My journey to marriage happened in the blink of an eye. Literally. I was engaged within three months of meeting my Prince and married three months after that. That’s a true to form whirlwind courtship, if I do say so myself. Both my husband and I can look back, as we come upon our ninth anniversary, and agree that it probably was the biggest mistake we both made in our lives. It definitely wasn’t the smartest decision we’ve ever made, either. It is, by far, the best decision we’ve made thus far, all at the same time.
When we met and began dating, I was in the middle of major life changes as I had recently separated from an extremely abusive guy who also happened to be the sperm donor for my two sons. He was playing games, using my innocent babies as pawns to hurt me with, and really wasn’t looking for love. Hefound me anyways. Ryan was a true knight in shining armor, ready to carry me through the mud while pulling my babies free from the clutches of douchery that is my ex. He wanted to protect all of us, right from the get-go, even though I wouldn’t even let him actually meet those boys of mine, because I was afraid of confusing them with any more people going in and out of their lives. Every waking moment that I could spend with him, I did. Just as he couldn’t get enough of me, I couldn’t seem to get enough of him. Every court appearance I had to face my ex at, Ryan escorted me, though keeping a respectfully safe distance once there to prevent any more drama from cropping up. He was a rock that I could lean on for support while I fought the battle of my life for the two peces of my flesh and blood life had gifted to me. Despite all he selflessly was giving to me, he asked for nothing in return. Refused my repeated offers and attempts to “reciprocate” the giving, in the only mannerism I was quipped to give at the time. Sure, we made out. A Lot. But he never allowed it to go any farther, because he thought it was taking advantage of me when I was in a vulnerable state of mind going through the custody battle and what not. Three months into our relationship, we were getting pretty comfortable in our routine together and I was finding myself questioning if it was time to actually bring Ryan into my sons’ lives, let him be a part of it. The universe ultimately would decide that action for me.
At the time, I was working for my dad’s security guard business. Sperm donor douchebag had the boys for what was, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, for the last weekend visitation he would ever have with them when I dropped them off that morning going to work. I was assigned to monitor the construction site of a new city hall building, making sure that only the appropriately authorized people entered and nothing was stolen, so it was a boring eight hours of endless walking back and forth throughout the perimeter of the place. It wasn’t long into my shift, maybe only half an hour, that I started to feel a little sickly. Since I’ve always been a morning pooper, I just chalked it up to rushing around this morning to pack the boys up along with me, stressing me out so I didn’t fully relieve myself. Usually, after a bit of tummy-rumbling gas, I’ll end up having to go again and all will be right. Yet, on this totally random day, that wasn’t the case. I certainly ended up back in the bathroom for a follow-up session, only, I unintentionally opened the flood gates for something far worse. As soon as I went to button my slightly too small black dress khakis, my stomach cramped up badly, doubling me over with the pain. I did my best to ignore it and go on with my security duties. For the next seven hours, I spent my day carefully calculating my perimeter scans around the bathrooms that had been finished and okayed for use just so I could stop in each one along the way, to prevent any, ah…uhh…hmm…ugh, accidents. Let’s just say, for the sake of grossing my own self out, that it was like I was peeing outta my butt. You can’t hold in liquid by clenching your cheeks; for that problem, only a plug will do.
The pain began burning all throughout my abdomen and lower back, down into my urethra and vajayjay. After having birthed two babies already and watching a lot I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant episodes on TLC, I started to fear that maybe I was mysteriously in labor or having an ectopic pregnancy. My mind had nothing better to do but create a hundred different nightmare scenarios in my head, washing me over with anxiety and paranoia as I battled my concious thought process with rationality, trying to maintain control. It would help for you to know that I’m a stubborn jackass of a fool for pain, injury, and illness, a medical know-it-all and doctor-wannabe, persay. Simply put, I’m ineligible for any sort of frequent flyer program offered by my physician’s office. Self -diagnosis and treatment are my specialty. I took my sick butt home after my shift ended, drenched from feverish sweat as if I had just spent the past eight hours swimming in my clothes. Stripping down to my underwear, I called my dad at work to tell him I was sick then called Ryan to come over and to let himself in. After which I curled up in the fetal position on my bed and waited to see who got to me first.
