Monday, November 02, 2020

Twenty-five years later

25 years ago today, I arrived in New Zealand to begin my life with Nigel. Because this day was the real start of “us”, we always saw it as our anniversary, and even though we added other notable dates over the years, this always remained The Big One. How could it not? November 2, 1995 was the day that “we” finally began.

There’s no two ways about it: This is no longer as happy a day as it once was. It never, ever occurred to me that Nigel wouldn’t be here to celebrate our 25th year. November 2 was always our thing, and my thing, and it was about us, while also being about me. Now it’s only my thing, and only about me.

I was keenly aware of our approaching 25th anniversary, and I wanted to celebrate it. Part of that was because I realised that November 2 was the only one of our anniversaries where we might get to see a 50th: I was 36 in 1995 (Nigel was 31), but I was 50 when we had our Civil Union (he was 44), and 54 when we were married (he was 49). Besides, it was our main anniversary, anyway.

So, in late 2018 I started thinking about what we could do to celebrate. Nigel and I talked about it a bit, and we thought we might go to Hawaii, a place neither of us had ever been. We never finalised any plans (and, as it happens, going there would have been impossible because of Covid), and we never got any farther talking about it, either.

In early 2019, I thought about asking my FB friends for suggestions, but there was my birthday in January, then I was in hospital in May, and then, well there was just ordinary life—until our life together ended. Nigel lived to see the 24th anniversary of when I arrived in New Zealand as a tourist, and we met in person for the first time, which was kind of like the introduction in the story of our life together. Eight days after that anniversary, he was gone.

A series of fateful events led us to find each other and brought me to New Zealand, and now I’m still here, 25 years later, but all alone. Fate intervened in a different and terrible way than we’d ever anticipated, so I never thought I’d be here at this 25th anniversary all alone. However, there was never any doubt I’d still be in New Zealand at this 25th anniversary, no matter what. As I wrote shortly after Nigel died:
Nigel—who you may have noticed said a lot of insightful things in his final weeks—asked me if I’d go back the USA, and I said no. "Good!", he said. He then added, “To be honest, and I don’t mean this in a negative way, but I think you make a much better Kiwi than you do an American.” I think he’s right. I didn’t ask him why he thought that, but I have a pretty good idea what he meant, or part of the reason he said it, anyway.
And that’s the crux of it: While I came to New Zealand to be with Nigel and to begin our life together, New Zealand and I grew together and intertwined as much as Nigel and I had. This country is now as much a part of my being as Nigel was, and even though the links were different, the important thing is that ripping me out of New Zealand would be the same as ripping Nigel away from me. I’ve survived the loss of Nigel so far, but I doubt I could survive losing New Zealand, too.

This is one of Nigel’s many gifts to me. First and foremost, there was the love and life we shared for 24 years, but next, and in a distant, lower place on the list, there’s my connection to New Zealand, something that I got through him and because of him. That never would’ve happened if Nigel and I had never met or built a life together.

That shared love that warmed me for 24 wonderful years still warms me, despite everything, a year after Nigel’s death. That’s why this anniversary, even though it’s sad because of all I’ve lost, is actually still happy: I loved and was loved, and I began a new life in a country I love, and all of that officially began 25 years ago today.

I think I always knew that reality, but maybe I just understand it better now. In 2018, the last November 2 anniversary that we celebrated together, I wrote:
So, while this date has always been significant for multiple reasons—including for this blog—it’s the personal aspects of it that matter the most. I can’t see that ever changing.
I was right: It hasn’t changed. I desperately miss Nigel and I’m fucking angry that he’s not here with me for this 25th anniversary, but he’s not and I can’t change that. While it’s true that this anniversary was always our thing and it was about us, it’s also only because it was our thing and about us that it can still be my thing, and only about me. That’s not quite the happy thing it was, but in important ways it still is happy. And always will be.

This day carries sadness, but also something else: A profound gratitude for the 24 wonderful years I had with Nigel, and the now 25 year life in Aotearoa New Zealand, something I gained because I loved Nigel and he loved me. I think that the risk I took—that we took—25 years ago was worth it, despite everything. We both took an absolutely giant leap of faith in 1995, and I’m so glad and fortunate that we did. As I said back in 2009, “Don’t assume that your dreams won’t come true, because you may be only one day away from the start of it all.”

I now understand that I’m still only one day away. Thank you, Nigel—and happy anniversary, sweetheart!


Twenty four Years (2019)

Posts from happier years:

Twenty Three Years Together (2018)
Twenty Two Years Together (2017)
Twenty One Years Together (2016)
Twenty Years Together (2015)
Surreal 19th Expataversary (2014)
Eighteen (2013)
The day that really mattered (2012)
Sweet sixteen (2011)
Fifteen (2010)
Fourteen (2009)
Lucky 13: Expataversary and more (2008)
Twelfth Anniversary (2007)
Eleven Years an Expat (2006)


Ex, but not ex- – A 2006 post about being an expat
Changing policies and lives – A 2011 post about becoming a permanent resident
12 years a citizen – A 2014 post about becoming a NZ citizen


Roger Owen Green said...

I gotta say that Nigel was right about going back to the US. I dread tomorrow and the days (weeks?) after...

Arthur Schenck said...

Yeah, ever since 2016 I've been glad that I have a NZ Passport. I have a safe harbour.