I almost always wake up before her. Sometimes I get right up and start my day. But this morning, I wake up spooning her. My leg is between hers, her head is on my numb left arm and the right one is draped over her waist. Somehow her hand has ended up right under mine. I slide mine over it, lacing our fingers together gently. It’s just as perfect a fit as it was the first time we held hands.
She smells like shampoo and sex. The thought of it makes me smile a little. Softly, I kiss her shoulder and leave my lips on her skin. Closing my eyes, I silently thank God for bringing her to me. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been more than worth it. Scenes from our life flash through my head. I close my eyes and let them flood my mind….
An 8th birthday party where we surprised the birthday boy by coming to his party when we told him we couldn’t come. It didn’t matter that we’d brought him a present. He cried for ten minutes, clinging to her like she was a life jacket and he was on the Titanic. They played so hard for so long that they were both sound asleep on her mother’s couch by 7pm. And they both had Kool-Aid mustaches and icing on their shirts. I still have pictures of the cuteness.
The most beautiful ocean side commitment ceremony where she was the best “man” for her very best childhood friend. He and his partner were so handsome and I couldn’t have been more proud of her when she managed to not cry (she’d been worried that she would, but she didn’t). She’d worked all week on the perfect toast and delivered it without a problem. She danced with both grooms and then, as the last of the guests was leaving, she pulled me onto the dance floor and we held each other close through 5 songs. She whispered, “Do you think we’ll ever do this someday?” I smiled and whispered back, “Only if you’re lucky.”
The birth of my first niece was quite the ordeal! She and the baby’s father couldn’t stand being in the room while my sister struggled through contractions. And when it came time to really push and have the baby, I wasn’t sure which one was closer to fainting, but they both made it through without hitting the floor. Afterwards, she grabbed me in a tight hug and I whispered, “Nothing like witnessing a miracle, huh?” She whispered back, “I witness a miracle every day I get to wake up with you.” Oh yeah, she’s a keeper.
Valentine’s Day two years ago, she went all out. She rented a cabin in the mountains, made a dinner to die for, slow-danced with me in the living room, fed me chocolate-covered strawberries, and took me to bed. The next morning I woke up to bacon, fresh orange juice, eggs, a backrub, a fire in the fireplace, and roses. Yet another moment I felt in my soul that I’m right where I should be.
September 8th of last year, she met her idol because I’d bought tickets for her birthday. She planned out exactly what she wanted to say…eloquent words of thanks and praise and adoration. When the time came, though, she couldn’t get a single word to come out of her mouth. It didn’t matter. Her facial expression said everything for her. After the autograph and pictures, as we were walking away, she asked, “I did okay, right? I mean, I didn’t look like an idiot?” My response? “No, baby, you did great.” I know, I know…but little tiny lies don’t hurt all that much. And she was in the best mood for days after that…the lie was worth it.
The day my book came out, she went to the local Barnes & Noble and stood by the display like she worked there. She’d picked out the cover art and the picture of me that went with my bio on the back. She didn’t sleep at all the night before and when 7am came, she was dressed and heating up the car for me. We were to arrive at the store for a book signing at 8am. I signed books and she single-handedly sold almost every copy they had! She was so proud of me. And I was just as proud of her. She kept saying, “This is my wife, she wrote this.” A little part of me smiles the biggest smile when she says things like that. Her pride in me that day helped me learn to be proud of myself.
She tripped 3 times running into the house to tell me she’d gotten her dream job. Falling in a heap on the living room floor, she couldn’t speak because she was breathing too hard. I knelt beside her, concerned that she’d hurt herself. A big smile spread across her face and she tackled me. Between kisses she told me her news and we both cried happy tears. I was so proud of her. We went out for pizza and she insisted that she needed business cards. I just shook my head, grinned, and told her we’d design something when we got home. She ordered 500. I think she’s given out 40. But she’s so proud of them and they made her smile so big… they were worth every penny.
