The other night after dinner, I went for a walk with our oldest son. It's rare that the two of us have time alone together these days. Which is funny, because there was a time when that was all we had. We had alone time almost every day. As we were walking, he was asking a lot of questions, which of course is nothing new. The sun was at that point right before it begins to set. It's my favorite part of the day this time of year. The breeze was blowing and I looked at my oldest boy and I couldn't help feeling nostalgic. I looked at his sweet face and I realized how much he has changed. He is becoming a beautiful little boy. He is learning about the world and about life. I could see the change in his face. There is still of course a sense of wonder, but somehow there is also a sense of knowledge. At that moment, he turned to me and asked, "Mommy, if you and Daddy didn't meet, would I be here?" The simple answer is no, but I thought about it for a minute.
There is something about the change of the seasons. There is a feeling of joy when the cold air gets washed away by a warm breeze. There is something about the way the sun feels just as it is about to set for the night, the way it lingers a little bit longer than it does in the dead of winter. When we met the change was already happening. The breeze was warm, the sun was staying around longer and whether we knew it or not a change was upon both of us.
Our love story was not one pulled from a movie or a novel. We were two regular people who met and went out on a date. We laughed. We talked. We drank too much sangria and we knew we wanted to see each other again. It was a great first date. It was a date that led to many more. Before we knew it the summer was fading and the leaves were changing. The air was shifting again. It was around that time that I knew we were falling in love. Fall turned into winter and winter turned to spring. It was that spring that you asked me to be your wife.
I spent the next six months planning the wedding I had always dreamed of having. I chose the flowers and the place. I tried on four dresses until I found "the one." I picked out the perfect invitations. We chose the band. We planned our honeymoon. It was all I had hoped for and more.
As I stood on the altar that day and said the words that would make me your wife, I could never have imagined what they would really mean to me one day. After all, how can you know the true meaning of words until you live them? How can you know just how much they mean until the dress is put away, the guests have all gone home and life together actually begins? I don't think you can.
Our wedding day does not tell our story. It's the day our story began. You can make plans on how your life is going to go, but life does not always go according to those plans. We knew we wanted a family. We had just moved into a new home and I was screaming "baby!!" from every room in that house, and even if I was not actually screaming it out loud, you knew. We decided it was time and we were blessed that it did not take long to find out we were in fact going to be parents.
When we went for our first ultrasound, we knew something was wrong. We knew by the look on the technician's face. It was then that we found out our baby had no heartbeat and we were devastated. That night I went for a walk, alone. I wanted to be alone. You sat in our kitchen with my mother and I went for a walk. I walked with the warm breeze washing the tears from my face. I felt the sun as it was getting ready to sink for the night and I wondered what the future held for us. I wanted to be a mother so badly but I made a promise that day that no matter what I would not allow that moment to define me. I would not allow it to define us.
The summer came and went and as the fall breeze arrived we found out we were expecting. Everything went as planned that pregnancy and we welcomed our first beautiful son the following summer. Life was beautiful. Our son's first year of life flew by faster than the seasons seemed to change and before we knew it he was a walking, talking toddler.
The fall came and the winter followed. It was a regular morning for me. I changed the baby. Put him in his high chair and made the coffee. You came home from a doctor appointment and sat at the kitchen table staring at the wall. "Do you want some coffee?" I asked. "No thanks. I need open heart surgery," you replied. I could feel the shift again. The winter was here to stay. I stood in our kitchen hoping that you were joking, but knowing that you were not. I looked at our son. I looked at you. "When?" "Thursday," you replied. It was Monday. It was an aortic aneurysm. We didn't plan for this. How could we have planned for this?
We made it through that surgery and that winter. The seasons changed again and life was happy. We welcomed another beautiful boy a couple of years later. A couple years into his life we found out he too has an aortic aneurysm and while we were both scared, we decided to tackle it the only way we know how, head on. He is our brave little bull and somehow when we least expect it, it's our kids who teach us how to be brave.
Our lives have been full of seasons filled with memories. Summers of swimming, running in the yard, giggling under the stars, and making S'mores. Winters have been filled with holiday traditions, skiing, sledding and ice skating (or really just ice falling.) Our Falls have been filled with apple picking, hiking, fishing and football watching. Springs have been filled with bike riding, star gazing, movie watching and flower picking.
Looking back I realize now that the dress meant nothing. The flowers meant nothing. The place meant nothing. Marriage is not built on these things. Marriage is built on all the things that come after the wedding. It is built on the ups and the downs. It is built on the past and the present. It is built on the good and the bad. It is built on the changes that come just like the seasons. You have held my hand during the birth of two beautiful boys. You have made me laugh when I needed it the most. You have loved me at my worst. You have made me feel my best. We have fought the fight. We have been met with surprises and dealt with them together.
When I think about how to answer our son the obvious answer is no, he would not be here if you and I had not met. It's so much more than that, though. I can't help but feel thankful for you on Father's Day. You have given me the best gift. You made me a mother. You give me laughter for the rough days and support for all the days in between. We did not just make a house together, we created a home. As I walk with our oldest son and the sun warms my face and the breeze blows the warm spring air I can feel that summer is upon us. I am reminded that both our boys will turn another year older this season. I am reminded of just how lucky we are. Life might not always go as planned, but it certainly seems like the change of the seasons has always brought us life. It might not always be the life I planned for but it is definitely the life I always wanted. Thank you for making me a mother.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.