Getting Married Is Better Than Dying, Right?

They stayed married, but much of my childhood was a painful mess that convinced me there was no such thing as love, only a temporary, delusional euphoria.

But here I was, defying my convictions and accepting a proposal of love (and health benefits). My illness had sneaked up on me gradually. I didn’t recognize the gravity of the situation until things got bad one Sunday night at Chris’s parents’ house.

While sitting at the dinner table, I became ridiculously cold and didn’t even have the strength to keep sitting up. “I’m getting the flu,” I said. “Got to lie down.”

Buried under three blankets on the couch, I was still shivering.

Chris’s father joined me in the den. “That’s no flu,” he said. “You have to go to the doctor.”

I procrastinated for two days, then called my internist friend in Reno, Nev. I described my symptoms, including the bizarre rash on my face and newly swollen ankles. He ordered me to go to the emergency room.

“Do I have to?” My capacity for denial was astonishing.

“There might be something seriously wrong with your kidneys,” he said. “Go.”

I tried not to panic as I spent the next two days exploring options for health insurance. Freelancers Union insurance turned out to be too expensive, and declaring bankruptcy seemed like courting disaster. I was freaking out just as much about money as I was about the idea of dying.

That’s when Chris asked me to marry him. It wasn’t what most people would consider a dream proposal, but he was doing what he could because he loved me and wanted to save my life. What’s more romantic than that?

I worried I might be using him because, although I loved him very much, I didn’t believe in marriage. I didn’t see how a piece of paper would change our relationship, other than we’d be living in one small apartment instead of two (though of course we could do that without marrying).

In any case, I didn’t have the capacity to think about it right then. I tried to assure myself it wasn’t a big deal, but I knew there were both tangible and intangible differences.

Chris called in sick Monday morning, then asked his human resources department how long it would take for his health insurance to go into effect for a new spouse. The answer: Immediately!

He asked his best friend, Frank, to be our witness at city hall in a few hours. A cautious man, Frank said, “Uh, let’s wait a minute and think this through ——”

Chris…

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