Once upon a time, two young military airmen stood in front of the altar at their base’s tiny chapel. Looking into each other’s eyes, they promised to ‘have and to hold from that day forward. To take each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health.’ That couple was my husband and I. And this happened over 45 years ago today.
Standing there, my heart nearly bursting with joy, my mind conjured up the fairy tales I adored as a little girl. You know, those that began with “Once upon a time” and ended with “and they lived happily ever after”? Although they were as far from my life as a little, inner-city girl with brown skin and braids could be, I adored them. Now I was about to embark upon my very own.
We had been married about three months when it hit me that there were tons of things that I would learn about my new husband. The first came about when he came to me saying, “I have something I need to tell you.” Hesitating, he blurted out, “I’m addicted — to pound cake.” Of all the addictions I had ever heard of − sex, alcohol, ‘crack’− this was a first. It seemed his mother had been touted “Queen of Pound Cake” so, as his wife, this designation seemingly now fell on me.
So I decided to make him one. How hard could it be? I thought to myself. Silly me! First, there were like a gazillion recipes for pound cake. As an airman, trained to shot an M-16 (rifle) if need be, I refused to be outdone by pastry.
Not after cakes one through five turned out to be flops. Not when a cake that looked great in the oven, deflated much like a balloon when removed. Not even when said cake, flung out near the trash in disgust, became a bed for the neighbor’s cat. I refused to give up until I mastered the perfect pound cake.
Little by little, my fairy tale started to lose its luster. For instance, I’m a hopeless romantic. My new husband? Not so much! While my idea of newlywed romantic gestures leaned toward perfume, lingerie or chocolates, his leaned toward —kitchen appliances.
Our first Christmas together, he gave me a four-slice toaster that was professionally wrapped and topped off by a huge red bow. On Valentines, he gave me a blender. Although it was the top of the line at that time, it was still a blender. I suspect he thought he was making things easier for me. (How could that be so wrong?)
Over the years, our marriage would consist of other defining moments. The next occurred around year 13, when unresolved issues forced a marital ‘time out’. While in flux, our relationship had always been love thus, two years later, we reunited.
The third occurred when my husband suffered his first heart attack. The past 28 of our 45 years together, I have been an interpreter of every illness, recounting them in minute detail, to everyone who needed to know about them.
Still, whenever my mind touches on that place inside me where fear constantly lives, I realize that I wouldn’t be the wife, the partner or even the person that I am today, without these seasons in our lives. Today, our love and relationship is stronger than ever. Perhaps, unlike how I imagined it, every once and a while a real life fairy tale comes along.
-Author Carol Gee
Retired military (AF) veteran, Author, Columnist and Motivational Speaker