the gift that matters

Proof that love can conquer all…

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Seventeen years ago I said, “I do” to the man I had dated for four years and had been engaged for two.  It began at a table, with grinning guys, in college as I had sat there bewildered.  Unbeknownst to me, my good friend had harbored a crush over the three years I had known him.  But I was not ready.  My plans had been set.  I had a fifteen year plan and marriage had no place in it.

There was the time in Texas when I threatened to jump out of the moving vehicle to end our engagement.  The night that I yelled in St. Jude’s hospital room when my husband, (who had asphyxiated and was unresponsive at the bottom of his childhood pool and was rescued by our eldest son), finally awoke from being flat-lined with the audacity to ask how long had he held his breath?   The day I had cried when we crossed the state line into Louisiana and had difficulty understanding anything anyone said; the heavy southern accent questioning my wisdom of moving across the country.  The Republican and the Democrat.  The NRA toting military guy and the Greenpeace, Save-the-World gal.  The heathen and the Catholic.  The introvert and the extrovert.  He is the yang to my yin.

My mother had been relieved that someone would finally marry her only daughter.  She hoped the guy would last.

This man has felt the depths of my wrath, has given me his shoulder to mourn the death of my mother and say the countless goodbyes to friends from over sixteen years of military moves.  He continues to quietly stand nearby as I serve others.  I learned resilience as he served our country and I raised our sons; the boys we continue to grow into men.    They are blessed to have an easy-going, hands-on father who plays Team Fortress 2 in the dark den, boy/man-cave and watches blood and guts war/alien/zombie/apocalypse movies.  On my girls’ nights out they happily look forward to their boys’ nights in.

He is simple in all the right ways and always knows his center as I orbit around him.  I am the Earth and he is my sun.

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On this anniversary day we made no big plans.  We contemplated a trip to a local winery, sitting in a jazz club or walking art museums.  My late riser had awakened early to find flowers and placed them throughout our home.  I dragged him to my local coffee house to a cup of lukewarm coffee.  We began to clean our house, something a couple normally wouldn’t choose to do on their special day.  The hubs’ only prerequisite was in being together.  The in-laws insisted they would babysit the teens and ten year old.  But instead of an intimate romantic getaway day for two, we chose to stay close to home.  After a hectic week of back-to-school nights, PTA audits and two booster meetings, our home was a disaster; the house that is our sanctuary.   The mobile device(s) were banned for most of today; the focus on our home life as we put things back in place.  For dinner we chose to sit in a local brewery watching college football games and brought home pizza for our sons.

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I rarely reflect on the fifteen year plan I had chosen to leave.  I had been selected to become a naval flight surgeon to eventually become a geriatric oncologist.  I had been on my way.  I lived in Chicago whilst he was in flight school in Pensacola; the distance making the heart grow fonder.   Each week I would check in with the commander who laid out my future; until the week in February, when he said the words that would seal my fate.  I would never be stationed near my future husband if I continued in our relationship.  I would have to resign myself to duty first.  His  flight orders would be nowhere near where I needed to be.  I flew to Florida on Valentine’s day and arrived to flowers.   After that one year in medical school, I chose to leave the predestined path I had chosen at age thirteen.  I hadn’t really known if this guy would be “the one,” twenty-one years ago, but I knew it was time to listen to my heart and forge my own way.  I chose him.

I was surprised by the responses to my spontaneous Facebook post from friends spanning months and decades; all welcome.  I am reminded of those years by the friends who had occupied them, and continue to grow with those who currently reside along with us.  The years brought out our differences; testing our mettle if love really was enough.  There have been times they seemed irreconcilable: pride, envy, greed, false expectations and distance creating the divide.  At times the grass seemed greener on the other side.  Love is not perfect.  But with time we have moved towards the center; our opposing views converging into moderate ones.  We continue to strive; to get the balance right.

Each year  on our anniversary I revisit it; the verse read at our wedding.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV.

On our wedding day my mother-in-law revealed the flowers my bridesmaids and I would hold.  The church pews were filled with their scent.  It is my happiest and most favorite memory of that day; fragrant flowers.  Over the years I’ve received countless things from my hubs, big and small.  He’s surprised me when I thought he was deployed, written notes and sent gifts from faraway places.  I am empty-handed this anniversary day.  Over the years I, too, have come up with elaborate activities and thoughtful gifts.  But he reminded me that it’s really very simple.

Physical presence; not expensive presents is all he ever needs.

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This morning his simple act of hunting for flowers, in our local Walmart at 6AM, warrants the very top of my list.  It isn’t about the material things in the end.  Love is the proof and can conquer all.  I grab his hand  and hold on, forever and always.

 

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