Today, Sept 26, marks what I thought was our wedding anniversary (for most of our life together).
Then one day, Greg casually referenced to Sept 28th as “the day we got married”. I was enraged! Livid! Disappointed! Accusatory! How could he not even remember our anniversary? Did he really care? After all this time? After everything we’d been through? (and so on…)
Never one to back down (even when he was clearly in the wrong), Greg decided to do some research. Minutes later, having waded through our ancient filing cabinet, he fished out our Marriage Certificate and waved it triumphantly in my face. Apparently, I was the one who had the date wrong. For many, many years. I didn’t hear the end of it.
The actual date WAS Sept 28th.
On anniversaries, birthdays, occasions of any sort, Greg and I often referred to our “long, hard, painful years” together. Eventually, it became our shorthand: our LHP years.
We loved each other deeply, so it was all tongue-in-cheek. Well, mostly. We DID have some damned hard, painful years, like every long relationship, and we didn’t pretend otherwise.
The following is an excerpt from the book I’m writing. I’m sharing it today (on the wrong date), in commemoration of our imperfect love story – our LHP years together which began on Sept 26 28th, 1986 and ended with his death on May 16th, 2014.
Greg was an heroic figure to me from the moment I first heard him play guitar and sing. I think it was Rocky Racoon. My heart melted.
The first time Greg remembers seeing me, I too was playing guitar and singing. In contrast, there was no heart-melting involved. In fact, he stopped only to check out if my guitar skills posed any competition. He quickly realised that they didn’t and kept walking.
We were invited to sing together for the first time at a friend’s wedding, and soon after received invitation after invitation to perform. Our audiences were varied, from Folk Festivals and Peace Festivals, from big weddings to backyards events, Greg and I were constantly on stage. Just me, him and his guitar.
I gave up playing guitar entirely in the face of his skill. There was no need, as he could play anything. And just like in the movies, he wrote songs just for me, most of them lost forever because back then, he never recorded them.
When our voices blended in harmony it made me feel a little bit magical, like I was a better singer, a better person than I actually was.
We married in the throes of an Epic Romance when I was just twenty-four years old. He totally swept me off my feet. He was handsome and strong. Zany, brilliant, irreverent. Relatively unschooled, but unexpectedly scholarly.
An enigma from the beginning, Greg was only seven years older than me, yet he seemed to have a lifetime’s more experience than I did. I’d never met another like him. Now I know that was because there wasn’t anyone else like him.
Greg was raised in a straight-forward, white, salt-of-the-earth, working class Australian family. I had a very mixed origin, coming from a fairly privileged, middle class, academic, Malaysian-Indian family. His father was a truckie. Mine held a PhD and consulted for the United Nations. Greg was a Baby Boomer, I am a Gen X-er. When we married, I was already well-travelled and had lived in three countries. He had never left Australia. He was passionate about football. I was equally passionate in my disdain for it.
Greg seemed to know everything and fear nothing. I knew very little and feared So-Many-Things.
We were united by music and our shared beliefs in the Baha’i Faith, but our upbringing and our life circumstances meant we held very different world views.
Being married to Greg was an adventure. Full of surprises, exciting and occasionally blissful … with a bloody great set of challenges. Some of these were self-imposed, some just life-imposed, those challenges threatened our marriage and nearly destroyed us. But like a country music song, we loved each other, fought hard, hung on, survived and thrived.
When he died after four years of battling Stage Four kidney cancer, it was as if a burning meteor had blazed its way across my life, only to continue its journey out of my line of sight forever.
Gregory, if you can see this from wherever you are: Thank you for every moment of our LHP twenty-eight years together. I’m forever grateful for our oh-so-imperfect love story. Happy Anniversary.
“Your absence has gone through me like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its colour.”