A short pre-Thanksgiving story for you…
In early August, I began planning a secret surprise for Paul. At the time, I was approaching my second surgery, and Paul was approaching his 30th birthday.
Over the summer, I had a lot of time to think. I spent entirely too much time on the couch, watching too much of the Bravo channel and feeling fairly useless. I kept a daily list of things to do, and I felt pretty accomplished just driving to speech and navigating the UNC Hospitals parking deck.
Almost six months out now, I owe my recovery to many different people – the staff at NCTRC, the first responders, the doctors and surgeons, my therapists, family and friends. It would be impossible to name every person who has played a part in my recovery. But one thing is for sure, I couldn’t have done this at all without Paul.
So in early August, as the world sweltered and everyone else went about their summer, I started to plan a surprise vow renewal for me and Paul.
Now, it seems a little odd, I know, since October 31st was only our third wedding anniversary. Yet, it was the best way I could think of to thank Paul for the absolute loyalty to our vows that he has shown me thus far. Last October after I lost my dad, I was a complete mess. I was a sack of misery, going about my daily routine but not good for much else. Paul stepped up and started fixing things – the estate, the business, the finances, and whatever else needed to be done.
Eight months later, I was injured. Once again, Paul stepped up. He never left my side in the hospital. He cared for me. He also drove me crazy – there was a while there where I wasn’t even allowed to walk up and down the stairs alone (a stubborn, independent girl’s worst nightmare). But he once again took to fixing things.
You know, come to think of it, he reminded me a lot of my dad. Always the fixer, absorbing way too much stress because he could and because he cared. It’s the kind of man he was.
It was not without a toll. When you’ve been to Hell and back, you walk a treacherous road because you know how to really hurt someone – when you share experiences like this, you know what words can cut deep, can really hurt. We had been through more in three years than we ever expected. It was time for a renewal.
I contacted the minister who led our wedding, and she graciously agreed to help lead the renewal. I chose to have it on October 13th. You see, I spent October 13th last year at the hospital with my dad, where I said goodbye. I wanted to create a new memory this year.
I somehow managed to keep the secret from Paul for two months, which in and of itself is a small miracle. I’m a horrible liar, and so I just tried to keep my mouth shut (which, you know, wasn’t hard to do at first). And on October 13th, I surprised Paul by taking him to the same rose garden in Chapel Hill where he proposed four years ago. Under that same gazebo, we renewed our vows along with a couple of close friends and our parents, with my dad joining us via picture. Our ring bearer, sweet old dog Dixie, who left us (after 18 years!) not long after our wedding, also joined via picture.
I practiced my new vows, which I worked on at home whenever Paul was out of the room, for a month in speech therapy. The first time, I could barely make it though. But that day, I was able to speak loudly and clearly. My being able to say those vows was a testament to how much both Paul and I have overcome, not only over the last few months but really, the entire year. I couldn’t think of a better to tell Paul “thank you” for everything he has done for me and my mom.
I’d like to tell you all that since the vow renewal, we’ve been riding off into the sunset every night. That things have been perfect. But you and I would both know that’s not how life works. We don’t live in the movies. It’s our job to navigate life the best we can, and we frequently make mistakes.
But, the eve before Thanksgiving, I just thought I’d share my story of thanks with you all.
I don’t need a specific day to be thankful. I feel it every day.
(Though I am extra happy to celebrate with some cranberry sauce!)