Finding a partner you can move on “with,” not from

June 12
What was the best decision you ever made?

The best decision I ever made was to have a “relationship defining talk” with a co-worker whom I thought I was starting to have feelings for.

I had no idea that when I took my first “real” student affairs job in 1999 that it would lead me to my best friend. I had never even heard of Hope College or Holland, MI. Heck, back then, I am not really sure I could have correctly placed Michigan on a map. But, I got heavily recruited at a professional conference, interviewed, got the job, etc. etc. Second year into the position, one of my co-workers and my only friend in the entire state of Michigan leaves me! Her leaving set the process in motion to hire another hall director. We interview a bunch of candidates and Sean is one of them. The only thing I remember about his interview was that he had a lot of experience and nice eyes.

We spent almost every day together the first weeks of the semester. RA training, meetings, fire drills, crappy cafeteria food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), meetings, meetings. You really get to know someone pretty well when you are in all those meetings! Sean is also Catholic, so we went to church together and bonded over being the only Catholic people in tall, white, blonde, Reformed, Dutch, West Michigan.

One weekend I went away to see my sister play soccer. The whole drive back to Holland, I thought about how I needed and wanted to talk to Sean to tell him about it and to tell him I was back safe. Call him up. He was waiting for me to call, too. Huh. We work together. We work together all the time at a really small conservative institution. Huh.

One week later we are driving to a mall (I don’t even remember what for) and I tell him that I think we are flirting with each other. That I think I like him. That I think he likes me, too. But also that I don’t want to read into anything. He turns to me and says, “I like you. Read into that.” Best relationship defining talk ever.

10.5 years later we are still together and have faced some challenging times (see next answer below). There is no one else I want to walk with along the way.

June 10
What was your hardest parenting or partner moment?

When I first read this, I honestly thought that my answer would be our son’s cancer diagnosis. Devastating. Crushing. Life-altering. However, that has not been the hardest part. For me, the hardest part has been the “moving on” into the world of cancer survivorship and the “off-treatment” life.

Our son is a cancer survivor.

Or, our son is a CANCER survivor.

Or, our son is a cancer SURVIVOR.

The moving-on has been harder than I thought. For me, the off-treatment life has been a constant negotiation of vigilance and paranoia; and whichever one I choose depends on the day. A cough is not a cough. When my son gets a fever or a stomachache, I panic and I must choke the waves back down or I will drown. Sometimes I feel like there is too much cancer in my life. Sometimes I have bouts of “survivor guilt” because our son made it and so many others do not. Other days, I am madder than hell and I don’t feel guilty at all because every child diagnosed should have the chance to survive.

My husband is kind, patient, hard-working, funny, passionate, devoted, loyal, and an optimist. I am some of those things and a slightly pessimistic realist. His focus is truly on the moving on. He believes and acts as if you can move on without forgetting. I know he is right. I know that I can have our experience with the C word shape and mold me, but not define me. I just don’t know how or where to go. Yet.

One thought on “Finding a partner you can move on “with,” not from

  1. I really loved this one Monica! I’m still looking for a Kleenex….you and Sean are awesome people, I pray for your family every day….p.s. we are trying the apple recipe this weekend!


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