This year is our 20th anniversary.
Our wedding date in is June but today, on Valentine’s Day, we celebrate 20 years since Toby proposed.
It is hard for me to wrap my brain around the passing of 20 years. We have certainly lived enough life for 50 years, but the passing of those 20 years seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. Just yesterday we were mere babies making plans for eternity. We were so sweet and wonderfully naive.
I was Gracie’s age.
The other day Rusty interviewed me for a school assignment. He had to interview someone about their experience living through a significant moment in history and he chose to interview me about where I was and what I remember about 9/11.
I shared with him my memories of that day. I explained the fear I felt when it all began, not knowing if Pittsburgh was the third target and being an hour away from my two girls who were being watched by my mom on the other side of Pittsburgh. I remember being very heavy with child as I waddled through Walmart to watch the scene unfold on the wall of TV monitors with hundreds of other shoppers. Rusty was only weeks away from his delivery.
Then Rusty asked me how old I was. I had to stop and calculate. “23,” I answered. It stopped me in my tracks. Could that be right. Was I only 23.
At 23 we had experienced far more than our peers. At 23 we were navigating the roles of provider and caretaker to 3 babies as well as trying to figure out how to function with a chronic, debilitating diagnoses. It was at age 23 that I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis and would be the beginning of some very hard years as the disease took away my ability to care for myself independently or care for my three babies.
The next few years were filled with doctor’s appointments, weekly plasmapheresis treatments, and three major surgeries followed by months of recoveries.
It was a hard way to begin a marriage. By our 5 year anniversary we had faced more challenges and navigated more twists and turns than our newlywed selves could have ever imagined.
But it was good preparation for the next 15 years. We learned very early on that commitment to our covenant and the ability to laugh at our reality would be the superglue that would keep us connected through the really tough stuff.
This weekend Toby and I went away. We rented a hotel room in Pittsburgh and spent the weekend reconnecting as a couple and recovering from a few really hard months. This month is about healing and the first step in healing our family and helping our children find healing is to heal the damage done to our marriage.
When we began this adoption journey we were required to take a series of training classes. One of those training classes was about RAD. At the time I didn’t pay too much attention, certain that would never be our reality. “I don’t need to know this,” I thought to myself, “because we will never accept a child with RAD into our family.”
Well, God had other plans. 😉
The one thing I do remember from that class was the shocking statistics of failed marriages that resulted from adopting a child with reactive attachment disorder. The point she was making was the importance and necessity of respite for a family with a RAD kid.
Living it I now get it. Even the strongest, most resilient marriages are in danger of being torn apart by the reality of everyday living when you are raising a child who is traumatized. Our marriage has depth and resiliency, due in large part to the earlier challenges in our marriage, but even with our commitment to seeing this through and our ability to laugh, we both were feeling the effects of 24/7 crisis management. We were both exhausted and running on empty and getting away was needed triage.
We stayed close by so we could get home quickly if the big kids needed any help with Tyler. They didn’t. They did great and had a fun, no-parents-allowed weekend, and Toby and I were able to have our first real conversation in months that revolved around something other than the current crisis.
We ate dinner at the restaurant where we had our first date. As we sat and reminisced about the last twenty years we were amazed at all the living that has occurred in those two decades. We talked about the early struggles…the pressure Toby felt at 25 to provide for his family of 5. We talked about those hard years when I couldn’t physically take care of simple tasks like washing my own hair or lifting Rusty to change his diaper and Toby had to fulfill the role of mom and dad. We talked about the leap of faith to chose the road less traveled and homeschool. What a scary decision that was. Then we remembered the season we motored through worries for our children as the girls were diagnosed with Dyslexia and Rusty was unable to talk to anyone outside of the family for four years of his life because of Selective Mutism.
Then we reminisced about the season when things got easier. We entered into the next big adventure of our life when we spent 13 months building our dream home ourselves on evenings and weekends. It was our season of baby farm animals, co-op adventures and ease. But we knew that was simply a season, for we felt God calling us to adopt.
First came Tyler and then Ozzie. For three years it has been our family of seven trying to manage the emotional rollercoaster of finding a new normal after two very big life changes. We have had some amazing adventures, like converting a school bus into an RV and traveling around the country for two months, entering the new world of having teenagers, and watching our family grow with some new fur babies.
There has been some hard times too, particularly in these last few years as we have learned the heartbreak and the delicate dance of earning the trust of children who struggle to attach. There have been magnificent victories and hard, dark days.
As we sat across the table from each other in the place where our story began we were both humbled by the life God had blessed us with together. Who knew when Toby proposed a month after our first date (Yes, 4 weeks after we met!) that this is where we would be twenty years later. It has been quite the ride and I can honestly say there is no one I’d rather be traveling with!
Here is a look at our fun Valentine’s Day weekend:
Our beautiful “home” for the weekend. I love being a married to a man who can find crazy good deals so we can enjoy the life of a prince with the budget of a pauper. 🙂
On Friday night Toby took me to the Byham Theatre to see a dance/theatrical show called Shadowlands in which the dancers use their bodies behind a screen to create a magical story of shadows. It was amazing!
Saturday we spent the day at the Carnegie Natural History Museum and Art Museum. It was so nice to just stroll. We weren’t chasing a child or having to rush to the next place. We were able to just stroll through the museum, holding hands, reading the displays and talking. It was wonderful.
What a glorious journey it has been,
And to think it all began with a boy asking a girl for a dinner date…