September 11 - Ten years later, I still don't understand

Source: ZazzleTen years ago I was working for a high-tech startup company. I’d lived in Ottawa for about 9 months and it had been exactly one month since I had my wedding for all our friends and family. For our honeymoon, Matt and I flew to San Francisco via Philadelphia, PA. This may seem irrelevant, except that our flight path was so similar to that of the planes that were flown into the World Trade Centre towers. My typically sensible, rational, level-headed mother broke into tears as she thought about our flights that had been just a month before. That “what if” really shouldn’t have been in her mind since the hate that spurred this attack was directed primarily at Americans - a fact that I still struggle to understand.

I heard about the first plane from Matt when he emailed me at work. I immediately went and told my boss who dismissed it as untrue. (I have no idea what he was thinking. Major news outlets don’t report this stuff on a whim without verification.)When the second plane was reported, he finally believed me. Word spread through the office slowly. With no TVs or radios in the office, our only option was to try to get online. All the major news sites were bogged down with the volume of visitors thirsty for information.

I was in shock; my work forgotten. I walked with a coworker to a nearby diner where we watched CNN with the rest of the restaurant in silence. Later that afternoon, my boss - knowing he was talking to an American - proceeded to tell me that this might not have happened if America had stepped in three weeks earlier when an Indian flight was hijacked. His message to me was that we got what we deserved.

According to this man, 2,996 people “deserved” to die. Men and women working to support their families. Emergency services workers doing their job of helping, protecting. I’ll never understand the blind hate that motivated the actions of the men responsible because I can’t relate to hating someone I don’t know simply because they fit into a certain category.

This tenth anniversary has been exceptionally emotional; I’m not sure why. Though I wasn’t there and didn’t know anyone who was there, I’ve grieved for those who were. I’ve grieved for what the U.S. lost as a nation that day.

For weeks after 9/11/01, I watched the news every night at home, thirsty for something. I don’t know what I expected to hear that would make the horror of that day ease. It got to the point that Matt finally told me to stop watching and I did. I didn’t need to constantly relive the day to remember.

Eventually my tears dried up, but the memory of 9/11 will never leave me.

Five years of missing...

Debbie Chapman 1949-2006Last November, I hit the milestone of ten years living in Canada. In December, Matt and I celebrated ten years of being married. In August, we’ll celebrate ten years since our wedding day.

These milestones have been happy ones, associated with happy times and good changes.

But there’s one milestone that I mark this week has my stomach in knots and I’m not sure how to stem the tide of tears that are waiting to flow.

Five years she’s missed…

…the joyous news that we were having a baby.

…talking to me after his birth, learning his name.

…hearing about or seeing his escapades.

…holding him, hugging him, loving him.

…sharing in the moments of pride over his accomplishments.

…giving advice when he s sick or presenting his parents with a challenge to overcome.

…laughing when he says something funny.

Five years we’ve missed…

…her presence in our lives.

It’s hard to imagine a harder time to lose your mom, but it’s hard no matter when it happens. There’s never a time in life when you don’t need and want your mom around.

I miss my mom for a million reasons, but the one that brings the most acute sense of sorrow is knowing my son will learn about her only through pictures and stories that I share. I knew my mom and I knew how much she d love any child of mine.

Brandon doesn’t know her now, but he will.

Nine Years

On November 24, 2000, I drove across the US-Canadian border as an official permanent resident for the first time. Two weeks later, on December 5, 2000, Matt and I stood before a JOP type, who talked about "love" a lot, along with two of our friends as we committed to spend our lives to each other. Actually, if you remember the episode of Friends when Monica and Chandler picked Joey to be their officiant, his practice speech was really similar to this guys' real thing. When I think about it, I can hardly believe it's been nine years. I don't feel nine years older, but a lot has happened in that time.

We did actually have a big wedding in August 2001 and we acknowledge that date as well. But we're pretty low-key about anniversaries and birthdays in general. Today we decided to celebrate by going to breakfast with our son. We had a good time giving him some really unhealthy food - greasy eggs, home fries, sausage and pancakes. Fortunately for him, he'd already had a breakfast at home, so he didn't eat much of the junk.

It's hard to believe that this is the last single-digit anniversary for us. It feels like such a long time, but it's mostly been fun. Hard times are bound to happen to everyone but if you are fortunate to share them with someone who can make you laugh, then they seem to go by a little bit easier and perhaps end a little bit quicker. I couldn't have asked for a better husband.

