19 years and counting

19 years. Four kids. 2 minivans. 1 apartment and 3 houses. 6,935 nights to say “I love you” to my husband before falling asleep.

We met in college, you a junior with a plan and me a freshman without a clue. We were introduced by mutual friends, then we became friends. We went on friend dates: Sunday morning church, restaurant group dates, putt-putt golf, and that one time we tried to fly a kite in the park.

After a couple of months of being friends, we fell in love. Well, the falling part happened before the title of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” became official but it stuck. For me, it started pretty much the first time we met and you offered to refill my little sister’s drink at the Subway restaurant where you, me, my sister, and three or four of my friends were eating lunch on a hot day in July. Then, a week or so later, I watched you befriend a bunch of awkward-looking freshman boys sitting alone at a student orientation event. Each time I saw you show kindness, you became even more attractive.

Growing up, my idea of lasting, romantic relationships was fairly mundane. I thought it consisted of the man doing the following: 1) You ask a girl to couple skate and the DJ plays “Uptown Girl” just as you both skate to the center of the room, lights focused on the strikingly beautiful couple who can skate backwards and “shoot the duck” like pros. 2) You ask a girl to Pizza Hut where you share a medium 2-topping, drink Coke out of those red tumblers, and you play “Elvira” on the jukebox. 3) You go on the show “Family Feud” and when Richard Dawson asks you to introduce your family, you refer to your wife as your “lovely bride of 25 years.”

As it turns out, none of those things have happened in the past 19 years we’ve been married or the three years prior to that when we were dating. (And I’m not hinting to go roller skating, to eat at Pizza Hut, or to sign up for the Family Feud. I promise.)

When I think of those youngsters, it feels like I’m remembering scenes from a movie about someone else, a different couple. Did I ever not know everything about you? Like how you sound like Darth Vader when you sleep? How you never like to be barefoot? How you’re amazingly gentle with tiny babies?

Was there ever a time that you only knew the things about me that I wanted you to know? My insecurities and my bad habits were never on display for you when I was 18 and you were 20.

Suppose that was us—those cute kids without any gray hair or stretch marks or worries beyond finals for that semester—then what a journey this has been. And the craziest part is that even as great as that first love feeling was, it’s a million times better now than it was before. (Well, maybe not the stretch mark part.)

We decided all those years ago that we’re both in this for the long haul. You and me. No matter what. But you make it easy, like making a commitment to be faithful to chocolate or sunshine, and then sticking with it. So even after all these years, I still love that boy who was kind and funny and smart. Or to quote the Oak Ridge Boys: “my heart’s on fire…Giddy up, oom poppa, oom poppa, mow mow”

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