My One in Particular by Donalyn Miller
Today is my wedding anniversary. My husband, Don, and I have spent two decades together. Our married life has been a happy, ordinary one–putting each other through school, raising our daughters, and squabbling over the thermostat. Don and I have shared twenty years of inside jokes, loud singing, road trips, PTA meetings, and only a few tears.
We’ve also shared a mountain of books. As much as we both love books, we would have been neglectful, boring spouses to anyone else. We respect each other’s endless need to read. An urgent “Last chapter!” announcement is considered sacred and no one gets huffy if they’re ignored until the end of a paragraph or a page.
When Don and I were first married, we didn’t have money for extras. Date night was a trip to the Chinese buffet and a two hour crawl through the used bookstore near our apartment. We would wander the stacks–drifting apart to separate rows, but always finding each other when we found a treasure worth sharing. We introduced each other to books we read before we met like Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novels (his) and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionovar Tapestries (mine). We fell deeper in love each time we discovered a book we’d both read and enjoyed, “You’ve read Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land? Isn’t it trippy and amazing? (You’re amazing, too. I love you.)
The first new book we shared was Stephen King’s The Green Mile. Originally published in installments, Don and I bought each paperback on release day–rushing home to read it. We took turns. Whoever read it first was forbidden from spoiling the book for the other one. I remember hiding in the bathroom, so Don couldn’t see me cry over Coffey. I knew if he saw my face Don would guess what happened.
As parents, we discovered another layer of our reading lives–the books we read as children that we wanted to share with our daughters–The Poky Little Puppy and Ferdinand, Curious George and Richard Scarry, Encyclopedia Brown and Ramona–Don and I couldn’t wait for Celeste and Sarah to read them all with us. I worried that Edward Gorey’s The Ghastlycrumb Tinies would traumatize the girls, but Don assured me they would be fine. (I’m still not sure.)
When we talk about growing old together, Don and I want to be surrounded by our children, our grandchildren, and our books. We have always been readers and our old age will only grant us more free time to read. I can’t imagine my life without reading in it. I can’t imagine my life without Don in it.
This fall, during a routine eye exam, Don’s ophthalmologist discovered a small mass on Don’s retina. “It’s probably nothing, but I want you to see a specialist,” she told him. Waiting over a week to get an appointment with a specialist, Don and I were scared. In bed at night, where Sarah couldn’t hear us, we cried. We whispered and held each other–trying to make plans.
Don was terrified that he would lose his vision, “What if I can’t see you anymore? What if I can’t see the girls? What if I can’t read?”
I hugged him and whispered, “I will read to you.”
There are worse things than not being able to read. There are worse things that could happen. I did not say this to him, but I thought it.
The specialist determined that Don has a freckle on his retina. It’s not that unusual. A scary reminder that our lives together and our ability to read are not infinite. Even more precious to us both.
Blissful weekends curled up reading on the couch. Scoping out bookstores during every vacation. A life spent reading is a life well-lived. Two lives joined in love for each other and for books–joy beyond imagining.
At a workshop yesterday, a teacher asked me if I liked to read romance novels. I smiled and told her no. I’ve spent the last twenty years with a spouse who loves to read. For me, no bodice ripper could top that.
Happy Anniversary to my one in particular*. I love you, my sweet reading man.
Our story is my favorite one.
Donalyn Miller is a fifth grade teacher at Peterson Elementary in Fort Worth, TX. She is the author of The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. Donalyn co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk (with Nerdy co-founder, Colby Sharp), and facilitates the Twitter reading initiative, #bookaday. You can find her on Twitter at @donalynbooks or under a pile of books somewhere, happily reading.
*The endearment “one in particular” is from Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series. Don and I consider it a shared favorite.