The Maui sun is beginning to set, a lazy and glowing orb descending over the shimmery sapphire waves of the Pacific. The palm trees lining the shoreline sway rhythmically, taunting and teasing the trade winds that, even in their late afternoon fervor, are no match for sturdy, mature trunks.
As I write this, you are stretched out beside me, tinkering with some modifications to a software program you’re writing. We are lounging, laptops in our respective laps, on a plushy dual-occupancy chaise. We spent the day trekking up to the stunning Haleakala National Park and biking down from the top, a day full of joy, exhilaration and, of course, a few fleeting moments of tense annoyance. All in all, a great day. Beautiful memories made, gorgeous pictures taken – photos that will recall the details of the experience when we share the highlights of our trip with the kids upon our return.
Every few moments, I remind you to look up and take in the pristine sight in front of us. You look up, your eyes squint as you welcome the bright orange rays and, after a few seconds of lingering your smiling gaze at me, you go back to your work.
Today, we have a milestone of some serious import: our 25th anniversary. To honor and commemorate, to celebrate and savor, we came to the island that hosted our honeymoon 25 years ago. The occasion begs a comparison of our life, our relationship, our marriage, our selves – then and now. Lessons we’ve learned, mistakes we’ve made, challenges we’ve overcome, joys we’ve been blessed with: all pieces of the mosaic that is our life together. A union formed as our two individual lives became inextricably linked on a June day in 1992.
We have changed through the years in countless ways. Some of those changes were inevitable and products of the natural evolution of growing, maturing persons moving through various stages of life; some were born from our efforts to fulfill the other’s needs or those of our blossoming family. Regardless of the impetus, we changed and grew. Recalling our 25 yr-old selves through my almost 50 yr-old eyes, wisdom, and heart is nothing short of remarkable.
Our younger selves were confident they knew what love meant, that they fully comprehended what it required, and that they completely appreciated what it provided. We thought being in love was enough and that “in love” simply meant caring about the other deeply, wanting to always be with them, and looking forward to growing old with them. We thought it required kindness, compromise, and patience. We thought it provided companionship, comfort, and a partner in all things. We just didn’t fathom the depth or extent to which any of this must exist.
Our older selves know so much more. We know truly caring for someone goes beyond the noun of feeling and extends to the verb of action. Caring – when they’re ill, when they’re struggling, when they’re hurting. It means putting our own needs aside for the time being and making them the priority. It means not considering what you want to do, but being mindful of what you need to do. It means not seeing each act of selflessness as sacrifice or a tally on a scoreboard but instead realizing it is part and parcel of honoring your lifelong commitment.
Our older selves know that love requires the ability to forgive, a sincere effort to forget small grievances, a promise to treat the other with the utmost respect and big-heartedness, an acknowledgement that, on occasion, we’re each working on a steep learning curve.
Our older selves know that love provides an immense sense of unconditional friendship, a source of shared joy in every accomplishment and blessing, a soft place to fall when failure or loss rears its unwelcome head, a refuge during times of self-doubt and heartache.
Our older selves know the joy and gratitude that come from building a life together, based on a foundation of devotion and love, is unmatched and priceless. Our older selves cherish the idea that marriage is the best kind of work and the payoff is limitless.
Our older selves know the singular bliss of bringing life into this world, borne of love and hope, and raising those precious beings together. We know the immeasurable joy of shepherding our unique, beloved spirits through the world as they grow into their own perfect selves. We delight in each of their accomplishments and milestones; we assuage their disappointments and sorrows. Only we know the intense love the other feels for these three amazing souls who embody pieces of our hearts as they navigate through the outside world.
Our older selves know that the other’s shoulder and arms are all that have gotten us through the unimaginable heartache and loss that life has brought. We have faith in each other that our commitments extend to our friends/families in time of need, and we will work together to be there.
Our older selves know that sacrifices need to be made and disappointments must be endured occasionally for the sake of family. In those times, sincere appreciation for what the other has relinquished serves as a healing balm for egos and personal regrets.
Our older selves know that it is not enough to say “I love you.” We know that such love must manifest in a prioritizing of that person above everybody and everything else. We know that it is a promise, declaring to others: It is to this person that I will be true, loyal, and amenable.
Our older selves know that being a partner in this exceptional journey of parenthood means protecting the sanctity of our nuclear family. Not at the expense of others, but with the unapologetic understanding that this is how it should be. We know that our choices and decisions may not be easy or agreeable to all parties, but only a limited number of opinions genuinely matter or warrant consideration. We honor this imperative and respect it in others.
Young, idealistic romantics Kishore & Hiral had a lovely honeymoon here in Maui. But older and wiser Kishore & Hiral are having a much more authentic stay. We have taken stock of our treasures: our vast experiences, the hurdles we’ve crossed, the precious blessings with which we’ve been gifted, and all the lessons learned.
Well, the sun has now set. A gorgeous little package of a day, and I love the fact that this time it was you who reminded me to look up and take it all in.
Happy 25th Anniversary, my love. The years have been beautiful and complicated, with moments of sheer joy and heart-wrenching tears. More than anything else, though, they’ve been full of love, devotion, and our precious family – I couldn’t ask for anything more. Thank you for being by my side through it all.