with me for days.
Saint Daddy saw my first anxious episode less than six months later. He had already told me that he was going to marry me. He had picked out the date. We were about to graduate from high school and head off to different colleges, and my brain said that there was no way that we would ever make it to that wedding date, more than five years later.
High school relationships are not meant to last.
Someone just told me that the other day actually. “It’s cute that they’re dating, but I told [my daughter] that she shouldn’t plan to marry him. High school relationships are supposed to end. High school sweethearts almost always get divorced.”
I am not sure where she gets her data, and I hope she is not saying those words in that way to her daughter.
So my brain told me that Saint Daddy and I could not make it. It was impossible. It robbed me of sleep. I mourned the loss of our relationship. I cried over it. I missed him, even though he was still mine.
I walked to his house in the middle of the night. It was a four mile walk, and I had assumed that I would feel better long before I got there. I did not. I knocked on his window and cried. He held me, but I felt like I could not tell him why I had come. I worried that if I spoke the words out loud that it would make them true. I could not imagine losing him. He meant so much to me.
Saint Daddy tried to feed me, but I could not eat. I felt a little better when the sun came up, but I would spend the next month or so filled with anxiety and unable to say the words to him that would have freed me. I was too scared, our relationship was too new, I loved him, I needed him, and I did not want to destroy us with my thoughts.
Looking back, I know that what I chose to do was more destructive than honesty ever would have been, but anxiety does not allow me to think clearly. Anxiety ruled me.
Sometimes, it still does.
Saint Daddy prayed for me one night. He came over after work, and I fell asleep watching television with him next to me. I heard him pray for me and for us. He loved me so much.
That was almost fifteen years ago.
Saint Daddy and I made it to that wedding date. Actually, we got married one day before his chosen date. He had chosen a Sunday because it was our anniversary. We got married on the Saturday preceding it. That was nine years ago.
Saint Daddy, as is clear from his name, is a saint. He is so much more to me than I could ever put into words. He is my favorite person. He is my best friend. More than that, Saint Daddy is the solid ground on which I stand and the warm pillow where I lay my head each night. He is within every breath that I take. He does not complete me necessarily, but he complements my soul. He understands my truest essence.
He knows me. The other night, I could not sleep. I woke in the morning and told Daddy that I had a terrible night, and he knew exactly what thoughts had kept me up.
One time, a relative told me that she looks at our relationship and sees that a happy marriage and mental illness can coexist. Saint Daddy loves me despite my demons. He battles them with me even when they do not make any sense to him.
The key to our success on that front has been communication. That first episode may very well have been the worst he ever saw me through, and it was so bad because I could not tell him why I felt the way that I did. As time moved on, I shared my burdens and he helped me carry them.
I have done the same for him.
Saint Daddy knows my triggers and my coping mechanisms. He can tell from the look on my face when I need air or a touch. He understands that I need silence and water and a moment to think myself down.
Neither Saint Daddy nor I are perfect angels. We have both hurt each other over the years in ways we lived to regret. Most of that hurt came from the way we were handling our respective mental illnesses. But Saint Daddy and I choose each other. We do it every single day. First and foremost, I am on his side and he is on mine. Ultimately, we are both happy people.
It is possible to love someone with mental illness. We both do it every day.
I will never remember how our love story began, but it will always be my favorite. It is a story of love and laughter. It is a story of determination and perseverance. It is a story filled with joy and hope.
One time, a random match on a cell phone game messaged me to ask if I was single. I was not. I was married. He said, “Happily?” Yes, thank you very much.
I may be a messy person, but I am happily in love with my best friend.