Tuesday, August 23, 2011

8-23-11 Anniversary Eve

Bob and I mark our 20th wedding anniversary tomorrow.

I thought this might be a good time to cover a little advice ground I hope my kids will someday read and certainly not heed, at least not until after they've made the same mistakes themselves and learned the hard way, like we all do.

But since I've got it in writing, I will still get to say "I told you so" when they make the same realizations.

There's this one scene in Sleepless in Seattle that has a quote I think I've said to myself about a million times so far. Annie (Meg Ryan), referring to "An Affair to Remember", laments, "That's when people knew how to be in love. They knew it! Time, distance, nothing could separate them because they knew. It was right. It was real. It was . . ."

(And her friend Becky breaks in with) "A MOVIE. That's your problem. You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie."

And that's the hard truth of the matter.

The ending of Anne Sexton's "Cinderella" gets close to this idea . . .

Cinderella and the prince
lived, they say, happily ever after,
like two dolls in a museum case
never bothered by diapers or dust,
never arguing over the timing of an egg,
never telling the same story twice,
never getting a middle-aged spread,
their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.

There's the truth.

You can fall in love. But unless you're dead or entirely fictional, you're going to fall out of it.

The real secret is knowing how to ride the waves, because it all comes around again, over and over.

The first time I ever spoke to Bob was the day we left for a weekend retreat the church college group was having.

No, wait. That's not entirely true.

The FIRST time I spoke to Bob I didn't know who he was. Mrs. Barnes was serving breakfast the Sunday morning before the retreat to the college group pre-service and was taking inventory of which students weren't there. She asked me to go call someone named Bob and tell him Mrs. Barnes wanted him to hurry up and get there.

Mrs. Barnes was married to Perry Barnes, TDCJ chaplain and the man who would marry us less than a year later.

But the first time we actually interacted was the day we were leaving on the retreat. It was a Friday and both of us were killing time in the student center before we were heading out. I beat him at chess. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but I had a boyfriend of four years. On the way there we ended up sitting near one another. The van was packed and it was a long ride. You tend to have long conversations when there's nothing else to do. I remember him saying his first son was going to be named Nicholas Anderson Mask. The rest of the weekend is kind of a blur. I remember slipping in the river when we were canoeing. I remember slipping off from the ridiculousness going in the "service" and dozing off near the river. When I wandered over to the bonfire after I woke I learned I was considered "missing" and there were people out frantically looking for me in the dark. Guess who was leading the charge. Things kind of took on a life of their own after we got back from the retreat. We were just friends, I kept telling myself.

I drove myself to the ER on Tuesday night in a full-on anxiety attack -- couldn't sleep, couldn't eat. Anyone who tells you love doesn't hurt is a liar.

On Wednesday night, Bob got on one knee and proposed marriage when he could return from his army training that was set for the next semester. We'd known each other 5 days, hadn't dated, hadn't so much as held hands,  but he told me he didn't want to spend the rest of his life without me.

He sang "And so it goes" to me later.

That's being in love in a movie. It really happened. But it wasn't the reality of staying in love.

First time we had a fight, which wasn't but a couple of weeks into dating, I thought it was over. I'd never fought with someone with as much of a temper as me.

When he left for five months just three months later, he called the first week and told me he didn't want to wait for a December wedding -- he wanted to move it up to as soon as he got home. We compromised on August, less than a year after we met. A week after that, he got orders that when his training was up, he was heading to Desert Storm and Kuwait. Suddenly it wasn't a question of when to get married but if he'd be home at all to do so.

When Desert Storm ended a week before his training, the August date was back on and he came home. No job, neither of us graduated, and we still got hitched August 24, 1991. It's as crazy now as it was then.

The work of actually being in love in reality wasn't nearly as fun as those first crazy days were. We had no money. We scrounged for change in couches (any couch) one weekend in order to scrape together enough money for groceries before payday. Bob was working at a place in the mall and finishing his last credits to complete his degree. I moved into graduate studies and worked as a teaching assistant. And by our first anniversary, I was four and a half months pregnant with Nicholas. We ate dinner at The Junction, the local steakhouse there in Huntsville which was about as fancy as we could get. By then Bob had his Bachelor's of Business Administration and . . . was working as a prison guard. Bills to pay, school to finish, always with the expectation we'd finally "get there" and, honestly, maybe some day we actually will. Until then, we're still riding the waves together.

If either of our kids comes home to tell me they want to get married before they've finished college and gotten a steady job, I'll go find a pillow to scream into and do my best to persuade them that it's a very hard road. But then I'll remember that young guy on one knee in the dark, in the little gazebo in the park where we'd gone to talk, and the feeling that no matter what happened, there were just some things destiny has more control over than we do.

Happy Anniversary, pooter muffin. And so it goes . . . 


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