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Fortunately, water beds were cheap, at least in comparison to real mattresses, and even though that first night in an unheated water bed was pretty miserable, it still remains one of the better purchase-under-pressure decisions I've ever made. This story, however, is not about the waterbed or bachelor apartments or my first naive experience in corporate America, which had prompted this move. No, strangely enough, this story is about love.
Prior to moving I worked at Kraft Foods in Garland, TX. I started work there in 1981, fresh out of college, as an Accounting Supervisor intern. Not long after starting work at Kraft my boss, Quinn Hunter, decided it would be a good idea to sit me next to someone a little more outgoing. Apparently he thought I was too shy and quiet. Little did he (or me or she!) know, that one day I would marry his outgoing accounting clerk.
Before I moved to Atlanta there was an obligatory going away party, thrown by "the gals" in the office. This was immediately followed by a trip to Pampa, sort of a "I'm moving far away and don't know when I'll get back this way" trip home. By 'immediately' I mean the morning after the going away party. I had arranged for my previously assigned outgoing co-worker to drive me to the airport that morning. She pounded on the door of my apartment at some hour that I was not prepared for and proceeded to wake me up, get me packed and deliver me to the airport in time for my flight. At some point on the trip between the apartment and the airport, despite my massive hangover, the trepidation of a family visit and the uncertainty of my future, I realized that I needed this woman in my life. At the ticket counter, as she was getting my baggage checked and making sure I had my ticket and boarding pass, I asked her to marry me.
Her response, if I recall correctly, was to laugh. Not just a "ha-ha aren't you cute" laugh, or a nervous "are you serious?" laugh, but a grown woman "are you effing kidding me?" laugh. Fortunately, as it turned out, I was in too much physical discomfort to let it seriously discourage me.
So I moved to Atlanta, and my love stayed in Dallas. We spent way too much time on the phone (because in those days, long distance was expensive!) and when I wasn't talking to her on the phone, I was writing letters, the old fashioned kind. Pen. Paper. Envelopes. Stamps. My regular routine would be to come home from work, whip up something cheap and quick to eat, stroll across the street to pick up a six pack of Stroh's if necessary (you couldn't get Coors in Atlanta back then ... see Smokey and the Bandit for reference) and spend the evening doodling and writing letters on a legal pad. Sometimes I would write Eddie, or Linda, or even my Mom, but I always wrote to Cindy, even if I didn't always mail them. The point is there was a lot of time to think, and my thoughts always ended up with her. When she came to visit on Labor Day I asked her to marry me again, and this time, she did not laugh.
I couldn't even guess what I wrote in all those letters, and given the grumpy old bastard I've turned out to be if they ever showed up in public I'd have to deny I wrote them. But whatever I wrote about love and life and a life together in those letters, well, it couldn't be nearly as perfect as the last thirty years have turned out to be.
Today is our 30th wedding anniversary. Wow. Thirty years. I wish I could take credit for it, but thirty year relationships are not an individual accomplishment. I could say "this is the secret" or "don't do this" or "it's all unicorns and puppies and rose petals!" but the truth is that I have no explanation or answer or secret. I love my wife. There's work and fun, pleasure and pain, heartache and joy but there is no explanation, no secret, no formula. We are two individuals who love each other, are committed to each other, respect each other and somehow, in this miraculous, God-created world, we live as one flesh. I do not want to imagine life without her. She is not just my right arm. She is me, we are one. I completely understand how people, who haven't lived life alongside us, can look at us and say "what an odd couple", but then, they haven't been down our path, have they? People who believe in the mystery of love, however, get it. They know.
I could tell you how wonderful my wife is, from taking care of me at the airport to standing beside me when a loved one dies, from forgiving my flaws to encouraging my strengths, from loving my family as her own to growing our "family" beyond the bounds of blood, but I assume you already know she's a saint for marrying and putting up with me. I could tell you a thousand funny, insightful, poignant, meaningful stories about these last thirty years, but I'm sure you have your own. All I can truly say is that I would not be the man I am today without her, and I would not want to be any other man.
Love you more, Cinderella. You up for thirty more?