A different kind of love story


I write about the first date that became a lifetime of memories. And to think that it almost didn’t happen.

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As I made the long drive home from that busy weekend 25 years ago, I kept replaying the weekend in my mind. I spun the weekend backward and forward, from the moment I arrived at her apartment to our first awkward kiss and then leaving the next day.

Back in the days before text and email, we talked on the phone and wrote each other for months. I came to count on her notes and cards like my life depended on it. I ran to the mailbox each day to see if another card came. If one was there, I flew to the house, my feet never touching the ground. If not, I did my best Eeyore-impersonation, trudging back inside, head down, all the while making plans in my mind to write or call her.

All I knew was that for the first time in my life I felt like I could let the veil drop and be myself. I didn’t have to play a role, but I could be authentic and real. I could be happy or sad, excited or confused. I could be myself. I could be everything that I previously couldn’t be with others. While I felt excited about our budding friendship and where we were headed, I still couldn’t let my emotions get too far in front of me since we were early in the relationship.

‘But here’s my number, so call me maybe’

In the end, we found that we had more in common then we already knew and while I didn’t know everything about her, I knew that I wanted to learn more. Why else would I spend my first weekend off in weeks sitting in a crowded Washington, D.C. hotel conference room full of teachers and administrators listening to a behavioral psychologist lecture on how best to integrate severely autistic children into regular education classrooms?

My friend had to attend the conference. I could have easily begged off and found something else to do. I could have suggested another weekend, but, of course, I wanted to be with her and I drove home excited and even shocked that I had opened up to her as much as I had.

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Faith in a bright future together

From that weekend, she and I planted the seeds of friendship that would lead to bigger and better things. We would date for a year and a half and then get married on a rainy weekend in October. And boy did it rain that day, but those early days have led to so many more happy days. We celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary this week.

When I think back over the years, I think often on how lucky we’ve been to make it this far. I could have easily called off my visit. I could have gotten lost or frustrated with the traffic, ruining my good mood and the impression I gave off when we met. A million things could have gone wrong. We could have stumbled at any point along the way.

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Hard work and perseverance

I’m not even talking about everything that has happened over the past 23 years. Like most marriages, we’ve had to work to keep the relationship strong. We’ve had our good days and our bad. We’re not perfect. (Okay, I am, but we don’t need to remind my beautiful wife.)

In any event, as hard as I try, I’ve never been able to figure out the magic sauce: Why we’ve been able to make it work. I have my theories that hard work; love forged in a fire of medical and nonmedical challenges; stubbornness; and a million other factors have played a key role, but your guess is as good as mine.

In the end, I thank God for our luck and pray for many years to come. Happy Anniversary to my better half.

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