Several years ago, my husband gave me a pair of electric toothbrushes for Christmas.
I know what you’re thinking. Epic gifting fail.
Believe it or not, I’m the type of woman who enjoys receiving an appliance as a gift. Luckily, my husband is the type of guy who pulls it off. He once gave me a label maker for Christmas, and it’s one of the best presents I ever unwrapped. If I were to wake up on my birthday to a new dishwasher, I’d be delighted.
The toothbrushes were a welcome convenience because, at the time, we were sharing a single electric base. With two of them, we’d have the freedom to brush simultaneously or whenever we so pleased. Still, it was an oddly practical gift, and I was noticeably underwhelmed.
“Now we have two.” He saw the disappointment on my face. “And someday we’ll have two bathroom sinks to match.” And then, “I’m in this for the long haul.”
It takes a special man to transform a pair of electric toothbrushes into a romantic gesture and a promise for the future.
As we enter the teen years of our marriage, we’re finally doing it in a home with double sinks. The sinks by no means represent our happiness – we’d be content living in a tent (maybe…okay, probably not) – but they and the electric toothbrushes demonstrate perfectly what makes our marriage work: brushing side-by-side but spitting separately.
Over the last year, my husband lost his father and mother to dementia and cancer respectively. As we navigate this difficult and unfamiliar “middle” terrain of our shared journey, I’m keenly aware that the secret to the long haul is that togetherness and solitude are equally important. My connection to my husband has never been stronger, and if he falls I’m his net, but I know he must grieve on his own.
The beauty of the early years of our marriage exists in our collective accomplishments – making a family, creating traditions, filling a home, and building a community of support. In the years that lie head, the magnificence will come from our enduring faith that when life inevitably sends either one of us down a path alone, we’ll know how to find our way back to each other.
Ironically, my husband has hinted that he wants to buy a new electric toothbrush with one base and a UV sanitizer for the brushes. I’m hesitant, but he’s always had a knack for picking appliances, so I’m going to follow his lead. After all, I’m in this for the long haul.
© 2015 Jennifer Gregory, as first published on Scary Mommy