I perused all of the cards that I could find, but nothing caught my fancy, nor was worthy of you. So I thought, that I would write a letter.
Days before we left, I totaled your car. Had to wake you early that morning to pay the tow truck driver his fee. You still started the great adventure with me.
Remember? How nervous we were, a couple of kids making that great leap.
The limo ride to the Clark County Courthouse for our license. Then to the chapel. You walking down the aisle to me. Silver Bell Wedding Chapel, we couldn’t fathom going to a drive up chapel.
A parson, leading the service, a couple of witnesses from the wedding service. The limo?
I don’t remember what you had for dinner, I had lamb with a mint sauce.
It seemed like the trip that would never end, all of my mileage estimates were off by hours. Rand McNally… the predecessor to Google Maps. Now the route is so much faster to plan. We stayed at the Circus Circus. Enjoyed a buffet or three. Didn’t spend much money in the casino, maybe 5 bucks. Went to see the Dam, hot miserable dry heat. No A/C in the car, a borrowed car… the A/C died around Billings MT. Lots of ice. That sign that someone was nice enough to stick on the back window of car, warning about the dangers of leaving animals locked in the vehicle… only, we didn’t have any animals.
Remember Beartooth Pass? The hotel was always just around the next curve as we drove through that section of the park looking for West Yellowstone. Salt Lake City. Coming home through Monument, Colorado after the fires decimated the mountain forests. Through the Denver traffic, me telling you “just tell me when you see a sign that says…”
I forget what the sign said, but remember you saying “you mean that one back there?”
Adjusting our route so that we could see the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, and Crazy Horse. Home to your folks. A wedding reception a month later. Where did your garter go? My daughter there with us, celebrating our life together.
Arguments aplenty, heat stroke, many jobs.
Our first child together. Such a blessing. Long 3 days that was. Me wiping your brow, feeding you ice chips. You folding my hand in half. Telling me to go wait across the room when the intern told us “we need to do an emergency c-section.”I remember your mother was upset with me. Remember? I told the nurses station not to let anyone talk to you, including God, until I returned. How was I to know that your mom would try to call? I know.. stupid dad… Me feeding our daughter late one night, falling asleep and dropping her on her head. Who knew that she would grow up to be concussion prone?
College first, work, then family… not necessarily in the correct order of course. So much Pizza. We couldn’t afford much, but we had each other, and our family.
Our first house together, though it was on wheels, at least it wasn’t an apartment.
Our first son.
A new house. The White House on Pennsylvania Ave was how it was listed. Remember? Shortly after the birth of our second son. A month later, the struggle for my life. Hearing the word Cancer. If we don’t move you to this other hospital, you will die. Your wife is bringing your children in so that you can say good bye. Hearing the word Cancer again. Learning it was this other disease that is commonly found in African-American women between the ages of 30 and 50. I am pretty sure that you know I am not an African-American woman, and I was just 27 at the time. Worried about you and the kids. Wondering what was going to happen.
Returning home with you and my brother. Waking the kids early in the morning, I think it was like 3 am. Just so that we could hold them, love them and share our life together.
Adoption, we learned so much about each other that we didn’t know, even after 7 years of marriage.
Remember the time I asked if you wanted to watch My Best Friend’s Wedding? I remember the look on your face as we watched our wedding tape.
You getting your tonsils out at your age? I remember all of the blood when you blew your stitches. Trip to the ER. “Just gargle salt water, it will stop bleeding.” the doctor said.
Calling the ambulance later that night, when you passed out from blood loss. “We usually only see this much blood when some dies violently.” the ambulance driver stated. Your sister explaining to the deputy sheriff that it was life or death for her to get to our place as quickly as possible at 2 am. She watched the kids while you had emergency surgery to repair the stitches.
More work, life moved on. Two and three jobs, the all elusive education. Ending a job, because the kids were afraid of their dad. I remember. Moving forward, new adventures and challenges. Moving to a small town, into a house with lots of space. The house still needs a lot of work, maybe one day.
Then the heart events. The struggles while trying and sometimes failing to be able to get services for the kids. The strokes, more heart events. You arguing with doctors. “It’s all in your head…” the doctor said, “I am going to order a psych consult.”
Our laughter when the psychiatrist turned out to be someone we knew. Who knew it wasn’t “all in my head.” Never seeing that “other doctor” again.
Hearing the word cancer, then neuropathy, and other medical terms. Each day is a blessing.
Disability. A change of fortune, me at home, you working. You working and going to college while supporting us. Helping me understand that it my failure. Some times, health does fun things to a person, and it was just my turn. I remember.
You picking up the slack when I couldn’t do it. Exhausted fatigue like I had never felt since my time in the U.S. Army. You rarely complain.
Shoe leather roast beef. The kids enjoyed making fun of it, along with “a cap full of vinegar”. Laughter at meal times. Seeing our girls move out into the world, off to college to pursue the dreams that we had only hoped and prayed for them to begin to achieve. I remember.
Now, three at home with us, while we ponder their future, and what ours will bring. Gradual decline in my health, you by my side, as strong as ever.
Through 21 years, you have been by my side. Seems like yesterday that you said yes when I asked you to be my bride. I love you more each day. Your ears must ring an awful lot because I think about you all of the time. I worry when you leave for work on icy mornings until you return in the early evening hours. During blizzards, making your way home in a caravan of cars, less than half of the vehicles that you and the rest of the teachers left school with… to you sliding off the road while rounding a curve. When you travel, my heart beats faster when you call. The joy of hearing your voice.
Each day, I relish you calling to let me know you are on your way home. The quick calls at lunch to check on me. I worry when you get busy and don’t call.
I don’t tell you often enough what you mean to me, I pray that you know. Gentle hugs, holding each other tight. These last 21 years have just been practice for the next 21 or 31 or whatever the Good Lord wishes us to have. I know the years will be great, because I will have you, my bride, by my side. I love you.
People laugh when they hear me call you “my bride…”
“When did you get married?” they ask excitedly, often wondering if they missed the event.
June 14, 1994.