I am writing this morning from seat 1F, 36,000 feet above the ground, as I wing my way to San Diego.
And I am reflective.
Today marks 25 years since Rudy and I said "I do" in a ridiculously picturesque floating wedding chapel above the waters of Nawiliwili on Kauai.
25 years since we embarked on an adventure, a life together, a family.
As I sit here, I am finally ready to admit I have done the math on those years. Given the nature of the hospitality business, we have spent over half of those years apart. Sometimes six months, sometimes a couple years, most recently almost 8 1/2 years.
We joke that is how the marriage has lasted - never being together. But in truth, the marriage has lasted in spite of the separations.
It has lasted because we are two very strong people. Stronger than when we started, forged stronger still by the demands to step up and keep moving forward together, while apart.
If anyone had told the young, headstrong girl in that chapel that her marriage would be one of distance, sometimes one of survival, definitely one of demands, and unquestionably one of loneliness? Well, I think that girl would have tapped out. No bride goes into their walk down the aisle envisioning not seeing their spouse on the regular.
But walk I did.
And through the years, with each step - sometimes surefooted, sometimes faltering - I have grown. Grown beyond the fairy tales I once dreamt of marriage. Grown from a girl into a strong, focused, independent woman, wife and mother.
While friends have often asked through the years, "How do you do it?" in reference to the separations, the isolation, the kids, the chaos - my answer has never changed: You do what you have to do.
Curling up in a ball has never been an option. Not for me, not for Rudy. We both, without words, have simply understood the parts we play in this life together/apart.
He has lived alone, focusing daily on providing for his family. He has sacrificed seeing so much of his kids growing up in order that they have a good life, and that in these past 8+ years they have been unafraid to put down roots. The hours in my job may have been longer each day, the juggling of three overachievers and their schedules sometimes impossible - but I have had something he didn't. I have had them.
Anyone who ever wonders where the larger sacrifice lay, simply read those four words again. I have had them - the plays, the soccer, the dates, the dances, the struggles, the triumphs. I have had a front row VIP spot while Rudy has had to cheer and parent from the cheap seats thousands of miles away.
And he has. He may not have been the boots on the ground, but these children know they are loved, supported, and that there is nothing he would not do for them.
I sit here thinking of days that melted into weeks, into months, into years. Anniversaries spent alone, holidays shifted to accommodate a heartless hospitality schedule, and tears shed when I did not think I had another day left in me. When life felt too big, I felt too alone.
Those days, those feelings passed, erupted again, and passed again. Through them all Rudy has listened to me rail on the phone, endured emails aplenty in which I poured out what I needed, what I was missing. It is hard, sometimes damned near impossible to maintain across the miles. There are ups, downs, fights, and folly. There are tears, there is laughter. There are inside jokes, shorthand texts, and sometimes silence.
Yes, even being alone all the time, we still need - or have maybe developed the need - for solitude. The permission to not answer the phone occasionally. The understanding that sometimes one or both of us simply need to not talk anymore at the end of the day.
We have lived 25 years in quiet agreement that this works because we want it to work. That is not to say it has been easy. It is to say that it has been worth it.
We have three amazing children blazing their paths into this world. We parent together/apart. We celebrate each other's successes - together/apart. We have goals - together/apart. And after 25 years, we still get hot for each other - together/apart.
Which is why I am writing to you from seat 1F, 36,000 feet in the air.
Today is our 25th anniversary, and dammit, I am going to celebrate it with the man I love.
Together. Not apart.