You weren’t that keen on marriage, but it was important to me, so you went along with it. At first you didn’t want to tell anyone at all, but everyone noticed your ring at work the next day. Years later, you couldn’t imagine not being married me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
On the day, we arrived at the Registry Office, me in my pink suit and you, quite informal, in a black shirt and cream jeans. We were greeted by your parents and your sister, whom you hadn’t invited. She came along anyway to see her brother on his big day. After the ceremony was over, she surprised us with a gift – a two-hour lunch cruise on a replica of the Endeavour. We made our way to Darling Harbour and boarded the boat.
That evening, your parents came to our place for dinner. Your father noticed that I was doing my best to impress them. He was so happy his son had ‘finally settled down.’ We didn’t know then, that in four months’ time he would collapse in a supermarket and never regain consciousness. Afterwards, you often remarked that it was rare to see your father as proud as he was on our wedding day.
By our third anniversary you were holding our sixteen-day old daughter. It was love at first sight and you never stopped loving her with all your heart. Fatherhood suited you. The two of you adored each other in ways that is only comprehensible to daughters and their fathers. I should know, I had a father like that.
While you loved us wholeheartedly, you were never much good at making decisions. They were left up to me. Or, according to you, I never gave you enough time to think things through. I was impulsive and driven. My nesting instincts kicked in once our daughter was born. Although you felt harried, you always went along with my decisions in the end. It turned out that I was pretty good at making the right ones. You, on the other hand, were good at keeping me grounded and working out the logistics. Practicality has never been my strong suit.
Our lives went on and we became steadfast partners. We were like hands that fitted into well-worn gloves, comfortable and warmed by each other’s presence. Without much need for discussion, we agreed on how to raise our child, what mattered most in life and were buoyed by the ideals that sustained us. Our house was a place where academic discourse could dominate dinner conversations, yet humour and laughter were never far away.
We had a magical year in Switzerland shortly after you were diagnosed with melanoma. A disease you would eventually refer to as ‘the bastard’. That year, we were still clinging to the life-raft of hope. I was working as an exchange teacher, and you took leave to write your PhD. We explored every corner of Switzerland on weekends, and you relaxed into your role as the house husband who shopped, cooked and cleaned while writing the next chapters of your thesis. We both wished that the year would never end.
It wasn’t too long after our return that ‘the bastard’ began to eat its way through your body. Quite by accident we discovered it had attacked one of your lungs. The chest pains I thought were a heart problem turned out to be the spreading cancer. You never quite recovered after the next operation. Although you bravely attempted to return to work, you collapsed on the train on your first day back. After that, it was a quick downward spiral. None of us could have imagined how quick it would be.
You were quite unwell at your last Christmas with us, but you did your best not to show it. You even took our daughter on a long bush walk a week later. A fortnight after that, you were unable to make it to bathroom unaided.
We decided the hospital was unable to help us with what lay ahead and thankfully they didn’t argue. I took you home on the Wednesday and by Friday morning we were saying goodbye as you laboured your last breaths. It was both a beautiful and at the same time agonisingly confronting experience. We held your hand, told you we loved you and let you go. Your dog came, licked your hand, lay upon you, and would not leave. It was heartbreaking to witness.
Twenty-eight days later would have been our 19th wedding anniversary and on the 10th of February this year, it we would have been our 30th. I raise my glass to you.