Words by Dalene Heck
It was in the fall of 1998 we first met. Pete: a cocky punk in business school wearing a tacky Hawaiian shirt. Me: corporate workaholic by day, loud and obnoxious party girl by night. Through a mutual friend, we were introduced (while myself and several others were visiting said friend in Pete’s hometown of Edmonton). It was to be a fun weekend of golfing and testing the local watering holes, and Pete and I ended up paired on the golf course.
Thankfully, he did not hold my obscene lack of skills in that area against me; we hit it off and all had a great time. Within a few hours, a friend approached me and said: “Umm, I think Pete likes you”. To which I responded: “Umm, YEAH. He is laying it on super thick.”
The golfing turned into dinner, turned into an evening at a club. Drinks flowed, and dancing commenced. Hands were held, and there might have even been a smooch or two. The rest of the night was spent talking about Pearl Jam, the Edmonton Oilers, and whatever other loves we had in common (which was a lot).
I returned to Calgary the following day, exhausted and kinda indifferent to where our relationship stood. We hit it off, but I wasn’t looking for anything serious, especially at a distance.
He, on the other hand, told his mom that he had met the woman he was going to marry.
Two months later, he moved to Calgary.
In just over a year from that, we were engaged. And in October of 2001, we were married at the very young age of 25 (me) and 24 (Pete).
Our marriage started out like any other. We worked hard, bought our first house. Worked harder and bought another. We talked about kids. We travelled as much as our scheduled vacations would allow: Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica and a whirlwind tour through a few European countries. We were happy(ish). We weren’t unhappy, but our marriage was definitely on auto-pilot. Outside of a few weeks spent abroad, our most significant “quality time” was the one-hour commute to and from the office daily.
But that was all normal, right? We believed that our life was as good as it gets, even if it always felt like something was missing.
Then, the unimaginable happened.
A barrage of tragedies brought us to our knees.
Such events have the capacity to tear a marriage apart, but instead, they brought us infinitely closer. While I clung desperately to Pete as the one good and stable thing in my life, his profoundly compassionate side emerged in full force. And I never could have bounced off the bottom of that black hole if it wasn’t for him. He never once complained when he repeatedly came home to me in pyjamas, to a blubbering mess who felt worthless and unwilling to engage.
Instead, he patiently and gently supported me. When I went to bed earlier than him (most every night), he would stop what he was doing to briefly come to my side, kiss me lightly on the forehead and say: “Goodnight, my love”. Then he would leave me in peace, to hopefully find sleep in my restless, depressed state.
His love knows no bounds.
He later supported my decision to quit the well-paying job that no longer appealed to me, and his rubber arm was easy to twist into throwing it all away for this life of travel. (This from the man who once said: “Why do we need to go anywhere? Let’s just go camping every weekend!”) Thankfully he was enthusiastic because, in all honesty, the pull to travel was so strong for me that I’m not sure what would have happened if he said no.
Is there anything that this man won’t do for me? I’m not sure how I’ve gotten so lucky.
But as it turns out, the decision to travel was the best thing that ever happened to our marriage.
It didn’t start out that way – the first few months were rough. We went from spending a couple of waking hours a day together to a round-the-clock relationship. Traditional roles were tossed and new ones were being tested – we struggled to make the lifestyle work.
But we found our groove and soon were assured that THIS was the best thing for us. THIS was what would bring us closer than we thought humanly possible. THIS would transform us such that any time spent apart would be with a desperate desire to be back together.
THIS…we now cannot imagine life any other way.
We have now been married for over 20 years, and spent over one-third of our marriage on the road. Romance could certainly be tough when travelling – some destinations do not exactly ignite sparks, and the combination of travel and work was often overwhelming. Never mind that we were also fully exposed to the other’s most cantankerous of moods, twenty-four-seven.
But he endures my episodes of hangriness, and I calm his rapid-fire cursing when he’s frustrated. We know when to get out of each other’s way and when to help. Pete has learned that it’s not about the nail.
We use the phrase “I’m inside your head” often as we constantly know what the other is thinking. We have our own language (mostly filled with quotes from The Office) that few others can follow closely. I think we could even take this mission to Mars and survive intact. The only fault I see in being so in tune with each other is that some of our own independence is lost, entirely out of our total devotion and yearning to always be together.
That is a “problem” we are both all too happy to live with. We know we’ve got the goods.