Counting to 10 together

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

My 10th anniversary was April 28. It's a miracle any couple makes it, a miracle to be celebrated wildly.

You put two people together in the same house, people who have a few things in common but plenty of different methods and ideas. You add everyday stresses -- troubles with the house, a job loss, sickness, in-laws. For some it's worse -- an alcohol problem or an affair.

And then you see whether that 'til-death-do-us-part promise is one possible to keep.

Approaching our landmark event, I thought about our friends, people our age. I could name only one couple who married when both were in their 20s and are still together today. There are several who married in their teens or 20s, got divorced and then married again, still in their 20s.

So I'm going to take pride in making it this far, even though it's the people celebrating 25 and 50 years who really deserve praise. Mr. Half doesn't think about it like that. More logical, more methodical, he doesn't seem to see year 10 as anything more fascination-worthy or celebration-worthy than years eight or nine. When I went through that whole "couples we know" exercise with him, he responded with total silence, and I knew my only choice was to interpret that however I wanted -- he's not the kind to explain deep thoughts and often insists he doesn't have them.

I'm not going to talk about young people needing to take their marriage vows more seriously and work harder on their relationships, because that would be a hypocritical crock of dookie.

But I am going to address the rest of this to Mr. Half. My first column in the Southeast Missourian, when we were broken up and never planned to marry, mentioned him, so I think this is appropriate.

Dearest Swee:

Ten years. TEN YEARS. I'm amazed when I think about those two kids standing in the gazebo at Courthouse Park on a Friday afternoon, you in your best shirt and tie and me in a new pantsuit I bought because it would be good for work later.

You joked around and sang "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," and I was my usual uptight self about it, growling at you to stop it but all the while thinking we could just get a d-i-v-o-r-c-e if things didn't work out.

We fought about everything. Or I fought, and you usually sat there refusing to give me a fight. We cried together, threatened, nagged, cajoled, but somehow the good times kept coming, and we kept staying under the same roof.

Sometimes I can't believe it, that you stuck around through the opposite work schedules and weight gain and all those moves, which were usually my idea.

I can't believe it took me this long to figure out that you can't go into a marriage defining what it will be and what roles the husband and wife will play.

It's like our friend, Marilyn, said, "In our house, we each just do the jobs we're good at."

So we celebrated our 10th-anniversary weekend in St. Louis, with me attending newspaper seminar sessions and you trying to catch up on sleep after working a night shift and then getting straight on the plane.

The cool people from the seminar even came to dinner with us. I couldn't bear to see them stand around saying, "I wish I knew someplace good we could all go, but I've never been to St. Louis" and then NOT take them to Zia's on the Hill.

You just smiled and said it was my motherly side, and you drove us all there. You put up with so much from me, just smiling and excusing it.

I love you for that, and your humor and your good looks and your professionalism and the way you let me be the complete and total nut I am.

And I pray you'll have me for another 10 years and beyond.

Heidi Hall is a former managing editor of the Southeast Missourian. She lives in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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