Love Song by Julienne (ft Cancer) Ch. 21: Whirlwind
First off, I hope you all are safe and healthy during this time of uncertainty and insanity. I know most of you reading this live in the US or UK, two countries that claim to be first-rate powers but have managed to bungle all of this so thoroughly, especially here in the US. I can’t believe that we have a criminal idiot in charge of a nation during this actual global crisis. It has me sad and angry and fearful, not for myself, but for the vulnerable, like Julienne would have been. Her anxiety and anger would have both been through the roof right now and she would have been in terror all of the time. For all of you out there, the immunocompromised, the vulnerable, the laid-off, and everyone else besides – I hope you stay safe through all of this, and I hope every person around you is taking this as seriously as it absolutely needs to be taken. I love you all.
Secondly, here my now-standard apology for taking so long with these entries. I’m struggling really badly with grief still, and staying home and social distancing (to be fair, I wasn’t very social before all of this, but it was slightly more than now) have really hammered home just how alone I am. I miss Julienne with such an intensity that it consumes my thoughts and hours. I’m emotionally gutted almost every waking moment. I’m writing this in her office, on her desk, surrounded by the achievements of someone who didn’t make it much past thirty, and I feel such anguish and anger that she’s gone. She deserved so much more and it’s fucking killing me that she was taken from us. I’m absolutely fucking destroyed over this, and it isn’t getting better. Instead, I feel like I’m watching the world move on and I simply cannot. It feels like it will always be August 2019 in my heart and I won’t be able to find anything to move towards. Shit, and that was before the world was struck with a horrible pandemic that will perhaps end up killing millions unless we get our fucking shit together.
So I’m making myself write this, an attempt to stop thinking about the shitshow that is the present and put myself back in August 2015, a time where we were battered and bruised but still hopeful, with an upcoming wedding and beyond that a new life. These next few, covering the final run-up and then the actual wedding, will be pretty picture-heavy. I hope that’s OK. Especially when I do the wedding – it’ll be like me forcing you to flip through our wedding book while I talk about it. I hope you’ll find it worth the time.
Love you guys.
After we got home from the beach on Saturday, August 15th 2015, we unpacked, slept, and then got up the next day to make our wedding happen exactly the way we wanted it. On Sunday, I headed to Delaware for a bit, to get mail and check to make sure my apartment was standing and for other reasons that, at this point, I no longer know. Julienne got to work on the arch we were going to use. She wanted it to be gold and entwined with vines and leaves and flowers, and since we’d had to rush to get one she was starting with something bare and black. She plunged into it headlong, though, armed with metallic gold spray paint and surrounded by trees and woods, plus craft stores, from which to draw materials.
I got back to find that the arch was now gold and she was using branches from some corkscrew willows from her parents’ farm to twine around the tree. Already it was starting to look the way she had described to me, something magical. Julienne was especially elated by the gold spray paint. During a break she was painting all kinds of things gold, quoting Goldmember and reveling in her power as a new Midas. My favorite was the large pile of dog poo that she transformed into golden art.
(Later, my new favorite would be a small pumpkin she painted gold and used as a decoration in November. It hung around quite a while, far too long, since it no longer resembled something that was rotting. At some point, however, it was found, leaking atop a leather-bound blank book given to me as a present and doing interesting things to the cover. We laughed a lot over that, and I chided her without rancor about it from time to time afterwards when the desire to paint a rottable thing came over her. The book was fine, and eventually it would be used at her 30th and final birthday party as a guestbook for people to sign/leave a message and to put the photo taken of them when they arrived. It became one of her very favorite things in the world for the remainder of her life, a treasure to flip through in darker times.)
Together we gathered more corkscrew willow branches, and happily spent the rest of the bright beautiful day using those and other things, including fabric flowers, to decorate it. We weren’t done yet, but already it was a vision of hers coming to life underneath Julienne’s industrious and magical fingers.
(A couple of years later, the corkscrew willow trees came down – I think from seriously heavy winds. She loved those trees. Just a couple of weeks ago, a friend of her mother’s produced a corkscrew willow sapling that she’d managed to grow from a cutting from them. It’s at Julienne’s site now, waiting to be planted in its forever home, close to the woman who loved them so.)
Sadly, the next day was Monday, which meant it was back to work for me. I really wasn’t very happy there, and now with our changed life I hated the 3 hour plus roundtrip commute from Maryland to Delaware. Any time away from her bothered me. Julienne comforted me as best she could from afar, which helped a lot, in between doing all of the things. She got all of the invitations out – most of the people already knew they were invited, because a couple of weeks was pretty short notice, but Julienne wanted them to have invitations anyway – and then stopped to look at the outside of a house our realtor (and long-time family friend of the Gedes) had found.