It wasn’t too long before I heard my dad’s new, third wife hobbling around upstairs in their bedroom, probably drunk as usual, by the sounds of it. She’d just had foot and calf surgery couple months prior and was still walking with a stabilizer boot, but she preferred to binge drink her pain away. Just imagine the bull being the rodeo clown, trying to duck and dodge nimbly on his hind legs. Regardless of her state, I thought that since she was a mother herself, with shared custody of her daughter and son who were just 14 and 11 back then, that she would go full out mother hen when she caught sight of me. With those hopes, I heaved myself back up out of bed, threw on a T-shirt and sweatpants, and half-dragged half-crawled my way up the basement stairs. It surprised me how quick my strength had dissipated since coming home. At the same time, I began having searing, white-hot pains shooting through my vulva into my stomach. By the time I reached her bedside, I felt like I was going to puke. I leaned against my dad’s bureau and let out a moan before I managed to find my voice and say, “Excuse me, Michelle.” She took one look in my direction and slurred “I hope you’re not contagious.” After explaining a dozen different ways that I was just in pain, because it wasn’t worth the added trouble in my state, and to call my dad home because he didn’t answer my call, she started rummaging through the garbage piled knee deep along her side on the bed. A few minutes that felt like an eternity in hell later, she found a prescription bottle that rattled as she lifted it from the depths of about twenty other stay prescription bottles, echoing loudly with the sounds of the last few pills inside reverberating like echoes in my head with. heightened senses from the pain. Michelle silently opened the bottle, tossed a pill across the room at me, and went back to digging through the mess to get into the drawers built into the base of the waterbed, which must’ve been the insane noises I had heard before. As I turned to leave, I thought better enough to ask what she had just given me, since it obviously wasn’t no OTC stuff, but also assuming it would be an antibiotic to prevent post-op surgery. “Just chew it up and you’ll sleep the sick off”, was all she managed to say with her heavy, incapacitated speech before she stumbled back into lala-land again.
Not trusting this lush bitch, I pocketed the pill and somehow ended up back in my bed. Even more amazing yet, is that I passed out, or fell unconscious, I’m still not sure which. I don’t know how long I slept for, but I awoke to Ryan wincing in pain from the heat emanating from my skin as he felt my forehead for fever. He then held out his gifts for me- an ice cold Gatorade, an OTC packet of Motrin, and some chicken noodle soup from a nearby restaurant. Plus a pack of cigarettes cuz, like I told you already, I’m bull-headed, so you should’ve known that I wouldn’t give up my smoking for the likes of anything like sickness or pain. Just then I remembered the pill and dug it out to show him. He went online and verified that it was Vicodin, not the antibiotic I had hoped for. He said it would do more good than harm to take it with the amount of pain I was obviously in, and I wasn’t in any shape to argue. After helping me to sit up and take both of the medicines, Ryan suggested we had to the ER, but all week we had been eagerly awaiting the second game of the Detroit Tiger’s World Series run, so I convinced him I was just being dramatic and could hold out until the game was over. We were still at the peak of the lovey-dovey, combining chemistry magic, newbie relationship status phase where everything’s sunshine and hormones with a side of horniness, and I couldn’t bear the idea of wasting the few hours I got to see him every night on the ER. Besides that, I had pretty much concluded that with the increased burning and constant sensation of having to urinate though being too dehydrated to actually output anything, all the symptoms I had had throughout the day were caused by a bad urinary tract infection taking
At this point in my memory the details are a bit hit or miss. I can remember trying to cuddle up to Ryan, pay attention to the game, and take comfort in his presence, but I was dipping in and out of sleep followed by extreme fiery lightening bolts shooting through my entire pelvis and marked by the urgency to piss air. By the sixth inning, I was so clammy and pale on top of everything else, that Ryan picked me up and carried me to his car without saying a word. I couldn’t even muster a protest, let alone, put up a fight. All I did do was give him directions to a small, outdated emergency room that I knew of hidden in the harbor district. It used to be a fully functional, busy hospital from the fifties through the mid-eighties with the budding availability and affordability plus constant innovations, made Lac Sainte Claire, better known as Lake St. Clair to it’s residents, the non-Great Lake connecting two of the real Great Lakes. As safety measures and education increased along side better laws and enforcement, the amount of water-related emergencies rapidly dwindled, leaving the hospital unable to compete with newer, more modern facilities, so they replaced the inpatient admitting part into a long-term rehabilitative facility, changed the inpatient surgery into an outpatient/same-day surgery unit, and maintained the ER as best as possible, with restricted ambulance calls and transfers to those competitive modern hospitals, of any walk-ins above their care level. My self-diagnosis of a simple, but severe, UTI would only require a simple urine sample test to look for microscopic traces of blood, proteins, and bacteria, plus PH balance. Maybe even some bloodwork to check to see if my white blood cell count (WBC) is elevated which would mean I was fighting an infection, just to bill my insurance a little extra. Then I’d be sent home with a prescription for a bladder numbing medication called Pyridium and another for Ciprofloxacin, a common antibiotic for those allergic to Penicillin’s- like myself. See? Told ya I knew what I was talking about. Easy-peasey.
