Twenty-eight Glorious Years

April 23rd was Jim’s and my twenty-eighth wedding anniversary. Jim has been an integral part of my life for thirty years. We have passed the point where we have been in each other’s lives for more years than we weren’t. Life without Jim is not only unthinkable, it isn’t really even a memory any more.

 I think we have done a pretty good job of learning to love and live together. I often consider the many people who are unable to stay together in marriage. I wonder what separates us. Why are Jim and I still together, a team, and they have come unglued. I believe it has a lot to do with determination. I can’t imagine what else it might be. As much as I love Jim and as much as he loves me, we still bug the heck out of each other sometimes. We fight sometimes. We wake up cranky and aren’t as nice as we might be to each other. We drive each other nuts. But we never reach the point of not wanting to be together. I do not believe we have, either of us, felt that we would be better off without the other and that intention is the glue that holds us together.

 We make a pretty good team. We have born and raised three very special and wonderful children. We have created a family that is close and loving and that hangs together in good and tough times. We have raised children with strong and positive values and of whom we are very proud. That is good teamwork.

 We complement each other with our strengths and  lesser strengths. Jim is methodical. Methodical is not really one of my stronger qualities. Jim is a bit of a procrastinator. I love to work well ahead of deadlines. Jim is very nurturing. He was a wonderfully playful dad when our kids were young. But I get a lot of stuff accomplished. Jim is thoughtful. I am impulsive. Jim is intellectually acute and I am smart. We have a lot of yin and yang. There is both balance and completion in our union.

 April 23rd is also the anniversary of my father’s death. He died thirty years ago. It was a shock and an unexpected death. I adored my father and he adored me. He called me his “pride and joy” and having someone cherish you so deeply is a tremendous gift. I learned a lot from him about striving, hard work and being a self-starter. I admired him deeply, even as I recognized the challenges in his character.

 At the time of my father’s death, Jim and I had been seeing each other for just over a month. We had met the previous September when he started work at Warner Books as the assistant to the Editor-in-Chief. I worked in special markets. He was pretty cute, but kind of clueless. When my friend, Jill, and I checked him out, he remained oblivious to the process. The story of his coming to lunch with us in the cafeteria and working a crossword puzzle through the meal is family legend. It wasn’t until a bunch of the assistants went out for drinks one evening months later that I decided to give him a second look.

Even then Jim remained seemingly unaware of my overtures. Jill and I engaged in endless discussions speculating as to his studied indifference. Was he gay? Already claimed? Totally turned off by me? Patience not being one of my virtues, I finally just asked him out.

 Enlightenment followed. Jim hadn’t asked me out because he had no money. He couldn’t pay for my dinner. Gee, what made him think I wanted him to pay for me? I made the same princely salary he did. I was a Smithie.  I didn’t need anyone paying my way. With that understanding, we proceeded. 

 I got the news of my father’s death at work. My stepmother waited to call until I was at the office so I wouldn’t be alone. I flew home to a complicated family situation as is often the case in the wreckage of multiple marriages and divorce. My world was upended. The man who had been my rock and who I had loved and adored was gone. After two days I called Jim and asked him to come help me. I needed his support, someone in my corner of the ring. If he hesitated, it never showed. He took time off of work and flew to Chicago.

 We returned from Chicago after a week and have lived together ever since. Those first weeks were tough. I was a wreck. Jim didn’t have the money for a phone at his apartment so he just stayed with me in case I needed him. I don’t know that I could or would have been able to do that. I don’t know many people who could make that commitment. Jim is a very special person and those words don’t do enough to convey what I mean.

 We chose the anniversary of my father’s death for our wedding to turn a tragic day into a day of joy. In retrospect it seems particularly fitting as the mark of our commitment. When we talk about how long we have been married, it is de rigueur to say with a grimace and pained expression, “ Yes, twenty-eight glorious years.” Additional descriptors may be added such as “unrelenting,” “endless.” I guess it has been a long time. So much has happened. As the vows state, there has been sickness and health. There has been joy and sorrow. We haven’t always been perfect or perfect to each other, but we are a team and we are bound together by the glue of our commitment. We are committed to each other and to our marriage. I hope for at least another thirty years.

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