Julienne absolutely loved the house, and as she texted me pictures I could see why. It was on a wooded hill, absolutely gorgeous, and just minutes away from the highway which would help my commute and also close to the NCR trail, a place for us to bike or run or tube or walk. We both fell in love with the outside of the house. It seemed like it would be perfect for us, and the asking price was surprisingly reasonable. Jules warned me, though, that it had a steep driveway, and she thought it was keeping the price low. Wow that must be some steep driveway, I said, unable to comprehend how it could be bad enough to lower an asking price.
That was a problem for another day, though. Her mom dropped Julienne off at our apartment in Delaware for the night to begin packing. We didn’t do much work that evening, not after the long-ass day we both had. The next day, Tuesday the 18th, brought a couple of welcome happenings. The first was one of her diplomas, her Juris Doctor, the one she was most proud of (and now, as I sit in her office, I can look up every day and see it), arriving in the mail. The second was the fact that she put on pants for the first time since before her surgery.
Of course, because we are who we are, one of the things we were planning on doing before the wedding was going to the renaissance festival on opening weekend. It would be the Sunday before our wedding on Saturday, and it was basically an all-day event, so it meant losing a day of wedding prep. We didn’t care. The place was a little important to us, after all. It was definitely on Julienne’s mind that day:
My favorite part of that is her assertion that she was just “a little productive”. She did more that day than I manage in an average week. Then, as she waited for me to get back from work, she packed the car (two flights of stairs each trip). Julienne was unstoppable.
I got home and we headed back to Maryland. While I worked, Julienne started playing with her hairstyle for the wedding. She was going to be doing it herself, as well as makeup, and she was trying to nail down the fairy-princess-fancifully-getting-married-in-the-woods-without-looking-twee-or-rustic-or-formal. Happily she took a lot of selfies during the process, so I can still look at them and marvel at her.
The next three days were marked mostly by stress. Work was getting to me, and all the stresses of wedding prep and house hunting and her health were working on her. It was tough being so far away from her all day, so she was trying to help me by finding job listings. In the meantime wedding stuff was still being cranked out – on Thursday the 20th, she finished weaving the branches into the arch, then I hurried to Towson after work to see the band she wanted to play. It was a gypsy jazz band called Hot Club of Baltimore. It wasn’t a genre I was very familiar with, since “jazz” did not have many positive connotations with me, especially the nauseating smooth jazz genre. Man, I’m grateful it was nothing like that. The band was great – well, the two members who were there playing guitar anyway – and I discovered an entire genre of music I never knew but absolutely loved.
The next day, the 21st, we were working on getting loan pre-approval. We had gotten to see the inside of the house and we loved it. It was fairly new, spacious, plenty of rooms for us and the kids we wanted, two stories plus a finished basement, surrounded by beautiful woods. Plus, it wasn’t occupied, so we could move in quickly once the details were hammered out. The driveway was something else, though. Winding and narrow, steep, winding through trees with an actual fairly steep drop off on side. That thing promised to be a nightmare in wintertime. It didn’t matter to us, though. We loved the house – despite my previous experience with falling in love with houses while looking for one, I was unable to control it. It had everything we wanted, woods, a fireplace, and close to her family. Our hearts were locked in.
We busted our asses getting everything we could together. We decided on an offer that was very good, got our loan preapproval, and we were ready to move on this thing while still doing all the wedding planning. Documents went back and forth, signatures flying on PDFs as we emailed them to each other and loan folks and realtors. We continued hammering out all the wedding things during the weekend as we waited to hear what they thought about our offer, and our stress levels were through the roof. But it was worth it for that house.
On Monday the 24th, 12 days before our wedding, they rejected our offer in the morning. They had another couple looking at it, and it became clear that we were being used to lock down the other folks. We were told to give our final best offer, so we went back and forth, figured what we could do, and submitted the best price we could. Julienne was pissed at their antics, which were shitty even by home-buying standards, which tend to suck hard no matter what. I waited for the response at work while she waited at the farm. She and her mother went down to check the wedding site and found a fluffy white worm that Julienne fell in love with that she named Genghis (she loved teasing me about how I pronounced that name – Jane-ghis instead of Gang-ghis – the entire time we were together) and learned was a butternut wooly worm, a fucking butternut wooly worm, what could be cuter than that, as she put it. She also let me know that our actual legal marriage would be performed by a Judge Cahill at 2:30 on Friday September 4th.
Ten minutes later she got the call. Our offer was rejected. We were both disheartened. The realtor felt like they were fishing to see if they could get us to go even higher. Julienne was furious and sad and dejected, and so was I. It was everything we wanted and hoped for, almost at a price we could afford. It was a blow to our spirits, and the next day Julienne was getting angry looking at houses and decided that a house was going to have to wait until after the wedding, because the negative feelings and stress about were getting her down. I agreed, because it was absolutely the right move. It still hurt.
To combat the stress during this time, we spent our evenings doing a puzzle. It was a Sleeping Beauty puzzle she’d found somewhere and we had an absurd amount of fun putting it together. A big part of the enjoyment came from our own silly antics. See, Julienne had gotten me to watch a movie I’d never had any interest in (she had a knack for it, and some of my favorite movies now fall into this category), Pitch Perfect. To my surprise, I’d really liked it, especially Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins as the absurd commentators. Thus, as we put together the puzzle, we provided running commentary on it, much of it barbed towards the fictional other as we made up absolutely outrageous things about each other. She secretly filmed us doing it at one point, which helps me remember it so well, and remember just how silly we were.