The hospital registration clerk took one look at me and grabbed a wheelchair and told Ryan to wait there with my purse then whisked me off, straight into an exam area. Within fifteen minutes I was being poked and prodded, hooked up to IV’s and examined up down and all around. I don’t think I’d ever seen so many medical personnel in one place before. A CAT-scan and pelvic ultrasound were ordered and then everything went black. I briefly woke up in complete darkness, startled by unfamiliar surroundings, and called out for Ryan. My hand felt the familiar touch of his grasp mine gently, stroking the back of it gently with his thumb. He said something to me, but the heaviness of the blackness in my head swallowed me back into unconsciousness. Next thing, I’m coming to under really bright lights, with the sensation of being on an old, rickety wooden rollercoaster. There’s a strange male face staring at me like I’m just a mannequin or something. I started to notice that there was two latching doors straight ahead with no windows and drawered shelving units encompassing the surrounding three walls above the the top half to the really, really low for a house….because I was in the back of a freaking ambulance! OMG! I’m.being.transferred! Transferred! Holy Mother of Jee….“Ma’am? Hello? You are being transferred to St. John’s Medical Center for Full Renal Blockage and need to be prepped for Lithotripsy of those Calculii. You’re about to fall back asleeee……” The blackness then turned into a paralyzing, auditory-based dream that went on for what felt like eternity. No matter how hard I fought the heavy layer of unconsciousness to wake up, something seemingly felt like it was holding me down and trapping me there.
Later on, after being awakened by some strange lady poking my skin while taking directly in my ear, I would realize it was the surgical anesthesia messing with my subconscious, processing everything I was hearing and transferring it into my dream-state level of drug-induced coma. First, though, my brain needed to process it’s surroundings and figure out why my body still felt heavy and disconnected. This woman with horrible collard green, garlic, and brown mustard smelling breath burning my eyeballs and nostrils, finally seemed satisfied that I was awake enough for her liking and started talking a mile a minute, “Honey, I’m sorry to wake you, but I have to test your alertness to be sure the anesthesia is wearing off the right way. Are you feeling pain? Well, I have a pain shot for you anyway, so lemme just get that into your IV. Okay, now let’s get your heart rate checked out, don’t mind the cold stethoscope. Do you know what’s going on? You’re fresh out of surgery, sweetie. Doctor said had you stayed home another hour, you wouldn’t have made it. Never seen anyone in septic shock so bad. That means you were poisoning yourself with your own waste. Had 100% blockage to your left kidney and 96% in your right. Kidney stones real bad, plugging you up. Can’t get rid of them until you’re stabilized and out of shock, so the Dr. put stents, which are just fancy word for balloons, in your urinary tract to open the passageway from your kidneys so they can drain. Ooh, that was a mighty big yawn, girlfriend. Feeling sleepy again? Because you should. Go on, dear. You get yourself some nice rest there. That’s a good….”, and I was out cold again. This time, back into the dreamless, pitch black tunnel of emptiness I originally awoke from when this whole ordeal began.
All of a sudden I felt startled, my brain shaking off the anesthesia all at once, like a wet dog drying itself after getting soaked. You know that panicked feeling you get upon waking when you laid down intending on a short little catnap, and the next thing you know, it’s pitch black in the room and you realize you’ve been dead asleep for over four hours? Yeah, that one. Imagine it on steroids, realizing you’ve lost a whole entire day, not just a few hours. As my eyes opened to the harsh fluorescent lights shining down on me, the sounds of the IV machine beeping next to me went straight to my head causing it to start pulsating with throbbing pain as if I had been dropped on my head from a three-story balcony. Feeling started to return to my body, racing down nerve pathways from my brain to the tip of my toes, bringing back the sensations of being alive again. As my body began responding to commands, all those feelings bombarded by brain. Pain, soreness, burning, and itchiness everywhere all at once. Then I heard a small chuckle, familiar to my heart. I turned my head and was met by the sight of Ryan kneeling next to my bed, just inches from my own face.
