I Got A Woman.

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I bolt awake at 4 am.

Max has a baseball tournament in Sunnyvale, the first game of which begins at 8 am. Show up time is 7 am. The drive will take an hour. We’ll need to be on the road by 6 am. Raising Max from his slumber will take 5 minutes. Tyga’s “Rack City” is my go-to with Max. Guaranteed to jumpstart his sleepy head and elicit some odd hip-hop moves that I should probably forbid.

Scrambling around the house collecting all the pieces of Max’s uniform will take 15 minutes. (This despite my orders last night to have everything packed, zipped, and ready to go.) Net, net, this all means a 5:30 am wake-up call. It’s only 4 am, but I slip out from under the covers, taking inventory on various aches and pains, exacerbated by a night’s sleep short by a couple hours.

This is how I begin the morning of Hilary and my 17th wedding anniversary. This is what my life has come to.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’ve had a rough year, of sorts. Family and friends have passed away. I’ve endured several months of being considerably less than 100%. We have weathered a handful of bitter disappointments. Slights real and slights imagined.

All of which has served to give me perhaps the deepest and broadest perspective on my marriage, and on my life, that I’ve managed to conjure up in my 45 years.

The Lemonade–Grandma’s Lemonade–is tasting pretty good. Even with the wooden spoon picked up off the floor, particles of dirt stirred in there. Maybe a long black hair entwined around one of the ice cubes. A few too many lemon seeds in there, one of which tries to ruin my sip by jumping into my thirsty mouth along with a big gulp. Gonna need to try harder than that, seed.

So yeah, I’m feeling thankful this morning, 17 years to the day from when Hilary first showed me how much stronger and tougher she is than I —

She strode purposefully down the red-carpeted aisle, standing tall, clear-eyed, solid.

I, on the other hand, was a puddle. Tears welled up in my eyes rendering me nearly blind, squinting to keep my eyes trained on my approaching bride-to-be. My throat so tight. Had I spoken during her proud walk, Kermit the Frog’s voice would have come out. At best. My head swam. It was all I could do to keep my feet and not topple over.

It got worse during the actual ceremony. My Best Man had the foresight to bring along something should I need to wipe my brow or cough. Unfortunately, that something was a wad of toilet paper. So there I stood, my face dripping sweat into my burning eyes. My eyes overflowing with tears. My cheeks blushing red. Little pieces of toilet paper clinging to my face as I swabbed myself repeatedly, in a desperate attempt to keep my shit together.

In my wretched state, I glance at her. Her eyes hold mine. Her smile so calm and confident. Her right hand squeezing my left just a bit harder now. Pushing her strength into me. I pull through. Depleted, drained, spent, tapped out. I pulled through. But only because of her.

I mentioned it’s been a rough year. But this is when Hilary is at her best, you see. Our wedding day was just my first glimpse of that truth. So during this tough patch, she remains: Unwavering. Loyal. Her hand literally or figuratively squeezing mine. Squeezing allof our hands — my hands as well as those of our sons.

So these are the warm thoughts in my head as I return to Earth and have to sprint across the chewing tobacco-stained and sunflower seed-littered parking lot to catch the start of Max’s 8 am game.

Maybe not exactly the sort of anniversary Hilary had in mind.

Then again, maybe exactly the kind of anniversary she had in mind, because I’m spending the morning with our first-born. His birth was the second time Hilary showed me how much stronger and tougher she is than I. So it seems fitting that today I get to sit and just watch him zip around the field for the next few hours; one of several amazing things, the product of 17 years ago today.

Happy Anniversary, my love. And please keep squeezing my hand. 🙂

Thanks for reading.

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