I've got every note anyone ever gave me in grade school, yearbooks from high school, shells I collected on the beach on my honeymoon, positive pregnancy tests from each of my babies, hair from every child's first haircut and every single card from when Matthew and I started dating all the way up to each birthday and anniversary card he ever gave me.
Last October 26 was my 15th wedding anniversary. We didn't know it then, but Matthew would have just three more weeks to live.
The last card he ever gave me on that day, our last anniversary together, was a sappy one, about love and how I was always the one. I know I saved it because I displayed at his funeral it on a collage of cards he had given me. Well, I must have put it in a really secret, super special spot because I can't find that damn card anywhere and I'm losing my mind looking for it, especially since I won't get a card this year. In my search however, I managed to find the card I gave him on our one-year anniversary. A silly, stupid 27-year-old me wrote inside:
"It's hard to believe it's already been one year since we've been married! Through our ups and downs - no matter what we go through - you and I are going to make it! I find comfort in knowing I have you to laugh and cry with and to be my best friend for the rest of our lives. I will love you always, Andrea"
Her naivety is almost sickening, isn't it? What the hell ups and downs did you have, girl!? You had a healthy, successful husband, a career as a writer and lived on 50 acres with only a dog to care for. You had it made!
Next to that card was a folded letter I had typed to him on our 10th wedding anniversary (I think I was too cheap or lazy to buy a card that year). It reads:
"...10 years after we took our vows, I feel the same love and devotion to you as that newly-married bride did all those years ago. How do you tell someone that you love them so much you can't imagine a life without them? I don't know. Trying to envision a world without you brings the feeling of a tremendous void in my heart that I never want to know."
Why did I have to jinx us? Why did I have to tempt the fates?
Our youngest hadn't quite turned one yet then. I remember we got to sneak away by ourselves on a trip to Florida that fall. We ate filet mignon and drank wine at a nice restaurant on our anniversary. We actually were enjoying life and each other for the first time in a while (I credit this to my reading the 50 Shades trilogy around then... but I'll keep this PG rated tonight).
We just got too comfortable. We were happy for just a little too long. That's when life seems to pull the rug out from under you. You are happy one minute and the next you are in a basement storage area on a concrete floor on your wedding anniversary digging through boxes for the last words your dead husband wrote to you.
And while I haven't yet found last year's anniversary card, there at the bottom of the box, I did find the card he gave me the year before he died. I could practically hear his voice as I read his scratchy, left-handed writing:
"Andrea, I can't believe 14 years passed by... I love you more today than when I met that spunky, loud girl in college. I still love your energy, your sense of humor and our life together, no matter how hard it sometimes seems. Happy Anniversary, Love you, Matthew."
So yeah, I save a lot of shit. But I'm glad I do. I got myself a pretty awesome anniversary card because of it.