“Hey Beautiful. You’re awake! You scared me. I thought you were going to die. You could’ve died!”, he said softly, in a baby talk voice.
“I’m scared. I just want to go home! Did I really almost die? That’s not true. It was just a UTI!”, I coughed out, not realizing how sore and painful my throat was going to be.
Ryan held a cup with a straw to my dry, cracked lips. “Here, take a sip. The nurses said you would need to drink. You had a trachea tube thingy in for surgery.”
I took a sip of icy water, which felt AMAZING. (If you know me well, you know this in itself was it’s own miracle. I absolutely hate drinking water.) Just then, a nurse came into our room. “Good morning, sunshine! You’ve had a rough few days, so let’s get you checked out.” She proceeded to go through her exam with the precision of a Swiss timepiece, obvious that she could do this in her sleep. When she was done, she looked over in Ryan’s direction and nodded. I looked at him, confused by what I thought was a flirty display right in front of me. He was now on one knee and taking my hand with one of his.
“Kristina, I know we’ve only been together just a little bit, but when they told me how close to death you were, I started thinking about losing you. I don’t want to. It hurts me somewhere deep inside to think of my life without you in it. Will you be my wife, marry me?” With that, he opened the hand that wasn’t in mine and presented me with a ring. “It’s not much, I had a hard time finding anyone open on a Sunday night while you were in recovery, because I couldn’t leave the hospital at all until you were out of surgery. We can get you something else later if you want, I just didn’t want to do this without a ring and I didn’t want to even leave the hospital at all, so I hope this is okay….”
I had to cut him at this point, because he wasn’t going to stop explaining his false perception of self-failure a hundred different ways from Sunday. “Honey. Sssh! Yes! Yes, I will marry you! And I love the ring. Owww, you’re pulling my IV cord!”
While floating on cloud nine for the next few days, I endured another surgery to laser blast the kidney stones away and another round of stents to make sure the microscopic crumbs leftover from blasting didn’t stick together and make new stones. Then they finally released me back into the world, with an outpatient surgery date a couple weeks later to remove the stents for good. Immediately, I went straight to pick up my baby boys and break the news to my ex that I would be getting married. For real. To a man who not only wanted to make a life with me, but my children, too, without calling them burdens and buzz-killers. Who didn’t live with his mother just so she could raise his kids when it was his turn for visitation. Everything had changed course in my life, faster than weather changes in the Midwest Great Lakes region, and it was all going to change even more.
Bringing my boys home was an exciting moment, because they were going to be meeting Ryan, my fiancée, their future stepfather, for the first time. The little voice in the back of my head tried to psych me out and question whether this could all be too good to be true. Does someone really get proposed to straight out of surgery because they almost died? Could Ryan really want for a ready-made family with me? He hasn’t even met the boys yet! What if he thinks they’re ugly retarded who are spoiled rotten baggage? How could someone with bad intentions decline plenty of aggressive advances to go all the way in bed, because he thinks I’m too vulnerable? What kind of perfect guy like him isn’t already taken at 28? My thoughts raced the whole drive back to Ryan’s to pick him up and take him to my dad’s with the boys, where we were living. If I ever thought that the meeting between Ryan and I that night at the bar was love at first sight, I was wrong after seeing the boys that were my lifeline and sunshine meet the man of my dreams. Bonds were forged instantly between their shared timidness and light-hearted nature’s, and newly collaborated alliances over wooing me with their charm for their benefit were cemented from the start. Things only came together more as my ex- never returned a call regarding his designated visitation again. I was told through the grapevine that he never wanted those kids of mine and he was glad that I was getting married so someone else could be dad for him. No skin off my back.
