We met our freshman year in high school. I was in Physical Education class when this six- foot, three hundred pound, fifteen year old approached me and introduced himself as Andres. We were instantly friends. He was such a sweet boy, always showering me with gifts and helping my single mother in all her endeavors to provide for my sister and I. These attributes slowly made me start having feelings for him and by the end of the year we were dating. We graduated at seventeen and two months later my “love-bug” left for Army boot camp and by August I was heading for boot camp too. With both of us in basic training, we could not talk to each other. Our communication was solely by mailed letters.
One day, as I was standing in formation, waiting for the drill sergeant to call names for letter dispersement, I received mine, but little did I know this one letter would change my life. In it, my boyfriend asked if I would marry him! So without hesitation, I responded with a “Yes!” and sent the letter. A couple of months later, everything had been arranged for the wedding by my boyfriend and my mother-in-law. We had not seen each other for five months and we were meeting again the Friday night before our wedding. The next morning we were at the old, brick building, musty court house. There were only ten of us in there including the judge. The only friends I had with me were my two battle buddies who were currently in training with me. The wedding was done on less than my husband’s E-3 pay check of $1049 a month. His aunt gifted us the cake and his brother bought the Chinese food for the party.
My wedding dress was my thirty dollar Quinceanera dress my mom had bought years prior on her house keeping salary, which I had worn for a mass in my honor since I couldn’t have a Quinceanera either. The hotel room to spend our first night as a couple, was gifted by a family friend who worked there. My father could not walk me down the aisle since he resided in Colombia, thus neither the anticipated Latino culture Quinceanera nor the wedding were what I ever dreamed of. The “reception” was held at my brother-in-law’s living room were a few more family friends were able to attend and by the following day, my husband dropped me back in training and headed to California to his first duty assignment.
Getting married young was not easy and by our first year anniversary, we had endured the tragic loss of our first and only daughter. I vividly remember the Chaplin at our daughter’s bedside trying to comfort us, but also warning us that this tragedy we were facing could either make or break us. Since we were always so far away from family during our military life, we didn’t get the chance to have an official wedding. Then I decided that my dream would be to wait until our twenty year anniversary and combine his retirement ceremony and our wedding at the same time. However, life threw a huge curve ball and that did not happen at all.
In 2015, while stationed in Kentucky, my husband was diagnosed with a brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation). A "perfectly" healthy soldier was now facing a life altering diagnosis to include the need for brain surgery. Our third boy was born and five weeks into our new parenting adventure, my husband had to be medevaced due to severe brain swelling and hemorrhage.
My husband is not the same person he was. We now choose to embrace the new him, the new normal and adjusting to a life that’s very different from what we had.
Remember the dream that I had mentioned earlier about having my wedding and my husband’s retirement all at the same time? Well, that dream was crushed. It will be 22 years of marriage this November and I have yet to have a wedding. I keep putting it off and saying, “Well, maybe for our 25th year anniversary, maybe our 50th and so on, but what if that day never comes?” And just today, as I was writing this essay, my husband was diagnosed with dementia.
It doesn’t matter how our story began, but how it will end. We have each other and our three beautiful boys to be thankful for. Our love story is a story of commitment, endurance, and perseverance despite all odds and that to me is a love story, an unfiltered love story. We deserve this wedding because my husband deserves to be able to actually SEE me walk down the aisle, the way it’s always meant to be. I want our children to have that memory before they leave home.
Our family needs moments of joy and a promising culmination of all that we have faced. I want to be able to show how much I love this man and how we are forever meant to be.