Yesterday, Tim and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with dinner at the La Jolla Shores Inn. It was a beautiful sunset, like hundreds of others we’ve enjoyed together on that sand.
After our meal, we headed north towards Scripps to watch the stars come out. That mile of beach has played an important role in our lives for as long as we’ve been together. It was the site of our first date, (read about that here) and our first whispered, “I love you,” just a few months later. I walked myself into labor with our first child on that stretch. We have spent countless beach days, birthdays, holidays, sunny days and rainy ones too, first as a couple, then as a family. It has been an oceanic witness to our laughter and tears, our joy and pain, our silent thoughts and our deep and sometimes distressing conversations. It made perfect sense to commemorate the quarter century we’ve spent together as husband and wife right there.
As far as Tim knew, we were just going down with a beach blanket to spend a few minutes honoring the occasion, but Molly and I had planned something a little different. While Tim and I were at dinner, Molly and a friend created a romantic place on the sand for us. A beach blanket and a chair, a dozen candles, photos of us and our family, and a speaker playing some of our favorite love songs. After a quick hug and kiss and she was off, leaving us to enjoy ourselves and reflect on our life together.
Tim was surprised enough, but I had a couple more tricks up my sleeve.
It’s been a couple years since I’ve worn my wedding rings consistently. Time and genetics have taken a toll on my hands, leaving my rings just wrong-sized enough to make them uncomfortable for everyday living. So in honor of our anniversary, I finally got them resized, and I wanted to invite him to place them on my left hand again. But first, I had to ask him a few questions. Twenty-five years ago, at 21 and 25, we didn’t know anything except that we loved each other and were committed to making a go of it – declaring in front of God and just about everyone we (and my parents) knew – that we would honor each other all the days of our lives. But would he do it all again, knowing what he knows about the ups and downs, the goods and bads, the triumphs and the tribulations that every relationship encounters after so many decades together? So I asked him:
Do you take this woman to be your wife after twenty-five years of watching her change – physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually – knowing that she will change just as much in the next twenty-five and that they probably won’t all be for the better?
Do you take this woman to be your wife after twenty-five years of mediocre housekeeping and sloppy accounting and basic, “same-old, same-old” meals?
Do you take this woman to be your wife after twenty-five years of financially supporting her, while she finds cheap, but temporary emotional support in the clearance aisles of Target and Marshalls and haunts the halls of thrift stores, looking for just the right thing?
Do you take this woman to be your wife after twenty-five years of her continual assaults on your preferred systems of stasis, instead foisting on you, on us, on our family, program after program for improvement and change?
Do you take this woman to be your wife after twenty-five years of watching her bounce from dream to dream, challenge to challenge, school to school, lacking a single focus, (except the one of loving you and creating a loving family) in an effort to accomplish she knows-not-what exactly, but only to “be of service,” and to “love the world,” whatever in the world that means?
Do you take this woman to be your wife after twenty-five years of watching her fall many times and fail at many things that were important to her and having to pick up the pieces, knowing that pattern will most likely continue?
Do you take this woman to be your wife again after twenty-five years, even though she snuck “God” into the relationship in disguise – through her sneaky, overwhelming, passionate, personal, desperate Love for you, which grows “higher than soul can hope or mind can hide”?
In case you’re wondering, he said, “Yep,” to every one of them, just like I thought/hoped he would, (though he did pause for a moment or two after a couple of them).
And this is what I said to him,
I take you too, sweet man. I take you with your fears and insecurities. I take you with all the subconscious ways you try to isolate and disconnect yourself from me, the kids and the world. I take you with your bad singing and beautiful prose. I take you, not just with your love of your job and your business and your fierce independence, but also with your real, and to me incomprehensible, contentment with the 5’x10’ foot cave you call an office. I take you with your physical desires that have kept our love life alive for the last twenty-five years. I take you with all your achy joints and wherever they lead us someday.
The scriptures say that “Perfect Love casts out all fear” and if the last twenty-five years have taught me anything, it’s that you must love me pretty perfectly, not because you never fear when I bring you things, ask you to change, tell you I’m going to change, or that I want to do, or try something new, but because you respond out of that perfect Love and say, “Yes” anyway. You cast your fear out, or at the very least temper it, ask it to stand aside, so that the ones you Love – me and the kids – can become more perfectly ourselves in this world.
Twenty-five years ago, I didn’t know you would love me like this; twenty-five years ago, I didn’t know I would need a Love like this, but I did and I do and I will and I can think of NO ONE on this planet to whom I would say, “I did” and “I do” and “I will,” besides you and I say it today and always.
So that was that and we spent the next hour or so reminiscing about the times that built us up and broke us down, slow dancing in the sand and looking up at the stars. But life isn’t all romance. The moments were precious, but they were over soon enough. We packed it up and headed home, joining Molly on the couch to watch The Office, before getting in bed for our nightly episode of Jeopardy. We were out, like all the lights in the house, before 10:00 p.m.
That’s what twenty-five years feels like to me. Romance when you can get it, make it, feel it, respond to it, create it, be inspired by it, need it. Companionship, kindness, compassion and curiosity in all the spaces in between. It’s enough to make a life and I’m grateful for all of it.
Last week, we dressed up for dinner at my folks’ place with our kids to celebrate the occasion. Finn pulled out his camera and at my request, they all smiled (sort of).