It’s been 13 Decembers since I married the man I didn’t think I’d marry. Not because he was not the man I loved, rather because I never thought I’d get married. Never thought I’d actually be brave enough to go all in, my track record wasn’t stellar before Jerimiah. Just a few loose odds and ends here and there. A couple of overly-confident football players I made out with in the back of someone else’s car in high school. A couple of college girls, shy like me, unsure like me, who I let open a door of possibilities. Then he came along. On our first date I was calm. It was like going out with a friend, because well, he was my friend. Still is, matter of fact, the best one I’ve got. We sat at a table at a steakhouse across the street from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The place we’d both lived for years, both graduated high school from, both knew inexplicably we would one day leave.
It’s startling sometimes to look back over the last 19 years and see how our lives together have unfolded. To see that we did in fact leave Leavenworth together and in a sense we left those dumb kids back there at that dimly-lit steakhouse table. We changed our outlook. We moved away from that every-present fatalism that encapsulates a prison town like Leavenworth. We branched out. We had new experiences, slowly changed our way of thinking to focus on the positive, the optimistic, the opportunity that that whole wider world gives you if you dare to look.
We made new friends, took new paths, moved around. We went to college together, when we finally decided it was time. Then somewhere along the line we merged bank accounts, we started saying things like, “In ten years…” We made even bigger plans, even bolder career moves, moves that benefitted both of us. Then one day, about five years into our relationship Jerimiah sat me in a chair on Christmas Eve, got down on one knee, the white glow of the tree beside us, and pulled an engagement ring from his pocket. I already knew by that time I would say yes, though I still didn’t know if I’d have the guts to go through with it. One year later, on December 21, 2007, I did go through with it. In a small, one-room church in the middle of the Ozark Mountain wilderness.
Today, as I write this, I’ve been interrupted more than once. I’ve been interrupted by our twelve-year-old son who wants to know if the wi-fi is working for us, because his Chromebook, the one he does all his virtual school work on, is acting weird. I’ve been interrupted by our two dogs, pacing and playfully snapping at each other at my feet. I’ve been interrupted by my rheumatologist calling. By my husband’s phone, a call from this boss, a meeting with the company lawyer, an employee with a problem. This is all to say that where we are now, for as lovely as it is, is not always sunny and warm. But alas, that is life.
There have been dark days. Dark moments. When we watched the doctors load Jackson up into a Life Flight Chopper when he was barely a year old. When we signed the Do Not Resuscitate Order for our daughter nearly a decade ago. When we moved, again and again, leaving people we didn’t want to. When we cried together on the veterinarian’s floor as our first baby, Bentley, slowly slipped from us. And now, in this year full of heartache for our community, our country, our world.
Yes, there have been dark days and sickness to endure, but also there is happiness and health. There is safety, opportunity, growth. There is loyalty. There is love. In all of it, because we said I do.
Happy anniversary, Jerimiah. Thank you for loving me so consistently and so warmly for all these years. For running the lantern over the dark days and for always, always letting me, helping me, curse and cry and laugh when I need to. In the end, there is no one I’d rather do this with than you.