On the day that was and would be our wedding anniversary, it is important to me to remember the first great love of my life, Karsten Soltauer.

I’m always conflicted about milestones that represent significant days with loved ones after they’ve gone — it becomes meaningless to say “today we would have been married for 18 years” because that’s like peering into some alternate dimension in which he is still alive and we are still married. He is not and we are not, even though in this dimension I still love him dearly and miss him daily. Of course, I’ve also been remarried for what will be five years next month, so the reality of this dimension and the would-have-been of the alternate one aren’t so simple to reconcile with one another anyway, but that’s the thing about people who love and lose and love again: we know how to love simultaneously.

And like it or not, those milestones keep coming around. There are always quirky reminders this time of year anyway since we were married in Chicago on what happened to be a few days before St. Patrick’s Day. As we walked to the courthouse that day to be married in a small room with faux wood paneling by a judge who had barely bothered to zip up his polyester robe over his street clothes (Karsten joked that the whole vibe was like being called into the principal’s office), we stopped to watch the boats cruising around in the river dumping in bag after bag of bright green dye powder. The concept of marriage felt like an absurdity to us that we were participating in with a wry wit about us, and it felt appropriately absurd to share our day with a strange but fun tradition.

a memorial video put together by friends featuring photos and quotes
(set to “My Girls” by Animal Collective, which had become Karsten’s favorite song)

So today among the many things I’m grateful for are these: I’m grateful to live here in this dimension, and to feel the fullness of it, with all its glory and grief. I’m incredibly grateful for Robbie, who gives me space to honor the love I’ll always have for Karsten. It’s hard to express how much it means to me that we can love in a way that is additive, without attempting to rewrite or replace.

And of course I’m grateful for Karsten, and the chance to have spent a good chunk of my life learning to appreciate life’s little strangenesses. Which may be why I still think dyeing the river green is a fun little metaphor for both the quirks and joys of marriage.

Loving across dimensions and the green river metaphor
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