Slice of Life Day 29 of 31: Journeys
Fourteen years ago today, we got married. The journey of a marriage is unlike any other trip we’ll ever take in this life. Our journey began……well, with a wreck.
We met in church, set up by a triple team of his mother, his brother, and my college roommate. They predicted some hopeful chemistry between us.
One Sunday after church in April 2007, I saw him striding my way across the parking lot, smiling the smile of a happy man, his hand extended to shake mine and introduce himself. He had on the second most hideous tie I’d ever seen (the first being one made of rabbit fur by the wife of a deacon that had prompted bowed heads and averted eyes like witnesses to a train wreck when the deacon had turned around to face the congregation holding the offering plate after the Doxology). It was abundantly clear to me that with a tie like this with a pair of tigers emblazoned on it, there was no other love interest on the sidelines giving him any assistance on what not to wear.
But the confident smile and the way he carried himself told me I might want to meet him for lunch at Papa Willie’s Barbecue in Williamson, Georgia as he offered. Lunch turned into dinner before he asked if I wanted to go on a second date to ride through the rural countryside on his motorcycle to see the beauty of the county’s back roads. I reluctantly agreed, and just as I’d imagined, the second date was the cut point. My own fears and insecurities, inner demons I couldn’t ignore, shut all future promise down. I rejected a third date there on the concrete picnic table in Williamson as we drank orange Gatorade.
A week later, as my son’s graduating class threw their caps in the air, I got a text from a friend.
Have you heard about the wreck? Call me.
I had a four hour drive home that night, long enough to hear all about the car that had crashed through the Mojo’s Wings restaurant window and pinned his parents underneath it as they’d sat near the window holding hands across the table. The window had sounded like an explosion as it shattered, shooting shards of glass in all directions, cutting his face as he was placing his order at the counter. Miraculously, no one was killed, as horrific as it had been.
My friend and I organized our plan to bring a meal of raisin ham, scalloped pineapple, and sweet tea to the family as part of our church’s meal train once they were all home from the hospital.
He was staying with his parents, assisting them as they recovered, and avoided my eyes after greeting us and thanking us for the food. As I studied him, I saw a man, injured, taking care of his parents through a nightmare of a freak accident. A man who appreciated the beauty of the countryside so much that he had made it a date. A man divorced for sixteen years, whose mother had kept telling him that God would bring him the woman right for him- not to settle along the way out of impatience. And I knew in my heart I had acted irrationally by turning down that third date.
I got home and sent him a text asking if he wanted to talk. He did. So we talked on the phone late into the night – about the accident, about the graduation, about family, about aspirations and goals and dreams. And we planned a third date to the Griffin City Park, where we sat on the swing and talked all afternoon about more of everything. One thing was crystal clear: he communicated. A lot.
And so we continued going on the kinds of dates where we interacted- dinner, the aquarium, the park, long drives, festivals, dog walks, the simple places filled with beauty – not the kind where we watched a movie. We took an active interest in each other.
On that swing in the Griffin City Park is right where he proposed to me on February 16, 2008, with a smashed Cracker Jack ring I’d found in the parking lot of a Gordon Lightfoot concert. He’d somehow fished this mangled piece of metal out of my pocket without my knowing, resurrected it, breathed new life into something once twisted and smashed and flattened beyond recognition, and proposed with it- promising me a lifetime of love and commitment, telling me he wanted us to go together to pick out a better ring.
Down on one knee in a royal blue button down shirt and a pair of jeans, he asked me to be his wife as a matching royal blue car (unplanned) drove past with a teenage boy hanging out the passenger side window, celebrating and fist pumping the air as I said “YES!”
And we married in a small church ceremony just over a month later.
I thought about that tiger tie long after I’d walked down the aisle wearing a pair of strappy sandals I’d spray painted to match the shimmery glitter in my gown, after I’d held my head out the window of the car to dry my hair on the way to the altar, where someone told me I needed lipstick before walking down the aisle. What free-spirited hippie wearing spray painted glittery wedding sandals with wind-blown hair and passing thoughts of lipstick can judge a tacky tiger tie? (A tie he still wears, a tie that has grown on me).
Today, I’m grateful that at least one of us remembers it’s our wedding anniversary. Because on year ten, he sat bolt upright in bed when we were just on the verge of sleep, and asked, “Do you remember what today is?”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.