Over the next few weeks, Ryan and I had to rearrange our work schedules to accommodate having the boys with me full-time. I didn’t have any help from my family, couldn’t even get my dad or brother who were home at those times, to babysit the three days a week that my schedule overlapped with Ryan’s by two and a half hours, so I was forced to take them to daycare. We quickly fell into a routine of the typical married with children 2-parent working family. That’s a lot of stress on a fresh relationship newly committed to the idea of a lifetime together. Since we were still working on getting a plane together, big enough for our future family status, Ryan was able to go home after I got off work if wanted to go get away and de-stress for awhile. And de-stressing he was, more than he let me in on, drinking away his overwhelming feelings with a pint or two…or three…or four. It wasn’t until one fateful night on a snowy, icy, late January night, that I found out just how much he had been drinking, when he crashed his truck and was arrested for DUI. The report stated that his blood alcohol level was 2.9, ridiculously high and over triple the legal limit, yet accordingly, he was fairly lucid and walking with barely a wobble. It was a huge reality check for the both of us, that made us really think through what we were doing with each other. This wasn’t Ryan’s first taste of trouble. He was a wild child that found trouble for awhile there, every corner he turned. It had been quite some time since he had last been in trouble, finally growing up somewhere in his early twenties, but the courts still wouldn’t see that as anything but negative. He had a strong chance of being sentenced between six months and a year in county jail. Now the universe fated to separate us again.
There were so many sleepless nights after his arrest. Both of us would lay silently together in each other’s arms, presumptuously assuming the other was asleep, and contemplate the pros and cons of this relationship. I was between a rock and hard place, unsure of where to go next in my life. There was no one I truly had to turn to for help or guidance, never having had any deep-rooted, long-lasting relationships with even the likes of my own parents before. The oldest of my two sons, only 2½ yrs old at this time, was calling him Daddy. He was always responsible for the children and respectful of his role in their life. If he could go off and do this without telling me about his problems first, what else could he hide from me? Would I be willing to wait a whole year for my future husband if it came down to that? My mind would swirl and swirl with questions and concerns, benefits and justifications. I know now that he was lying there doing the same thing. By late-February, Ryan’s first court date had arrived and we sensed that the countdown to the final showdown had begun. We were going to have to decide what we wanted to do if he was sentenced to jail time, before it was too late.
Back and forth we went, with our emotions on a rollercoaster ride from Hell, fighting and crying, blaming and proclaiming at every waking moment. D-Day loomed nearer and nearer when it dawned on us one night that we weren’t fighting with each other at all. The discord between us was only us fighting true love because we were scared. Neither of us knew what the future would hold and we were making so much more out of that unknown than need be. Life is all but certainty and still, we all find our way through it regardless of the titles, rings, promises, and chains binding us together. So with that in mind, we started figuring out how to get married. Neither of us had a clue as to how to do it. Nor did we have an extra dime to our name. When both of us told our families that we were ready to be wed, they didn’t offer help, tried talking us out of it, actually. Without anyone on board, there was no point in trying to do something we couldn’t do, so we called the court house (thankfully, Ryan had been in trouble the next city over, so there was no conflict in magistrates), and set a date just a week away and before his sentencing date. The nice clerk explained to us how to get a marriage licence from the county and gave us directions and cost of, as well. We felt like such blundering fools. And we were.
The giddiness and nerves were running high that whole week. Ryan and I evaluated our entire relationship up to this point, justifying our destiny as soulmates based on our fated true love, believing we were creating our own modern day fairy tale, like the stupid, naive, twenty-something year old idiots we were. We had the rest of our lives to live happily ever after in a house full of sunshine, rainbows, and giggling children running sweetly like a summer wind. Even if he had to go to jail for a while, we saw it as just a small fraction of the time we would have together in marital bliss after his release. I had no idea what addiction was. I had no idea what affect my own mental illness played on my character, thinking, behavior, and decisions at this time, either. I was uneducated in these grown-up issues, never having had to experience anything like it before. Since Ryan had gotten into legal trouble, I assumingly believed that he had learned his lesson and realized with this relapse, as he referred to it, that he just couldn’t drink like normal people and needed to learn self-control. Never did it dawn on me, having come from functioning alcoholic families, that one simply could not drink alcohol at all. So in my “let’s live this Knight Saves Broken Family fairy tale” excitement, I thought it would be nice to gave a few drinks together the night before the eve of our wedding since we were going at this alone. We ended up getting at each other’s throats all night, the alcohol fueling the doubts our family and friends had weaseled through the cracks of our foundation. We were spinning wildly now, going in the same circle we’d been tumbling along for the past few months. Do we? Or don’t we? Don’t we? Or do we? Then one of the boys woke up and called out for “dah-da”.
