It dawned on me about a month ago that many readers of this blog don’t know about The Karen & Donners Show. Sure, you know either Don or me in some capacity or another, and a few of you have known both of us for quite some time. But a great many of you don’t know us from Adam. Years ago, we had a neighbour who used to get excited every time she visited us, and referred to each of her visits as an episode of The Karen & Donners Show. The term has stuck over the years.
So you know how awesome Nyana is now, and many of your comments have commended us for our awesome attitudes as we navigate the NICU. But how awesome is Nyana going to be? Let me tell you about her parents.
Don and I met ten years ago—he worked for an accounting firm in one of the towers downtown, I worked in a sandwich shop in the mall in the basement. He was friends with the owner’s brother and I used to make him these monster sandwiches, ’cause he was skinny and I doubted he cooked well for himself at home. I somehow never clued in to how coincidental it was that so often, he’d be riding the train one stop for his bank run at exactly the same time I’d be riding the same train home after my shift. In retrospect, I’d reckon it took him longer to ride the train that one stop than it would have to just walk to the bank.
At the time, I had just broken up with a stockbroker who was ten years my senior, and when Don asked my boss about me, she told him, “Don’t even try. You’re not at all her type.” I was irritated when word got back to me. Who are you, Susie, to decide who is and isn’t my type? So I accepted his invitation one night to come over to his place for a movie and, um, a sandwich.
And so it went for a couple of weeks: I’d leave my evening job at the pub up the street and head over to Don’s bachelor pad. We’d watch movies and eat sandwiches, and he’d give me back rubs as we chatted. And then one day—and not just any day, his 26th birthday— it happened. I broke my only single-gal rule of never sleeping with a guy the first time I kiss him. He went for dinner at his aunt and uncle’s place the next day, and when they asked him what he got for his birthday he replied, “booty!” When I was introduced to them three months later, at Christmas, they sized me up and down and commented, “Ah, so you’re the birthday booty.”
I remember the two of us lying in bed one night about three months into our relationship. Out of the blue, Don asked if we should move in together. In my head, I was thinking, no, No, NO! Terrible idea! I’m not ready for that!! yet what I heard myself say was, Why yes! What a fantastic idea! I’ll start looking at apartments tomorrow!
Seven years and only three major arguments later, we found ourselves planning a wedding. There was no real reason to wait so long to get married, we just knew it would happen and didn’t need to rush anything. But when I received an unexpected inheritance, I knew it was time. I gave Don a pile of cash and a picture of the ring I wanted. He had it custom crafted, and he took me on a day trip to Soames Beach on BC’s Sunshine Coast, and he got down on one knee along the shoreline in front of about a hundred beach-goers. I’ll never forget the exact phrasing: Will you do me the honour of spending the rest of your life with me? One year later, on Canada Day, we said “I do” barefoot on the beaches of Belize with our siblings and our mothers by our side—a two week family vacation with a wedding thrown in on a Tuesday evening. It was Don’s brilliant idea that by getting married on one of our favourite holidays, we’d always have a day off and fireworks on our anniversary.
In the ten years that we’ve been together, I’ve been patient and jokingly naggy about children. Very early into our relationship, when we knew that it going to be he and me, the only rule I laid down was that I had to have babies by thirty. Completely reasonable request, considering I was 20 when we started dating. We started trying to get pregnant on New Years of this year, and when I did turn 30 in the spring, I remember giving Don shit in a joking-but-actually-kinda-disappointed way that he hadn’t delivered on a promise I’d given him a decade to fulfill. Six days after my 30th birthday, on April 8th, a home pregnancy test gave me a positive result. Nyana was on her way.
I mentioned we’ve only had three major fights in the time we’ve been together: the rice fight (where he threatened to throw a pot of cooked rice across the room, and I kept ribbing him until he did; we were picking cooked rice kernels out of the carpet for months); the time I almost killed him with the door (where he tried to go for a walk and I tried to stop him and I slammed the door right into his temple); and the hockey game (where I got so drunk in box-seats that I made a complete ass of both of us). For the most part, we’re that disgustingly awesome couple that most people either hate, or don’t believe are always this awesome and compatible. We’re not quite wearing matching outfits yet, but there have been a few close calls.
We attribute our awesomeness to our THC philosophy, and I don’t mean that in an eating sandwiches kind of way. THC: trust, honesty, communication. Put each of these attributes along the sides of an equilateral triangle and consider it your relationship: a triangle is one of the strongest geometric shapes, but will collapse if only one side is missing. Our marriage is the same: trust and honesty can’t happen if we don’t have communication. Communication and trust don’t work if we’re not being honest. It’s a simple formula, really, and it’s gotten us this far with nothing but awesome memories.
We laugh often, talk always, and pause for hugs at every opportunity. We respect ourselves and we respect each other as both a person and as half of a whole. These two months since Nyana was born have been the most stressful times our relationship has ever weathered, and we’re facing the storm head-on and taking each day as it comes. We know that when all is said and done, we’ll be thankful to Nyana for forcing us to step outside the comforting box we’ve cozied up in, and for reminding us that life is so very fragile and not to take any moment for granted.
About a month ago, after a particularly rough few days in the NICU, and Don and I had each receded into ourselves, we met for lunch one afternoon and he asked, as casually as if he were inquiring about the weather, if he and I were going to be OK. I was mad at him for asking the question, and mad at both of us for letting us get to a place where he felt he needed to ask. Of course we’re going to be OK. We’re awesome. And What We Made is going to be more awesome than we can imagine.