I always thought it was strange that my future husband’s aunt knitted a sweater ensemble for me when I was born and that she spent our teenage years trying to think of ways to introduce us. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who thought we would be perfect for each other. Two other mutual friends conspired to bring us together, but I think even they were operating under the direction of someone else.
We grew up within a couple of miles of each other in one of the largest cities in the country, and a decade and a half later our families moved to the same small town and again lived a couple of miles apart. It wasn’t until we both went to college hundreds of miles in polar opposite directions from our common stomping grounds that we actually met. I was just home from college after my freshman year when our high school speech teacher called (with the other mutual friend snickering in the background) and asked me to be music director for the two musicals he had planned for the summer little theater. Minutes later, I found myself barreling toward the school to pick up the scores. When I walked in, there was a skinny, sandy blonde-haired boy/director, also home from college, already there working with the junior high cast members. As he turned around to greet me, something happened that changed the course of my life. The moment I saw his face, a real, honest-to-goodness voice inside my head said, “Oh, there you are! I’ve been waiting so long for you!!” (Let me just interject here, that kind of thing will shake you up.) The voice had an excited but almost impatient, hands on the hip, foot stomping tone. And there it was. I knew. It wasn’t love at first sight like you think of in a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie, and it wasn’t lust at first sight. It was simply a knowing, deep in my soul, that this boy whose hand I was about to shake was the one I was supposed to spend my life with, and I knew it was meant-to-be.
Now mind you, I had “some ‘splainin’ to do” to my family. It was just three days earlier at Sunday dinner that I was proclaiming my intent to stay single until I was in my 30s so I could pursue my life’s dream of writing Broadway musicals. By my calculations, I needed a full decade -and maybe a few spare years- to make that happen, and I didn’t want any distractions that could slow me down on the road to Tony Award-dom. Pfffft! Commanding and foreign-yet-somehow-familiar-but-freaky-because-you’re-only-19-and-you’ve-never-encountered-anything-like-that-before kinds of voices speaking clearly in your head have a way of making plans like those disappear in the mist without so much as a whimper.
As it turns out, he had a similar experience when he met me. That’s why it’s strange, but not really all that strange, about his aunt and our friends. If it’s true as Herman Melville suggests that “a thousand fibers connect us to our fellow man,” then I’ve come to believe a million fibers connect me to my husband in a fabric that transcends time and space. Our great-grandfathers x 8 both settled in a seaside town on Cape Cod years before the Mayflower ever set sail. Their families became lifelong friends and are buried together, the last one in 1658. When the Mayflower did set sail with it’s 102 passengers, three of my ancestors and six (probably eight) of his were on board. They knew each other. Some lived in Holland together before they sailed for the new world. If they lived in Holland together, then surely their ancestors lived and worshipped together in England. Each time these and many, many more “coincidences” came to light over time, I felt that same strange Twilight Zone music play. It started making the voice in my head that heralded her existence when I was nineteen years old seem rather normal.
Now, before you get all sad on me because you didn’t have a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks moment when you met your future spouse or before you decide to put off romance until it DOES happen, let me explain something. Those kinds of things happen for a reason, and the reason anything that spiritual happens is because you’re going to need it. If you’re going to need something that strong serving as the glue that keeps you together, then take it to the bank; you’re in for a wild ride. And what a ride it has been! We’ve had more joy than many and rougher times than most. Every time I thought I would throw in the towel, I reminded myself , “You believe you’re supposed to be together, you believe you’re supposed to be together,” yadayadayada. We’ve acknowledged our unique start, honored our unusual love, and had the most amazing adventures together; yet we’ve said and done terrible things, and we’ve hurt each other. Every time I thought to myself, “I’m so done,” a larger part of me laughed and said, “You’re not even close to done. Go fall in love again.” And so it has lasted.
Today is our 37th anniversary. When you look at it day-by-day, that seems like a long time. Frame it in the larger sense, and it’s nothing. It’s nine years less than my mother lived and sixteen years longer than our son lived. It’s half what my father lived and just a little more than twice what our nephew lived. Time is strange like that. It goes by slowly and drags on interminably. It flies by and there is so little of it. But time is the must-have ingredient in making great love stories, and ours is one of the really great ones – not because we’re cute and lovable and still hold hands, although we are, we are, and we do.
It’s true because we’ve lived through all components necessary to make a great love story – joy, laughter, hard work to make ends meet and hard work again when we got home. Pain and tragedy are necessary in the mix and so is coming back from the brink of disaster. We’ve had it all full measure and overflowing, and if you’re as blessed as we are, you will have it all, too. You just have to remember what my dad told me. The secret to a long marriage is this: “Every day, you wake up and say to yourself, ‘Today, I think I’ll stay married.'”
And to you, the man I love with every fiber of my being that stretches across time and space: I’m so not done with this.