My husband wrote me twenty-four letters twenty-four years ago, shortly before we married. I’ve re-read his letters twice before, but up until yesterday, I can’t recall ever re-reading the letters I sent to him.
I didn’t realize the time this would entail, for it’s never a simple of act of reading — to read something so personal is to re-open a personal time capsule, one that evidences a familiar yet almost forgotten life I once led. The letters held sweet remembrances of everyday life with my young daughters. And the letters reminded me of all that caused me to fall in love with my husband a second time, for he wrote such timeless words of love. They were words I needed to hear then and words I still need to hear.
But yesterday, it was running into a much younger version of myself — for in that old writing, I see only glimmers of the person I am today — that proved to be the greatest surprise. Was this really me? Could I have penned these words? Yet, one passage, in particular, written on February 19, 1986, is something I could have written just yesterday:
“Sometimes I just want to make things slow down. It seems like I’m always in a constant rush — rush the girls to school, myself to work, etc. It’s so easy to overlook the really important things in life, to even forget why you’re caught up in the treadmill in the first place.”
I wrote these words during a tumultuous time in my life. I had emotionally and physically put aside one life, but had yet to begin a new one — I was living in that uncomfortable, indecisive middle ground — one letter full of hope, the next weighed down by depression. I had been unhappy for so long, use to living with my emotions on ice, that my development seems arrested — the words appear to be written by someone far younger than the age that I was when I wrote them.
Our letters teach me that love is both messy and a miracle. Love demands vulnerability, it requires that we stay open and it deserves more than I can possibly give. I have come to accept that I cannot love my husband (or others in my life) as he (or they) deserve(s) to be loved — nor can my husband love me as I deserve to be loved. But as I re-read my husband’s letters all over again, I sense the constancy of his love, even when it fails to show up in everyday words and actions.
In the midst of my reading, as I was recalling life before marriage, my husband recalled a conversation with my father thirteen years ago. In truth, it was less a conversation than prayer of thanksgiving, as I think about it.
We were on vacation in Colorado — my husband and I had been married eleven years by then — and my husband was standing beside a stream behind our cabin when my father walked down to join him. With no prelude in small talk, my father blurted out, “I just want to thank you, Don. You came along at a point in Janell’s life when she wasn’t happy. I’m not sure what would have happened had you not come into her life.” After Dad said his piece, Dad turned around and walked back up the hill — as if there was nothing else that needed to be said.
Thirteen years ago I would not have viewed my past situation as dire as Daddy had. But after yesterday’s reading, I can see that Daddy had cause to be concerned. And like Dad, I am thankful that my husband came back into my life to help me pick up the pieces and put love right.
And so it is that my husband is still putting things right; for how perfect that these old words of my father’s would be shared now — at a point when Daddy is no longer able to talk for himself — to make me feel so loved. Old words of love never grow old.