Friday, June 6, 2008
Tonight we're heading to San Luis Obispo to stay at the Madonna Inn. Tomorrow we're heading to Oakland to catch the A's-Angels game, thanks to free tickets from Jenny's cool boss. Location? Fifth row, home plate.
What's the occasion?
Nothing much, just a celebration of our twentieth anniversary (technically: June 8th).
That's right. Jenny and I have been married for two decades.
One silly little blog post will not do justice to how lucky I feel to have been married to Jenny for 20 years. And one weekend of celebration (resting of Sunday, of course) will not adequately reflect the significance of this milestone. But it's something to say this: I married "up."
Anyone who knew me back in high school recalls a fellow with a big mouth but not much discipline. That's why I joined the Navy; I had no other options. That, and the fact that my grandfather was a sailor too.
I hit boot camp, and it hit me back. I couldn't wear my uniform right, I couldn't march straight, and I couldn't seem to avoid pissing off my company commander. I just couldn't seem to keep my stuff in one sock (though I distinctly recall a different word for "stuff" back then). Somehow I managed to squeak through and snag my spot in journalism school.
There again, though, I was a screw-up. Sure, I was smart enough. I could understand the material and I showed promise as a writer. But the exacting discipline of the work, the demands of correctness, frustrated me. It was easier to go my own way rather than to follow orders. For a while, it seemed like I'd wash out.
But I was engaged to Jenny back then, and I knew I had to straighten up.
As now, Jenny was kind, trusting, and resilient. She'd thrown her lot in with me, even though she could have done much better. She could have found a fellow with a better career path, with better prospects, and with better looks. But she stuck with me through the hard times.
So I knew that I couldn't screw this thing up.
I endured boot camp and survived my schooling because I wanted to be worthy of Jenny.
And more than anything, I wanted to be stationed near her.
Naturally the Navy sent me to Rota, Spain.
So she and I got married and started our family overseas.
We kept a dingy, cold, tick-infected apartment in town, me working 12 hour shifts and her not knowing a soul. I was tired; she was lonely. It was a miserable way to start a marriage. I was always stressed over something, so even when I returned to our flat, she didn't get a break, just a cranky sailor.
Some Navy spouses leave, but she stayed.
We decided to have a baby, and pretty soon we had to transform our wretched apartment into a place suitable for a child. Jenny and I spent our Saturdays "yard sale-ing," shopping for bargains to furnish the baby's room, and we attended evening parenting classes. I did what I had to do as a father, I guess, but it was she who transformed our apartment into a home.
Jenny tackled motherhood without proximity to her family or even a husband who had a clue what it meant to be a father.
I could go on, but twenty years is worth a book, not a blog post. Suffice to say that when we returned stateside I had to find a job, get a degree, start a career, and grow up as a man. We had tough times. We faced predatory landlords, wrecked cars, empty bank accounts, and terrible arguments. Our "salad days" sucked.
But Jenny stuck with me.
She and I attended Berry College, where we both finished our bachelor's degrees. We then moved to Ohio, where she worked while I continued school. We ate because Jenny brought food home from the restaurants where she waited tables. We kept our budget balanced because Jenny took the needle every week at the blood bank. And our daughter grew up into a fine young woman because Jenny taught her to read, ride a bike, and believe in herself.
I was in our family. Jenny made our family.
And now it's been twenty years. We live in a home that reflects our shared work and sacrifice. We have a daughter heading off to a fine college. And we have learned to treat each other with kindness, respect, and patience. It was never easy, but it was worth it.
I can't wait to see what the next two decades hold.