Our next-door neighbor calls my husband Joseph and me “the love birds” when he sees us holding hands, or with arms intertwined, or sharing a laugh as we come and go about our daily business. Today is our thirty-third wedding anniversary and we’ll be celebrating as we like to do to mark special days in our relationship; like our serendipitous meeting thirty-seven years ago in Old San Juan; like my getting on an airplane a year and half later to come live in New York City, with a suitcase full of inappropriate clothes and shoes, a box of books, my favorite blanket, and nostalgia for my island; like our wedding three years later in a small apartment on the Upper West Side surrounded by our closest friends and my mother and sisters.
In the late nineties, Joe was asked to give a toast at his brother’s wedding. This is where Joe quite seriously said (in our family it’s become a favorite aphorism), that “love is a struggle.” His words provoked startled laughter from the wedding guests who turned to look my way with amused glances as if I were the cause of it all. As it happens, those words have gained more and more relevance as the years have passed. We’ve persisted through our troubles to grow as individuals while being a couple and parents, sometimes one’s growth outpacing the other’s, but eventually getting to where we need to be to move forward in a way that honors who we are. So yes, love is a struggle in so many ways. We’ve been fortunate: I knock on wood, offer prayers, give thanks everyday for the gifts I’ve been offered, and reaffirm my commitment to being fully present in my relationship, to live with joy, and above all, to cultivate a giving heart even when love is difficult.