Deanna “Dee” and I met on “The Set” at Florida A&M University during Freshman Orientation Week. “The Set” is comparable to “The Yard” of any HBCU. During our initial meeting, I actually thought a couple of her friends were cuter, and I later found out she felt the same, yikes! So, for the first month of college, we did typical friend things such as play Spades in the common areas or watched TV and chill. No Netflix back then!
Suddenly, I became sick and had to have major emergency surgery on my stomach. That’s when Dee became more than a friend. With my parents in Chicago, she knew I needed someone by my side while I recovered. She skipped class to visit me at the hospital and even sneaked me food from the cafeteria. Dee knew from that moment that she didn’t mind taking care of me forever.
Eight years later, we were living together and working in New York City, and she was diagnosed with a kidney disease. The tables turned, and now I became the caretaker for her. The treatment affected her personality, appearance, and emotions. And not in a good way. Yet, I stuck by her. We stuck by each other. That was the moment for me when I realized that if I was willing to make significant sacrifices like this, she must be the one.
The two of us [literally] grew up together, starting our relationship at 18 and then marrying at 28. Through those ten years, we overcame health, financial, and relationship challenges. Those challenges prepared us for the obstacles we would face as a married couple. We suffered multiple miscarriages before we had our first child, including a loss of twins. It was a very emotionally draining time for both of us. We were drained. Not to mention, job transitions including moving to New York after college and then Chicago once we got married. During those transitions, there were times when only one of us was employed, which created a severe amount of stress on our relationship.
Communication breakdowns occurred as a result of adding more responsibilities in our everyday life – kids, bills, and work commitments. Frustration was heightened when we struggled to manage all of those expectations and still make time to have a healthy relationship. You find that success in your day has turned into checking off items on your “to-do-lists” rather than prioritizing what matters most.
Through it all, we assured one another, “We’ll soon look back at this struggle and laugh,” and that’s what’s kept us moving forward. We’ve been married for almost ten years now and together nearly 20. We could’ve never imagined a chance meeting on “The Set” would lead to two demanding but rewarding jobs as parents with a home filled with three children under five and a dog!
And while we have excellent marriage examples in both of our parents, mine have been married for 53 years and her parents 38, we agree that what works best for us is to take it day by day. Eventually, those days will add up to years. I hope that our HBCU love will be an example to our children…for when they step on the highest of seven hills on the campus of FAMU as Freshmen one day!
Reflections by @BrazeStation