Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Day 1,029: Ten Years Later

Today is the tenth anniversary of the day when Gabe and I met on a blind date. Today, he guest-wrote the blog. Here's to more sets of ten years, babe!

Ten Years Later
by Gabe Sterritt

Ten years ago, I was alone.

My circles of friends, workplaces, and daily routines had failed to introduce me to anyone I thought worthwhile pursuing… at least, anyone I thought worthwhile who would give me the time of day. At most, they qualified on the first two but the magic just wasn't there.

I'd joined a couple of online dating sites and spent time drinking too much at bars. Somehow I thought the former proved me an intellectual and the latter made me endearing. I remember in the darkness of December the year before, driving with my aunt back from Lincoln Mall, and declaring, "I don't think I'll ever meet someone I like enough to get married." She reminds me of this woe-is-me proclamation to this day. A month or two later I saw a profile online of a lady who looked really sharp, put together, drinking - it was probably coffee but in my mind it's always a martini with a fancy twirl of something citrus poking out the top. In the online profile, the friends are cropped away. I was too intimidated to write to this lady, she was out of my league. I was, after all, a small-fry technology consultant who made enough to get by and spent my days exercising, reading, and helping my mid-eighties grandmother around the house. That's right, after September 11th and the economic collapse of 2001, I fell so hard I had to move back in with my GRANDPARENTS.

A month or two goes by, the seasons change from the dead of winter to the budding spring, and another profile piques my interest. This woman looked really down to earth. And she worked for a THINKTANK. So I could strike up the conversation on that basis - not some smarmy line that failed to cover my superficial attraction.

This down to earth woman actually replies to my interest in her job. The conversation goes back and forth a couple more times, but is cut short by an ultimatum: "I don't have a lot of energy for this online thing so if you want to meet in person for dinner or something, fine. Otherwise, let's not waste precious time." Good, someone who believed less in yanking people's chains than I do! So we quickly settled on a dinner date at a restaurant near her place in Oak Park, "New Rebozo." The food was good, the conversation engrossing - she liked to talk and I really enjoyed listening to her stories. I could say a few things that she seemed genuinely amused by; and we stayed for another 40 minutes after DESSERT.

Outside it had started to rain, and I had brought a DVD of a TV show I'd recorded for her, so we went back to my car and I offered to drive her to her car. Sitting next to me, spattered with raindrops and looking so alive, I had to kiss her. Wow. We agreed on a second date… After we parted ways that fateful date ten years ago, I called one of my best friends and said, "I don't know where this is going to go, but I think she and I can have a lot of fun together."

Our first trip together a couple months later clinched it when, watching the sun set behind the hills to the west across Devil's Lake in Baraboo, Wisconsin, Katy broke the silence by simply stating, "Isn't it funny to think that it's actually us spinning away from the sun which isn't moving at all?" Wow. She understands basic orbital mechanics and relative motion! I swoon.

The rest, as they say, is history. I knew my "type" and Katy met all the qualifications. Smart, good natured, no nonsense, just well put together. As subsequent dates blended into just spending time together she verified the last qualifier I was seeking - she really seemed to appreciate me for who I was.

It hasn't all been love and pancakes, however. We've had challenges with jobs, homeownership, and parenting. And the death of beloved grandparents. And… I've been a jerk just because I get uncommunicative about my needs and space, so many times. We've fought, terribly at times, and over some of the most ridiculous things. Seriously, once, there was a box of CEREAL. I don't remember anything else about it. On top of being ridiculous, I've been really positively stupid on a few occasions.

Then… Katy finds a little odd bump on the side of her left breast. I feel it too. I agree she should get it checked out, and in her usual fashion, she wastes no time. She's directed to get a precautionary ultrasound, which she does early one Monday morning. That's escalated to a mammogram, in the same day. I'm home with the almost one-year-old boy who is taking a nap when Katy calls to say that the mammogram suggests immediate biopsy. I try to be positive, tell her it's "just to be safe." I hang up the phone, and collapse onto the basement floor in a heap, bawling, knowing that history has just been rewritten. That happily-ever-after ending that always seemed just around the corner if only I could get my act completely together vanishes like a castle in the clouds.

That was our lost year… so maybe this is really only our ninth year of having known one another because our lives and how we had to survive that cancer year made us be so different from who we wanted to be. I was scared to death that I would breathe some normally harmless germs on Katy while she was at lowest immunity after chemo and that would be it. Jim Henson died from a cough… why couldn't a kiss kill my love? There was the terror that some random medication prescribed to help her would have unanticipated side effects. Or the chemo itself, which put her in the hospital with heart palpitations would do her in. Or that malignancy had spread… how many ways can a KatyDidDie?

Finally, after that long hard winter that started just after spring, the lost summer and forgotten fall, a new spring dawned, and Katy's body budded anew. The induced menopause vanished. New hair styles as it grows back in, but the same old Katy… Almost. There's a deep, persistent doubt in those eyes now that was never there before.

Another year goes by and we're in a new home, literally twice the house of our old place, well lit with nary a shadow, save that of cancer when Katy coughs or experiences an unexpected pain or just feels too tired. But the kids are growing up quickly and we've got a summer of swimming and work to catch up on and everything seems normal. The year races by…

And I'll have to leave you with a story unfinished - because this is where we are. Our tenth spring together. A mostly happy marriage and one without any underlying issues besides two people just set in their ways. Two kids we just can't keep our eyes off of, they entertain us and make us proud and make us really earn our all-too-brief times off from parenting. A home as welcoming as we ever could have imagined. I think the cancer scared off some friends, but we still see people from time to time. All the trappings of modern success, as we'd define it - achieving the quality of life we've sought, rising above the poverty of our respective youths, the American dream. I regret the time we've wasted fighting and if a wish could make the cancer a never-has-been, I don't think I could ask for anything beyond the happiness that knowing Katy has brought me.

Here's to ten years of knowing you, babe! Thank you for making my life better, richer, fuller than I could ever have hoped it would be. Whatever the future brings, being by your side is the only place I want to be.


  1. You two are such a great couple. Well done, Gabe!
    Happy anniversary!

  2. Has it really been 10 years since we stopped getting drunk together? J/K

    Gabe and Katy, congrats and lots of love to you both and your family!

  3. Joy to you both!

    (Though Gabe should really go back to wearin' more turtle necks... and fur collars.)

    1. Gabe is doing manual scoring at a bowling alley in that turtleneck picture. It's possible that it's Circle Lanes.

  4. The first picture on this post is the one I'm referring to of that sharp-dressed young lady. I realized this morning, had the uncropped version been posted I would have realized I knew the person sitting next to Katy and would have been less intimidated to write... but the timing also might have been completely wrong!

    1. So that was a work function, and I'm drinking OJ.

  5. Ok. So through the tears...
    First, I can't get over how much you look like M'gene in that first picture Katy. I have never seen that pic and while I always thought you looked like her.... wow.
    Second, it was a pleasure to welcome you to the family lo those not so many years ago Gabe - and it remains a pleasure. Yep - been through a lot - but all that notwithstanding - it sure is nice to see that all other things considered, wow, you can write, too!
    In this family in so many ways...that (writing) seems to be what gets us all through...everything.