You only live once, right? YOLO. That damn, annoying as your kid’s fifty billionth rendition of “Let It Go” motto was about to be born, and we were a few years ahead of the game. Honestly, it’s probably the ONLY thing I’ve ever been early to for my entire life. We found ourselves at the mall after work the next night, the eve of our wedding, picking out clothes to get married in. We were so broke, that after using our spending money for the week on our wedding rings, marriage license, and magistrate rental fee, we were writing checks with fingers crossed in hopes they’d clear after our pay checks hit two days later. After I did the typical girl thing of trying on a dozen dresses and outfits, crying because I looked fat in everything, hating on the store for not carrying a large selection of white in March, long before Memorial day in May signals it’s acceptance back into our wardrobes, I finally settled on my outfit of choice. A white lacey shirt with dark gray dress pants. Now we had everything. This marriage thing was really happening! We parted ways that night, too follow at least one tradition so we wouldn’t curse our marriage worse than it already probably was going to be.
The next morning I woke up with full level anxiety. I had the boys and myself to get ready, and a father to beg to attend, if for nothing more than providing a witness signature to the marriage licence. I popped half a Xanax to keep from flipping out with nerves. I’ve never dealt well with pressure. I also knew that even though the mature, grown-up side of me (what little there was of it) knew that I had made this choice myself, the little girl I mostly still was, would rise to the surface at some point. It wasn’t easy coming to terms with the fact that I was forsaking my lifelong girly-girl dream of a big, fancy, real-life fairytale wedding in exchange for this shotgun courthouse wedding because of true love, and that little girl was bound to overpower the grown-up in me if she wasn’t controlled from the start. Hence, the Xanax. Somehow I managed to dress the boys in their little baby polo shirts and sweater vests while curling my hair and doing my makeup. Those two hours felt like days passing by, and I was chain-smoking and staring down a bottle of wine in the kitchen with a few chugs worth left in the bottom the whole while I was running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. It would’ve helped my cause had I actually prepared the night before, laying out clothes in one pile and packing diaper bags full of snacks and distractions. True to myself, I waited until the very last minute possible to get anything done, losing half a dozen necessities along the way. I don’t even remember in all my bustling around, how I ended up convincing my dad to go, nor do I remember how I even got to the courthouse. That part remains a blur from my whacked-out scaredy-cat state of panic over taking the plunge.
My dad had worked for our city’s police department for over thirty years, so he was more than familiar to the staff at the courthouse, knowing everyone personally. When we arrived, my dad had managed to make it a few minutes ahead, well, actually like twenty minutes ahead, on time unlike us. Yes. I was late for my own wedding! (Now can I have my diamond-encrusted crown for being the ultimate Queen of Procrastination?) One of my dad’s long time friend’s walked right up to Ryan and said, “Run. You’re marrying into the Sopfe Family. Don’t do it, son. *wink. wink.*”. We both still laugh over that fruity display of winking today, because the guy just looked so absolutely ridiculous! Ryan’s mom showed up just then, causing the little boys to get rambunctious over their new favorite playmate’s arrival, reminding the rest of us, to get the show on the road before the road took off in a fit of giggles straight into a courtroom actively in session. Everyone shuffled into our assigned Judge’s courtroom, the boys squealing with delight as they ran between the rows of benches in this cool, new room. Our judge was at his podium, without robes, shuffling through a pile of files while trying to eat a sandwich. Immediately noticing the familiar face, he welcomed my father, asking to what he owed the pleasure of his presence in his courtroom. Scanning the rest of the us, his uncanny abilities honed from years of prosecutorial and magisterial experience put two and two together, figuring out that we were his wedding appointment for the day. The air in the room thickened uncomfortably, as the wonderment of the situation settled stifling the energy with the unspoken confusion. With such a charismatic and admirable reputation beyond his respected ranking as a Sergeant Detective, I’m sure it was a mystery as to why his oldest child and only daughter, was getting married in such a fashion as this.
