When Greta and I celebrate our twentieth anniversary this year, I believe we’ll do so as a married couple. Not in the legal sense—full marriage equality is probably a generation away—but in the best, most important sense of the word marriage.
When we met, Greta was an unacknowledged alcoholic and I was recovering from a near-fatal hiking accident. Well, it appeared to be an accident. I had tried to cross some mossy rocks at the top of a small waterfall and had fallen about thirty feet, badly breaking my leg. The friends who saved my life didn’t know that despair had led me to look at those dangerous rocks and carelessly think, “Oh, what the hell.”
None of them knew I was a lesbian. I barely knew it myself, if knowledge includes a kind of ownership. Now I recognize my homosexuality as a profound yet unremarkable aspect of my nature, like being right-handed or female, but back then I didn’t know how I was going to make my way in a world that so violently wished I didn’t exist. I was yielding to that violence when I stepped out on those rocks.
And then I met Greta. She was not my first love, but she is my great and lasting love. With Greta I have entered into marriage. When she endured the physical and emotional turbulence of addiction recovery so that she could be more engaged in our life together, she married me. When I confronted the inner demons that made me use words like knives in an argument, I claimed her as my spouse. We forgive each other, if not right away, then in the fullness of our mutual devotion. We laugh and play in utter intimacy. We hold each other’s best self to the light, so that we are better daughters, sisters, citizens, and friends.
The feast of new love now more closely resembles a pot of chicken soup, but nothing is more nourishing through our daily rounds. We work and walk the dogs. We attend the celebrations and sorrows of our families and friends. She urges me into our garden when I need to renew my hope; I shine her beauty from my eyes when she doubts what there is to be seen.
Meanwhile, the soup is always on, simmering and fragrant. We are grateful. There is no thirst or hunger like that for lifelong love. Greta and I have pulled our chairs up to the marriage table, despite the lack of a formal invitation.
We are middle-aged now. Greta’s back is bad, and I grind my teeth at night. Old age stands just over there, at the edge of our woods. But we will walk into those woods together, no matter what. I believe when we die, we will die married. For better or worse. What else could that possibly mean?