“Do what you hate for love and shut up about it.” I read these words on a plane to Chicago recently while my husband, Ryan, snored next to me on our early morning flight. It was an article in Real Simple magazine about travel tips for a relaxing family vacation. Do what you hate for love and shut up about it. The words permeated me, resonated with me. I read them a few more times and swallowed the sentence whole, like a handful of Advil. I was reluctantly heading to Chicago for a weekend getaway with my husband, where we would see not one but two Grateful Dead concerts, the last the band would ever play. I felt completely ambivalent about this bucket list-worthy weekend for the man I married.
I couldn’t get my head around it. I told him, “I don’t like ANYTHING enough to see it twice in three days. What are we doing?” Ryan stared at me blankly. He had no response. He could not think of anything more awesome, and I was struggling to simply comprehend it. I can count only a few times that I have felt so disconnected from my husband.
Ryan, who is nine years older than I am, grew up on the East Coast and followed the Dead from town to town for several summers when he was young. He saw countless concerts and knew the most obscure facts about the band. He packed an array of vintage tie dye t-shirts to wear to the “Fare the Well” concerts in Chicago and would receive knowing “right on” nods from Deadheads we passed on Michigan Avenue. I had never been to a Grateful Dead concert, but in the early days of our relationship Ryan introduced me to “American Beauty,” an album that the Dead recorded in 1970, two years before I was born. In those early years, I was falling in love with Ryan, falling in love with what he loved, and introducing him to what I loved. Music was a big part of that. Our daughters were even BORN to the Dead—Eleanor came into this world while “Ripple” streamed through Ryan’s iPod speakers, and just two-and-a-half years later Sadie took her first breath to “Sugar Magnolia.” But as our lives grew more complicated and our responsibilities mounted, the Dead’s melodic jams became less and less of a thread in the fabric of our life together. Recently, with time and money in short supply, Ryan was offered tickets to two shows in Chicago. All he wanted to do was go, and I was pretty adamant about putting on the breaks and politely declining.
But in the end, I did what I hated (hate is a strong word—perhaps substitute “didn’t really care about”) for love, and I tried to shut up about it. I went with the flow, at first begrudgingly. I turned it all around in my head, put my ambivalence aside, and made the conscious decision to experience this. I told him I wanted to get to the concert early to check out the scene (mobs of Deadheads selling bootleg t-shirts and other, um, stuff). I opened my mind and took the opportunity to use the trip as a way to get to know my husband a little better. I also carved out experiences that I really wanted to have in Chicago, separate and apart from going to the concerts: exploring Michigan Avenue, eating some amazing food, and checking out The Bean in Millennium Park. I didn’t know Ryan during his Deadhead years, but going to Chicago and seeing him in his element taught me a little more about who he is and where he is from. I love that after 12 years of marriage we can still find new experiences that allow us to get to know each other better than before. And it seems like these opportunities become rarer as time goes by. It also seems easier, over time, to dig our heels in and not do things that we don’t want to do.
I don’t think I’ll soon forget standing in a stadium with about 70,000 people, colors swirling and spiraling on big screens, a melodic jam rippling through enormous speakers, looking up at my husband who was blissed out, grinning from ear to ear. I was glad that I had gone along, happy to see him so happy.
On our walk back to our hotel from Soldier Field on Sunday after the last concert the Dead would ever play together, Ryan put his arm around me and pulled me tight. He said, “Thank you for coming with me. Thank you for doing this for me. Now it’s your turn. What’s next?” I had to tell him that I don’t know. It really doesn’t have to be on such grand scale. It could be as simple as trying a new recipe in our kitchen together or riding bikes on the Mission Trail. Adventure awaits, till “Dead” do us part.