I’ll never forget my friend Nadine’s wedding. It was springtime in the Bay Area and the sky was drizzly all day, but the moment she and Darryl took their vows, the sun came out (I swear).
It felt like a miracle even though I didn’t believe in that kind of thing.
At the reception they served Asti Spumante, all you can drink. Naturally Bill and I drank it all. Everyone sang “That’s What Friends are For” and at least one bridesmaid crawled under a table.
At some point I found Bill dancing with salt and pepper shakers, one in each hand (I swear). When I joined him, he came in close and yelled, “I love the shit out of you!” in my ear.
I took him upstairs to our hotel room where he promptly passed out on the bed.
Four months later we were engaged. We got married one year afterward. That was 22 years ago and we were 27 then, so you do the math then keep it to yourself.
This past week I spent many hours glued to my computer revising a manuscript on a tight deadline. I woke up Sunday morning with a very sore jaw and told Bill, “Either I’ve been gritting my teeth forever or I slept funny on my face.”
He shrugged and said, “Your face looks fine,” because he can’t always be yelling romance into my ear.
When I asked him to get me some Advil please, he asked how many and I said, “Four. What am I, a wimp?”
He gave me a look and got me the Advil. Then he tweaked his back moving a table over to the shade.
That’s what happens when it’s been hot forever and you’re 22 years older than you were when you got married.
I asked him, “Do you want four Advil?”
He said, “What am I, a drug addict?”
“You’re a smart ass,” I said, and we both laughed.
After the Advil kicked in, we got in the pool because it’s been hot forever and we’ve both been working a lot, and it felt good to float on rafts while our kids were out of the house at their summer jobs.
Jack and Karly came home mid-June and they leave again next month. It’s been nice having them here. They’re kind people and also funny. They get that from their dad (I swear).
So we were floating on rafts and Bill said, “This empty nest thing hasn’t been too bad. Like, I think we’re better than ever.”
Kids? If you’re reading this, I clearly love you more than Dad does.
(OK, I’m kidding. We love you exactly the same and we miss you when you’re in Oregon, but also we’re fine, and isn’t that good to know?)
Anyway, this got me thinking about the long haul of marriage—the up-high moments and the down-lows. Then the high-ups that hopefully come back around again if you’re lucky.
We’ve been lucky.
Two years ago for our 20th anniversary, Bill surprised me with a ring that had nine tiny diamonds in the band. We were one month from our first tuition installment to the University of Oregon, so naturally I blurted out, “We have to pay for college! We can’t afford this!”
Bill shrugged. “We can’t afford college.” He’s a smart ass and also not wrong.
So I started a new job at the public library and we kept buying generic Advil. Eight-ish months ago, one of the tiny stones fell out of my ring while I was at work. For a few weeks I kept the ring hooked to my keys thinking I’d get it repaired, but I never did.
Eventually I put the ring back on anyway.
This Friday is our anniversary (again!) so while we were still floating in the pool on our rafts, I asked Bill if he thought I should get a new tiny stone put in.
“If it’s not too expensive,” I added. “Obviously.”
He shrugged. “Sure.” Then he reminded me about the time the guy who sold us the solitaire for my engagement ring was arrested for selling fakes, so you do the math then keep it to yourself.
What I’m saying is there’s no such thing as perfect.
And sometimes miracles look like the sun coming out as you promise to stay together forever.
Or two smart-asses laughing with each other when their jaws are sore and their backs are tweaked.
And we all weather storms and fires, wins and losses, disappointments and joys, rejections and embraces.
Empty nests. Empty diamond sockets.
We keep wearing our rings anyway.
So Happy Anniversary, Bill Gardner.
For 22 years you’ve stuck by me. You’re funny and kind, and you only made me dance with salt and pepper shakers once.
You’re better than a miracle.
We’re better than ever.
And I love the shit out of you, too.
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