“So are you calling me your ‘husband’ yet?”

“I’m getting better at it”, I confessed.

It’s true. After years of referring to my husband as my “partner” it didn’t exactly roll off my tongue but I was making a conscious effort to use the term. It had been a long hard-won victory for us to be able to call each other “husband”, so I felt I should honor our relationship by doing so.

There’d never been a doubt in my mind that we would be together forever. Shortly after we met he’d spoken about the grim years of the AIDS crisis in New York, when as a young man he witnessed the deaths of his closest friends, the many hours fighting with terrified hospital staff to get beds for his terminally ill friends. He’d advocated for them, fed them, nursed them and took part in angry protests on their behalf. I knew that this was a man I wanted to build a life with. He was rock solid, fiercely loyal and committed to opposing injustice.

In the early days of our relationship I’d seen his fearlessness when we visited a friend who had suddenly been admitted to hospital for a surgical procedure. My husband was the man of action you’d most want at your side. He immediately told the nursing staff what he needed in order to get our friend on his feet and out of bed. And he did. It was true that lying in bed wasn’t going to help him recover. As I watched him advocate for and tend to the needs of our friend I just fell more in love with him.

When we first discussed parenting together, again, I had no doubt. He’d be the dad you would want to raise a child with. Kind and loving, firm but fair. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve listened to him cajole our son into solving a math problem. I give thanks that the man I fell in love with was an AP math student and enjoys the challenge of problem solving. My heart swells as I listen to him encourage our boy, then as they high five another successful solution and laugh later about the process. How do I love thee? There are so many small and wonderful ways, most of them simple moments of daily life.

He makes dinner most nights of the week – he’s a great cook who learned as a boy. When we visit his cousins in Arizona I love to hear them talk about spending Sundays after church helping their grandfather in the kitchen while he cooked all day. I think Grampa Fortunato lives on in him when I see my husband happily cooking meals for us.

“He’s a catch!” women friends often say to me.

“I know! That’s why I married him!” I always say. I mean it.

But there’s nothing more joyful than hearing him sing Broadway show tunes to our dog as he makes breakfast in the morning. Of course he substitutes Rusty’s name in the appropriate place but the song remains as sincere and heartfelt as ever. I’m pretty sure Rusty is thinking the same as me.

We both really got lucky.