Happy Anniversary, My Love

Today is my 20th wedding anniversary, well my husband and me. I thought after my last post marking the tenth anniversary of my dad’s passing I would continue with the celebration of a much happier occasion.

Twenty years ago today was by far the happiest and scariest day of my life. Can we agree for a second that change is scary? Yes? Good. Happiest for obvious reasons, and scary because of how long I’d known and dated my fiancé. We met back in the early days of the Internet chat rooms and before there were dating websites like Match or eHarmony. Ironically, an ex-love interest was indirectly responsible for getting us together, as he was the one who introduced me to this chat room. My ex and my husband had a mutual acquaintance that they had both chatted with on occasion. My screen name, which over the course of several online providers and thousands of dollars in over limit fees, had seen many changes, and finally came down to my real name, first and abbreviated middle: Wendy Sue. Some of my “real life” friends from that time still call me Wendy Sue, I’m totally okay with that. Hubby’s screen name was simply “sleeplss,” without the last “e.”

After showing an initial interest in each other, he vanished from online for about a month. I not-so-secretly worried we’d never cross paths again, while he was tying up loose ends and ending other romantic interests. He knew something long before I suspected anything about the potential of our future together. We exchanged photos, one I had my mom take of me by my new car a few months previously, drove 25 miles and foolishly paid $7 to have scanned into .jpg format, and his was a professional photo. His was much more impressive than mine, I can assure you. However, when he showed my picture to his mom, she smiled and told him, “This is the kind of girl I see you with!” His other family agreed.

After a month of absence, he came looking for me in my usual places. I was delighted to see him, as my feelings toward him had mysteriously grown in the month he’d been away. I was intrigued by the blonde guy from Oregon. My folks weren’t pleased that he lived so far away, but at the time really thought nothing of it. We talked for a few months online; everyday at lunch I’d come home and chat with him, and evenings I’d call him because I had the better long distance plan (10 cents a minute! Dirt cheap!!) The more we talked without the limitations of physical appearance that can hinder an in-person relationship, the more we discovered we wanted to meet in person.

Our first date was a three day weekend trip from Florida to Oregon. I took a red eye flight with an hour layover in Vegas. I’ll admit I pondered my sanity while waiting for my connecting flight, and even considered hopping on the next plane back to Tampa. But I’d come this far, so I was determined to see it through. I had to know if the guy I had such strong feelings for was the one I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. When the plane landed in Portland at 3am local time, there he stood in the concourse with a single rose, waiting for me. It was cold, as it was January in the Pacific Northwest, and I don’t believe I stopped shivering for the next 72 hours. I met his mom the next morning as we crashed into her bed for a nap. She was as charming and lovable a person as I could have hoped for. As I napped, he slipped away and returned with a little stuffed bear holding a satin rose, which he surprised me with when I awoke. I showered and got ready to meet his friends at a casual dinner, and then off to stay at a local hotel, to get some real sleep. By Sunday we were both under the weather with a cold I probably brought with me from the airplane, and Monday was back to the airport at early o’clock for an all day travelganza. The weekend went too quickly but I knew for sure where things were headed. Before we left for the airport that morning, he played a song on the stereo for me, and he just held me. The song was “Truly,” by Lionel Richie.

When I arrived back home, I told my mom we needed to look for a wedding dress, and sooner than later. I didn’t have a promise but I had a strong feeling that when he came down to meet my family a month later, that he would propose. The next 30 days was grueling, as we counted off the days until he came to Florida. When he arrived, my folks went to pick him up, and I applaud them for taking everything in stride. Mom looked at him and said, “Hi, I’m Mom, and this is Dad,” pointing at my Dad, who was probably trying to find words for the man he knew would someday be his son in law. I remember coming home from work and seeing him sound asleep on my bed, my sweet 2 year old calico cat curled up with him. I don’t remember the date, but he wasted zero time, waiting for just the right moment. All I remember was that it was about 2am, and we were outside enjoying a balmy February night. I was sitting on the wall in front of the house, when he reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring. The next few moments were a blur, but I do remember saying “Yes!” several times.

For the remainder of the week I had him here, I took him to Disney World in Orlando. We spent a couple of days there, newly engaged and deliriously happy. I bought him a Pooh bear, which helped me give him the nickname he’s had since those early days: Honeybear. And as time has a way of doing, it went way too quickly and before we knew it, he was on his way home. We only saw each other one more time between our engagement and the wedding. This is what I meant by scary!!

I wish I could go into as much detail about our wedding day as I have the rest of our story so far, but the truth of it is, the day was a blur of activity, family, doing hair and makeup, getting the finishing touches on the reception and making sure every detail was right. I remember my last dance with my Daddy, the DJ messing up the date when he announced us for the first time as husband and wife, throwing my bouquet and seeing family and friends I hadn’t seen in years.

Our first year in a new city for me was daunting, with a lot of homesickness and missing my mom and dad, getting used to a new life, new faces, feeling lost in a town I didn’t know, and having the love of my life right next to me every night instead of being thousands of miles away. That was the best part. Since our wedding, we haven’t spent more than a week apart at a time.

Now, I know this all sounds so idyllic and fairy tale-ish, but the harsh reality of life is, life happens. Our first two years were the only normal we have had in our entire marriage. We’ve been tested more than most couples married twice as long, and with every ounce of resolve and commitment we could muster. We started our third year with a serious health crisis, and then a car accident later that year left me with permanent pain and disability. And since I’ve known him, he’d been nursing an old military injury that he had surgery for in 2012. It has always been something, but no matter the severity we have stuck together by choice and with much hard work. I joke when I say I have earned every grey hair on my head, but in many ways I mean it.

Such devotion is not seen as commonplace in today’s “if it feels good, do it” society. Many have gone out of their way to congratulate us on a feat that is unfortunately unusual. Many of my friends from school have divorced, some are on their second or third marriage, and I don’t have any condemnation for them. I don’t know their issues or their relationships. In an age where most things, even relationships, are disposable, it feels good to have come from a place of trial and struggle and say, “Yes, we made it!”

On my way home from my Mom’s yesterday I heard a song I haven’t listened to in years. So many of the words rang true in our relationship that I feel compelled to write them down here and include them. The song is sung by Lee Greenwood, called “I Still Believe:”

Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not
Sometimes I can’t think of one thing we’ve got
In common to keep us from falling apart
To keep holding on with hope in our hearts 

Sometimes it’s heaven and sometimes it’s hell
Sometimes it seems we would be just as well
Off on our own or with somebody else
Then I think about all we’ve been through 


There have been so many nights that you saved me
There have been so many mornings you gave me
The courage to get up and get out of bed
To face the world one more day 

There have been so many trials we’ve conquered together
And so many miles of rough roads we’ve weathered
And I swear forever that I’ll never leave
Cause baby, I still believe 


You bring out my best, you can bring out my worst
You feed every hunger, then leave me burning with thirst
And at the moment that I know that I’ll surely die
Your love is my fountain of life


There have been so many nights that you saved me
There have been so many mornings you gave me
The courage to get up and get out of bed
To face the world one more day 


There have been so many trials we’ve conquered together
And so many miles of rough roads we’ve weathered
And I swear forever that I’ll never leave
Cause baby, I still believe

Happy Anniversary, my love. Here’s to another twenty, for better or for worse, in sickness or (hopefully) health. Forever.