Ignoring the obvious, my dad acted as if this was all just a casual drop in, for no other purpose than a friendly visit. It stung me to know that he was dismissing me as his daughter among his fellow peers, like I wasn’t good enough for an ounce of recognition or pride from the man responsible for my very existence. This, unfortunately, was nothing new to me, having spent my entire life thus far trying to prove myself good enough for my father, so despite the unavoidable temporary air of discomfort rolling past, I held my head high focusing on my purpose for being there. The guys made small talk about this, that, and the other thing with the Judge, ending up on the topic of schools, somehow. Soon it was known that my hubs and he had attended the same all-boys Catholic secondary school, just a handful of years apart, sharing the same disdain for a particular teacher. I paced around, watching the boys climb over and duck under while chasing each other in and out of the rows with my future mother-in-law. My mind wandered, daydreaming naively of the Stepford life we would easily make for ourselves in no time at all, showing my dad that I was worthy of his pride, after all. Once we moved into our own place, we would be the stereotypical television-sitcom-like family and live happily ever after. Ahhh, to be barely but 24 years old again… I was snapped from my fantasies when I heard my name being said, looking up to find everyone looking at me. “Sure,” I replied, “let’s do this.” Ryan and I walked up to the front of the Judge’s bench, nervously holding hands. The Judge chuckled and motioned for us to come over into the much larger open space between the prosecutor’s and defendant’s tables. “You two aren’t here to be arraigned on any criminal charges, are you?”, the Judge joked around with us. “A wedding mustn’t be formal in the judiciary sense of the term, it is a declaration of eternal love and we should all be comfortable while we perform the official ceremony.” And, with that, we began the official prelude to the ceremony of paperwork presentation, signing away our availability status for the rest of our lives, confirming the pronunciation of our given names, and checking to see if we had any special requests for which version of vows, or if we had written our own, that we wanted to use. After all the nitty gritty stuff was taken care of, the ceremony swiftly got under way, as the clock was ticking down on the scheduled starting of the afternoon docket and people were going to begin showing up.
Throughout the whole production I starred intently at Ryan’s face, searching for something, a sign perhaps, that he was or wasn’t truly in love with me. Whether I was making the biggest mistake of my life or the best decision in the history of all the decisions decided upon in the world. I needed to know that this was what I was supposed to be doing, especially with the rest of the world against us even after fate forcefully brought us together. All I found on his face, after scrutinizing his every blink and twitch, was the look of heart-throbbing, butterflies in the tummy, awash with warm, gushy, tingles of pure love, along with a few stray tears trying to escape from the corners of his eyes. The most beautiful sight it was, one that I still hold onto with all my might, to this very day. The ship I had sailed upon dubbed with my maiden name, inherited by my birth, was sinking deep into the bottom of the ocean of life, as I said my “I do’s”. My white flag was answered as my husband was told to kiss his bride, welcoming me aboard this new vessel inherited of our marriage. This ship newly named after the man I joined in union with, the vows we made sealed for all of eternity by the rings we placed on one another. The two young boys, barely old enough to stand taller than our knees, brought the ceremony to a close, letting us know that they, too, approved by banging the gavel in succession with giggles that could’ve melted the iciest of cold-hearted snakes. Not only was I officially Mrs. Ryan Hammer, but we were officially The Hammer Family.
Life has done it’s thing, continuously moving on at lightening speed and taking no hostages. It only took 6 months to fall in love, get engaged, and get married, but those months have grown into years. Nine years this marriage has survived now, and not without lack of fighting to do so. Nothing has been easy. Nothing has been comparable to that sitcom-esque family of my childish, immature, blissfully ignorant fantasies. But it’s been the GREATEST sail of my lifetime. It’s a way better of a trip than those fantasies could’ve ever factored in, because for all that fight and hard work that we’ve put into making this marriage grow, there’s been plenty more learned, accomplished, made, endured, and celebrated. Our family has grown in size, just as well. Two girls, plus a handful of pets, to keep us balanced and grounded. Bringing us even more joy and love than we could have ever imagined or wanted for. Ryan ended up with just probation at his sentencing, that time. Addiction, recovery, mental illness, and diagnosis of long-term disorders and diseases have continued to pop in & out of our lives, putting us through hell. Every time we’ve come out closer, more in-love, than before. Every thing designed to tear apart most others, seems to keep bringing together, giving us the strength to face another day. I wouldn’t want my life any other way. This is OUR angrivated marriage, OUR angrivated family…. and it all began with one hell of an angrivated journey to the altar to be wed.