On the eve of my 25th wedding anniversary, I’m sitting out here on the couch watching a Hallmark movie, and puttering on my laptop, which is always on the coffee table. Don is sleeping right now. He has to get up soon to work an extra shift today. He works at Fedex, and Thanksgiving to New Year’s they are run ragged…70-80 hour work weeks.
We’ve lived in a lot of places. We met and married in Bremerhaven, Germany while we were both in the service. We have lived in Augusta, Georgia. We live in Champaign, Illinois now.
Two weeks after we got married he deployed to Desert Shield…..which became Desert Storm. I hadn’t even moved into quarters yet, and feared I’d be a widow before I ever got to be a wife. Thankfully, he came back to me sound in mind and body.
Oh we had plans. We had dreams. We also had no idea what we were doing. We had really only known each other a matter of months before we got married. All those annoying things that each of us do…..the other had no clue about. He doesn’t talk. I talk too much. Chews too loud. Doesn’t put the cap back on the tooth-paste. Socks on the floor. The “complaint list” could get pretty lengthy. It took a long time for both of us to choose our battles.
I decided to not re-enlist while we were in Germany, came back to the States ahead of him, and stayed “at home” with my oldest brother. Don’s entire battalion was cohorting from Germany to Ft. Gordon. Several weeks later I traveled from Michigan to Georgia to join him there. Soon after, he redeployed back to Saudi Arabia…..and again returned to me safe and sound. He also chose to not reenlist at that time. We were both honorably discharged…..me with almost 9 years in 1992, and him with almost 15 in 1993.
We moved to Champaign, Illinois. Bought our first house in 1994….and nothing shows how little you know when you’re young and eager and buy a house that well…..didn’t have visible issues at the time, but we weren’t smart enough to see problems that would arise later.
We struggled with about 17 years of childlessness, infertility….and the heart break of losing two pregnancies…..and the realization we’d never have kids.
He lost a really good job, and had to take another that paid far less with scant benefits. I left a secure job for something I thought was going to be better…..only it wasn’t….a decision that I still regret. At the time I saw dollar signs…..and ditched the security.
We didn’t save like we should have, and took on credit debt in the good times, thinking all was well.
Last year I got quite ill, and have not been able to work since. I had just launched my own cleaning business and was kicking butt with it…..and was ready to expand and take on employees….and all that came to a crashing halt.
We are taking measures to help ourselves, but it’s funny that we will be starting over now. When we first started out we had dreams of wealth, now we’d be content just to meet our obligations like responsible people. We’ve learned how to feel true gratitude, and be utterly humbled, by the grace of friends who have brought us food or helped us keep the phone on, or the thousands of other things we’ve been blessed with. Some things I can’t even mention, because the people who helped us, would not want us to. They know who they are.
Don works multiple jobs without complaint……to keep us going. Just writing this…..I am in tears……he is a quiet guy……has no time to nurture friendships of his own….won’t have kids or grand-kids…..almost everything we own is second hand…..never gets to do anything for fun. Our house is falling apart.
In my darkest moments…..I fear that I have wrecked a promising life for him…..and here he is…..about to get up and go to work…..which he’ll do like he always does…..and he’ll tuck me in and kiss me before he leaves the house…..
I’m not that pretty and have never been thin……and 25 years later. well….let’s just say things declined. He has never said one unkind word to me….and truly I marvel over that…..so many people place a lot of emphasis on appearance…..to the point of ending relationships over it.
He just loves me. I always dreamed of having someone who loved me…..just because……that I did not have to be anything, or do anything to earn it or keep it.
That dream came true.
We sometimes just smile at folks in new relationships…..remember how that was? It burns hot and fiercely and consumes you. Here is a little secret….the embers and coals of a long burning fire….glow and burn evenly…..they withstand the things life rains down…..and they crackle quietly, without fuss, for there is no need for all the roaring. It doesn’t consume. It sustains.
We’re so far from perfect it’s not even funny…..huge flaws and we both carry lots of baggage. We’ve learned to forgive, be patient, and love the other beyond the problems.
What was, is still.
I want another 25 years at least, with this amazing man.
I love you, Don. You’re not just my husband. You’re my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, my biggest blessing. Just like the day we got married, I literally have nothing to give you, but myself, my pledge and my promise…that your are my one and only, until I take my last breath.
Bremerhaven, Germany 1990