Happy anniversary, Matt!

Brief background: Matt and I met in February 1998 on ICQ (random chat) and I moved to Canada in November of 2000. We were legally married two weeks after I moved in December of 2000 in a stranger's house (the man who performed the ceremony) with two of our friends as witnesses. This legal ceremony was required to fulfill the requirements of my landed resident visa. My family knew this was going to happen, Matt's didn't. We did plan all along to have a big wedding with both families, which we held on August 11, 2001. So, in honour of our 8th anniversary...

I've been thinking a lot lately about relationships: what is good, bad, works, doesn't work, why they fail or succeed. There are no absolutely right answers when it comes to the joining of two different people. Every life-altering event affects a relationship, even if the event happens only to one side of the couple. How a couple deals day-in and day-out with life will ultimately determine whether a relationship flourishes or withers away.

There have been times in my relationship with Matt that I feared we were far too co-dependent as compared with other couples we knew. It was five years after our marriage before we spent even one night apart. Since then, we've spent only four additional nights apart. (I don't count the days I spent in the hospital after Brandon's birth.) It's easy to keep track when there are so few. I've come to realize that we don't really feel the need or desire to be apart because we lived apart for the first (nearly) three years of our relationship. During that time, we got pretty good at communicating. We had no choice since that was the only way we could get to know each other. And we got to know each other really, really well.

I've always felt as if Matt and I are well-balanced. He's rational, I'm passionate. He's methodical, I'm inspired. He's a man of few words, I never shut up. He's reasonable, I'm a woman. We have similar tastes and some common interests that help us maintain a connection beyond being spouses and having a child. We also have unique interests that we each pursue separate from each other, giving us valuable time apart.

Perhaps it's an unusual and potentially unpopular view, but I told Matt before we got married that I didn't want divorce to be an option. I believe my exact words were, "Divorce is not in my vocabulary." I watched my parents struggle to keep their relationship together for essentially all of the years I grew up. There were major issues, major fights, and there were times I wished they'd just end it. When they finally healed their relationship, I was really grateful for their perseverance. As difficult as it sometimes was to live with them fighting, I was extremely happy for them and to see them become a happy couple who were best friends until the day my mother passed away - less than two months after their 30th anniversary. (To be clear, I do not judge anyone for divorcing, though I do believe it's a last resort for a troubled relationship. It's a must for abusive circumstances.)

Being friends - that is, best friends - with my husband makes me feel secure. I can tell him anything, from innocuous details of my day to personal confidences and I know that he loves me even when he thinks I'm certifiable. To be able to count on unconditional acceptance like that from another person is incredibly liberating. We've occasionally had friends comment on our tendency to tell each other everything. I'm not sure if we're considered odd because of this or whether it's a good sign to people. Either way, I hope it never changes.

I won't sit here and pretend that things are always tickety-boo with Matt and I - that would be grossly dishonest of me. We've had our issues (some minor, some major) that we've had to work through over the years. We've survived because we never lost the desire to be together. It isn't the fresh, new feeling we had over 11 years ago, but we have something that can last the rest of our lives - as long as we never stop trying.

I truly believe that most relationships do not have "irreconcilable differences"; it's usually more of an unwillingness from one or both parties to compromise, work together and/or change for the good of everyone. Relationships in which one half always compromises are no healthier (and possibly less so) than a relationship in which both parties refuse to compromise.

One of my all-time favourite movies is The Story of Us, a story that, in my opinion, is as realistic as they come from Hollywood. At one point in the movie, the two main characters who are newly separated are each talking to their best friends (who happen to be married to each other) about the problems they're having in their marriage; one friend says "people change", the other says "people never change". Personally, I think they're both right.

My core self hasn't ever changed, but how I react to various events can and does change. We all evolve as we mature; it's an inevitable part of life as circumstances shape our views and colour our responses. I have made a conscious effort to change things that bother Matt, just as he has changed things that bother me.

I have come to believe that "love" is a verb; it is a choice and is based on actions, not feelings. That's why it's hard work to keep a relationship together, because we're all in love with the feeling of being in love and when it fades, the assumption is that the love is gone. I choose here and now to love Matt today and everyday that we're together.

Happy Anniversary, Matt!
All my love,
Karen

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