The big fishing expedition she went on with my dad was an epic adventure. Three whole days they spent fishing at the river. Daddy got sun burnt. She ended up with chapped skin because of the wind. They lost two rods, 1 chair, daddy’s cap, 3 containers of bait, countless hooks, miles of fishing line, and most of their pride…… But the 4 fish they caught (yes, 4 fish for 3 days) were really good. They didn’t, however, go fishing again for 6 months! This story always makes me crack up.
“It’s gone.” We heard those words sitting in my doctor’s office 4 weeks after surgery to remove the cancerous tumor I’d lived with for years. I could only blink. She reached out for my hand and asked him, “Are you sure?” When he began to cry and could only nod, she looked at me. Everything moved in slow motion and I wasn’t sure I could speak English when I turned to face her, “What did he say?” She stroked my cheek, a couple of tears dripped off her eyelashes when she said, “It’s over, baby. You don’t have cancer anymore.” I was half blind in one eye, not healing well, bald, had barely any voice at all, lost weight to the point of looking seriously ill, and paler than I’d ever been. I asked what that meant, as if I didn’t understand a word of what she’d said. She replied, “That means I get to live a lot more years with the most beautiful woman I’ve ever known.” My brain woke up just enough to reply, “Then I need to introduce you to my girl.” I think our lives started over that day.
A swing in the park just down the road from her house is where I was sitting when she walked up to me. We’d been “hanging out” for almost 2 hours. She rubbed her hands on her jeans and took a deep breath. A little shaky, but holding herself together, she pretended to be more aggressive than she really felt by asking, “So are you going to kiss me or what?” Smiling at her, I said, “No. You’re going to kiss me.” The world stopped when her lips touched mine that first time. And we were suddenly two little girls who loved the other with a grown-up love you only read about in sappy romance novels. We both agree that it was the single best “first kiss” anyone in the history of history has ever had. It was a damn good kiss!
Holding a box in my hand, scared half out of my mind, and convinced this was NOT going to go the way I wanted, I took her out for her birthday. We ate a great meal, went to see a play that she loved, and then I took her to the top of the tallest building in the city for “dessert”. That is where I asked her to marry me. She cried, I cried, the waitress cried, the chef cried, the food was free, and everyone held their breath for her answer. The table in the back corner, just to the right of the bar, out of sight so there’s a little privacy, is where she cried and made me the happiest woman alive when she said yes.
Our ceremony was on a pier at the beach. Seventy-five of our closest friends and family were there when we promised “forever” to each other. When we kissed at the end, fireworks (real ones) went off over our heads. That was her surprise to me. They were perfect. My wedding gift to her was her bride’s maids. I flew her best friends in so they could surprise her. When we finally got to our hotel room (booked for that special occasion, naturally), we had every intention of spending our wedding night the same way most newlyweds do. When we woke up snuggled into each other on the lounger the following morning, neither of us remembered what happened. The speculation of what happened has amused us for years. Our latest explanation is that we were abducted by aliens.
We’ve argued and fussed and gotten really, really mad at each other. We’ve thrown a few things, said a bunch of words we didn’t mean, and made up passionately, aggressively, and thoroughly. We are alike in many ways, the biggest being that we’re both very hard-headed. But over the years I’ve realized that we’re not just hard-headed about the “bad things”. We are just as strong willed when it comes to staying together, compromising, and saying “I love you” every day. We firmly believe in family first, love can overcome anything, and that my Mama’s crazy.
My eyes fly open when she moves and whispers to me, “Good morning.”
“Good morning,” I kiss her shoulder again and she sighs softly.
“I love you,” she whispers.
“And I love you.”
After a momentary pause she asks, “I had a dream about our first kiss. Do you remember it?”
I refuse to break her heart, so I lie a little (yes, again) and try not to smile, “No, but why don’t you tell me about it and maybe it’ll trigger my memory.”
“Ok,” she says excitedly, “remember when we want to that park…”
I zone out just long enough to thank God for my life…..and the beautiful, talented, silly, complex, engaging, brilliant, supportive, sexy, passionate, opinionated, loyal, amazing, made-just-for-me woman that is my wife.