Anniversary – 33 years and just getting started

jj and kj 060515

I browsed anniversary cards a couple of times this week and struggled to find one that fit the occasion of the June 5, 33rd anniversary of being the Mr. to the most unbelievably beautiful, gifted, compassionate Mrs. that an undeserving guy can have. My bride, Kelly, is my best friend and soul-mate, my safe harbor, the forever love of my life.

“To A Special Wife” just didn’t cut it. (Although one of my long-time terms of endearment is telling Kelly that she is “A nice girl that I know,” a play on those cheesy greeting cards that overpopulate the card-buying options).

I picked up the card that began, “When we first met …” But that wasn’t it, either. Nor was, “I remember falling in love with you.” That was a nice touch, but it just didn’t fit. Something wasn’t quite right. I finally selected, “I want to grow old loving you,” which beat out, “I love growing old with you,” because I preferred “old” used in future rather than present tense. (And it matches what our youngest, Natasha, sang when we renewed our vows in 2007 – our 25th anniversary.)

But why didn’t the other cards work for me? For us?

I figured it out.

“When we first met …” would have referred to some time in the fifth or sixth grade when I was about half as tall as my tall bride. Even when we first starting “going together” 39 years ago in the eighth grade – matched by two friends who apparently bet each other that they could find each of us a girlfriend/boyfriend – the moment wasn’t exactly accompanied by Cupid’s arrows.

When we first met. When we fell in love. They seem like such odd concepts, really. And here’s why.

It’s not uncommon, even after all these years, tears, laughter and adventures, to learn something knew about each other. You could say we’re still meeting. I can’t describe how cool that is. Oh, I know what makes Kelly tick – and what ticks her off – and she knows me even better than I know myself. Cliché, but true. But we still discover newness on a fairly regular basis. As far as “when we fell in love?”

We’re still falling in love.

My worst trait is that I sometimes withdraw with the fear of uncharted territory, finding myself so incredibly close to another person – my person, my crazy cute wife – that it’s alarming. Just being honest. It’s exhilarating yet a little bit terrifying. I’ll try to explain it this way. Suppose you were just swimming along – swimming, swimming, swimming, checking out the reefs, colorful fish, awesome little octopi and everything – then all of a sudden you’re breathing. Maybe you’ve grown gills, I don’t know, but you realize – your mind reminds you – that you shouldn’t breathe when you’re underwater. How is that possible? It’s not natural.

To a large degree we are both products of homes that did not model for us the journey we’ve been on. We went from being “forced” boyfriend/girlfriend to confidants and rescuers of each other’s hearts in a short time. Within a year of our “going together,” the marriages in our homes imploded. (Story for another day that the implosion wasn’t sudden as it seemed, but when you’re 13, that’s what it seems like).

Married two months before my 19th birthday. (Kelly, the older woman in my life, had been 19 for six weeks). Parents at 22. Two daughters at 24. While I can’t recall a time when Kelly wasn’t part of my life, it’s difficult to remember a time when we weren’t Dad and Mom to Kishia and Natasha.

So there you have it. My “Happy Anniversary” announcement to A Nice Girl That I Know, the softest and toughest, smartest and funniest person I’ve ever known. I won’t even talk about how lucky I am. If you know Kelly and you know me – well, see what I mean?

Kelly, I love loving you, growing (older) with you, and getting to know you – and loving you more – every single day of our lives. Thank you for saying “I do” and “I still do.”

Me, too. I love you.

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