(It’s those things that make this so hard. One of the most stressful points in both of our lives made so much better by doing a puzzle while improvising commentary. Julienne made everything a fucking joy, made everything just so much better, and now…. Well, now.)
On Wednesday the 26th, we rallied from our doldrums and immersed ourselves 100% into the wedding. We picked up our marriage license, giddy as children. She was working on tasting notes for the whiskey bar for our reception and the next day she printed them out. We laughed ourselves silly about the tasting notes she found and used, just the sheer absurdity of them. Leather is a surprisingly common whisky and whiskey referent for notes, which made us both wonder exactly who was spending that much time chewing on various leather products.
Now, this part could probably be considered TMI, but I think it’s an important part of our story. I’ll let her explain it:
Her hormones were all over the place because of the surgical menopause, and she needed to get her IUD out. On Thursday, as she said, the removal didn’t work. So on Friday, the 28th, I went with her to her appointment. I went into the room to meet with her new gyno, and I held Julienne’s hand as the doctor tried to remove it on several attempts. Each time I thought my fingers would break as Julienne squeezed my hand, but I didn’t mind. She was grateful I was there, and I didn’t want to ever be anywhere except by her side. That appointment was the final part of the turning point in our relationship after her hospitalization and surgery. From that point forward, there was never anything that could remotely be considered TMI between us. Unless I was excluded for a reason that threatened harm to Julienne or myself, like a sterile procedure or radiation, I was in the room with her. Always. There were no more coy secrets about anything, we kept everything up front and we faced it all together. It was a very important day for both of us, and it cemented our bond in a deep and meaningful way. In this together, no fucking matter what.
Just because it was important didn’t mean Julienne wasn’t gonna be a goof as we waited.
The next day was a blur of wedding prep, but Sunday, August 30th, was a day off from all that. We went back to the Renaissance Festival, almost exactly a year after we reconnected there and began this whirlwind. Her whole family was with us and we had a ball, playing with our niece, throwing axes, drinking snakebites, and loving our favorite place.
That day, Julienne got a very special gift from her parents. There is a shop there, called Noblesse Oblige, that specializes in finery. And I mean finery. Finer than anything I’ve ever owned (and those that know the extent of my collection shows just how fine their finery is). Julienne and her mother disappeared into the store and came out some time later. She took my breath away.
Julienne was so happy, so radiant. She was an absolute vision. We posed under an arch that she said she’d often imagined getting married under, despite the impracticality of it all, and we said little vows to each other as we stood beneath it. That night we went back to the farm, were a huge bonfire was lit, and we sat under the stars by the fire drinking and basking in our love until long into the night, when everyone else went to bed. It’s one of the most special nights of my life. Remembering it is the peak of joy and the ultimate stab of sorrow. Her and I, together, under the stars, dressed in the way we always loved, all of devotion and passion and love for each other at the fore as we had less than a week until our bond would be official. My heart will always ache for that night.
The next day, August 31st, I was at work. At 10:37 am, I got a text from Julienne letting me know that she was going to be emailing me an 11-minute video. Nancy, our realtor, had let her know there was a house she thought we ought to see. It wasn’t yet on the market but was going to be the next day. They went to take a look at it and Julienne filmed a walkthrough for me. The price was a good bit less than the asking price of the other house, well below what we’d already been approved for. Two hours later, she got a connection strong enough to send the long video. She apologized shortly after, because she was watching it and making her motion sick. It was a rough video, made harder by the fact that my phone wouldn’t display it right, instead making sure it was perpetually sideways. I had to crane my neck to see it as I watched on my lunch break. When I finished, I sent her a simple text.
It looks fantastic. Let’s buy it.
I drove to the farm after work and we rode over to see it together. I met the owners, who were incredibly nice people. The house sat in the woods, all of which are owned by the city of Baltimore because it’s a watershed reservoir, so it can’t be rezoned or sold or developed. We put in a good offer.
The next day was September 1st, 2015, exactly one year after we got together. Our offer was accepted. The house that would soon become Derenemyn was ours.
Well, here we are. I’ve been able to document the first year of our love story. Thank you for being here to share in it. I’m grateful to all of you, especially those that made it through this long one. I wanted to get to the one-year mark in this one, especially since today marks exactly 8 months since Julienne left us all. Writing this is the most important thing to me, a way to give myself something to hold onto on those days when it’s so hard to go on. I’ve had a lot of them since August 8th, 2019. In fact, essentially all of them have been a gut-wrenching march through pain and misery to get there. But by writing these, I can remember the days of joy and love and laughter so much clearer, and that helps me get through the dark times. Thank you for reading these. It means a lot to me that people want to hear the story of our love. Thank you. I love you.