Yesterday was the 21st anniversary of 9/11. I noticed that not a lot of people posted about it, probably because a lot of us are preoccupied with the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II. I know I watched some of her final journey from Balmoral to Edinburgh. Although I’ve seen some posts about how the monarchy needs to be abolished, the truth is, a lot of people loved the queen. Of course she wasn’t perfect, and there were some things she did that angered people. But then, nobody’s perfect… and I’m not so sure it’s that easy to dissolve the British monarchy. Maybe it will happen someday, but I don’t think it will in my lifetime.
In any case, every year on 9/11, I remember what I was doing that day. I even remember what I was wearing. I remember how, all day, I wondered if Bill was okay. He had just been relocated to the Pentagon and was working there on 9/11. He happened to be in the wedge that got hit. In fact, his office had just been moved the week prior. If it hadn’t been moved, he probably would have been killed on 9/11. We were just “friends” at that point, having just spent a truly wonderful Labor Day weekend together. I knew we were developing strong romantic feelings for each other, but we still hadn’t really made our relationship public. And so, on 9/11/01, no one would have known to tell me if Bill had died or been injured.
I remember that evening, talking to my mom on the phone. I told her about my “friend” who worked in the Pentagon. She was an experienced Air Force wife, so she gave me some advice. After I got off the phone, I got a PM from Bill on Yahoo! Messenger. He said he’d tried to call me, but he had the wrong number. We had a serious conversation, and I told him that if he considered me his girlfriend, it might be a good idea to tell people about my existence. He agreed, and we announced to friends and family that we were together.
We also started to date in person regularly. This was a new thing for me, because I didn’t really date much at all before I met Bill. I’d had a high school boyfriend, but that was a very platonic relationship. I had no sexual history to speak of, and although I was only 29 years old, I thought I was going to die a virgin. So it was kind of strange to be dating a man, especially since he was divorced and had children.
Because I lived in South Carolina and he lived in Virginia, our dates involved long weekends at one or the other’s apartments. I came to enjoy those weekends very much, even though we were both broke. We were just so comfortable with each other. We always had a good time doing whatever… watching movies, taking walks, eating cheap food… and then he decided not to practice Mormonism anymore, which was a great thing. I remember going to his apartment once, having left beer in his fridge during my last visit. The beer was finished. I asked him what happened to it, and he said he drank it. I said, “Yea!”
In November 2001, Bill and his mom joined us at our Thanksgiving shindig at my Granny’s house in Virginia. They fit right in with my family. Bill’s mom liked me, and my parents loved Bill, which I knew they would. My dad made jokes about Bill being LDS, but I assured him that when he met Bill, he’d love him. Sure enough, I was right. I went to visit Bill at Christmas; then he flew to Arizona to see his kids. That turned out to be his last good holiday with his kids before his Ex went into full alienation mode.
A few weeks later, we were online, and I told Bill I wanted to give him a candy pop ring. He said, “Don’t do that… because I want to give you a ring.”
“Does this mean you want to get married?” I asked.
“Yes.” He said.
“So are we now engaged?” I asked.
“Yes, I think so.” He said.
I went into my last semester of graduate school unexpectedly engaged to be married. I never thought it would happen. Two months later, before I got on a plane to Jamaica to attend my sister’s destination wedding, Bill took me out to dinner at 1789 restaurant in Georgetown, where he presented me with a beautiful engagement ring. I’ve worn it every day since then. My finger has a permanent groove in it. 2002 was a big year for us… I finished dual master’s degrees and got married. I became a military wife and stepmother. Of course, I barely count myself as a stepmother, given how alienated Bill’s daughters were. But at least one of them came around, eventually.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been married for almost 20 years. In just two months, we’ll pass that milestone. It seems like yesterday, we were online friends, and I was wondering if he’d survived 9/11. I’m so grateful that he did survive, because I could not have imagined a more perfect husband for me. We are ridiculously compatible, which is no small feat. Like I said, it’s not like I dated much before we met. I look at the state of the world now, and I feel fortunate that Bill and I have been together to experience it. We’ve shared a lot of incredible life events that have run the gamut, happy, sad, infuriating, amazing… And we still light up each other’s faces. Below is a photo I took on Saturday, after we’d been drinking wine in the rain at our village’s wine fest. It amazes me that after twenty years, I still smile like this when I’m with Bill.
Anyway… I didn’t mean to get all mushy. I guess I just wanted to write something kind of sweet for once, instead of something angry, snarky, or depressing. The day after 9/11, we were an official couple. Four months after that, we were engaged. Ten months after we got engaged, we were married at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. The last twenty years have flown by. Despite my bitching, grousing, moaning, and negativity, it’s mostly been a wonderful trip. But it definitely hasn’t been without its challenges, as any regular reader of this blog knows.
I’m so glad I took that leap of faith. I would not trade my life now for what I was preparing for when Bill and I met. It would have been a very different life for me… I might have been successful. Maybe I might have even found another man to love, although I think it might be hard to find one that is as compatible as Bill is.
I don’t get crushes anymore. I don’t have any temptation to be with anyone else. I don’t know if that’s normal, but I do know that while I might notice a good looking man, I don’t feel like trading Bill for that other guy. I don’t wonder about intimacy with other men. I don’t wonder how it would have turned out if one of my old crushes had liked me back. I don’t know if that makes me unusual or lucky. I just know that the one thing in life that I really did do right was get married to Bill.
While I don’t cherish the horrific memories of 9/11, I do think that 9/11 pushed us together sooner. I don’t think we would have been as quick to get together if it weren’t for that terrible day, when I didn’t know if he was dead or alive, and he didn’t know if he was going to survive. Bill was recovering from a truly toxic relationship, and I was just nervous and scared, and wanting to finally launch a career I might have been proud of. I guess the universe simply had different plans for both of us. I really can’t complain. In fact, every day, it amazes me how things have turned out for us.
Thank God for guys like Bill… who appreciate complicated women like me. I can’t imagine being with anyone else…