As I write this I imagine you on your way to work in your red pickup, your warm cap pulled down over your ears, a little of your scruffy hair escaping out the sides. Or maybe you’re there already, digging into the jobs you’re good at. I lost track of how long it’s been since you found me buried under a pile of covers and pillows to kiss me good morning before the sun peeked over the buttes. I turned over and pulled those covers back up over my head, waiting for a more reasonable hour to rise from my dreams.
Husband, I have known you since you were a 12-year-old boy with hair just as unruly as it was this morning as you ran your callused hands through it. I knew you when your locker was six down from mine and you would walk with me to class. I knew you when your yellow lab, Rebel, was alive and young and he would pull you on your roller blades down the street. I was there when you heard your parents had to put him down.
I knew you when you wore your football jersey on our hometown field on Friday nights. I sat in the stands to watch you play and then waited for you at the gate after the game. I was there when you broke your ribs on the wrestling mat, I heard the stories about wrecking you bike, dislocating your shoulder in a three-wheeler accident, and the one about the fish-hook that somehow got lodged in your finger. I was there when you got that shiner senior year.
I lay next to you at night and trace your scars. I know where they came from, and I am thankful for that.
I am thankful that you picked up the phone to call me one summer evening only to find me crying on the other end of the line, catching my breath between whimpers to tell you about how I jumped off a small cliff at the lake and wrecked my ankle and my chance at making the A-squad basketball team. How was I to know that would be the first of a lifetime of comforting and level-headed conversations spent with you? How was I to know that hurting my ankle wasn’t the end of the world, but that conversation with you was the beginning of a life spent with a man who never hangs up?
A man who called again and then, when he learned to drive, drove thirty miles and way too fast every Sunday to the middle of nowhere to catch a girl with equally unruly hair mowing the lawn, painting the barn, riding a horse, digging in the garden or laying out in the summer sunshine.
Yes, husband, I knew you then. I knew you when your plans didn’t extend past Saturday night, but your future was blindingly bright. I knew you when your pants were too baggy, your music too loud and you thought you were invincible, bulletproof and incapable of breaking hearts. I was there when you learned it wasn’t true.
And, thankfully, you knew me. You knew that if you showed up, played chess with my little sister, talked guns with my dad and made my mother laugh that you would be able to take that trip every Sunday. You knew to tell me true things, because an honest man might not always win, but in the end, at least he is an honest man.
And so husband, here’s what I have to tell you today.
Each time I see you walking through that door after work or catch you cooking in our tiny kitchen, the smell of your soup filling my nostrils, each time I find you in your easy chair, feet kicked up after a day filled with work, I remember for a moment that boy I used to know and my heart starts beating the same way it did when you would meet me at my locker, when I would pick up your evening phone calls or see your old Thunderbird pull into my parent’s driveway.
But there you are, a man. A good man who cooks and fixes things and doesn’t make a damn fuss when I cry over things there’s no use crying about. A man whose heart is planted here right next to mine in a place that grew me, that grew us, up and together and away and back again. Husband, I might not always run to the door when you swing it open, my hands might be busy, my head might be somewhere else. Love, I might not always take a moment to curl up on your lap when you are in your favorite chair, I might not bring us a blanket because there might not be time that evening to sit. My Man, I might not wrap my arms around you when you are stirring a soup or making a mess in our kitchen, but I should.
My 16 year-old head over heals self would.
Because all that 16 year-old-head-over-heals-self wanted in the whole world, all of the wishes she used up on stars that fell and clocks that turned to 11:11 were wishes for a lifetime spent with you–waking up to your kisses, falling asleep in your arms, eating your cooking and building our home.
Yes, that 16-year-old-self had some things right, but she mostly knew nothing at all.
She mostly took a huge risk with her wishes spent on a teenage boy with unruly hair and pants that didn’t fit right. She knew nothing about life really. Nothing about the things that happen between those morning kisses and evening meals.
So here’s what your 28-year-old-head-over-heals-wife has to say to you today.
Thank you. Thank you for the every day good-morning kisses, yes, but mostly thank you for fighting with me without ever raising your voice or your fist, pushing me to stand up for myself and never hanging up on me no matter how many times I’ve done it to you. Thanks for staying true to yourself no matter how I push and for understanding that there are some things that you can’t change about me (like my addiction to shoes) and for not giving up on the things that are worth changing (like my lack of self-confidence and tendency to leave the back hatch of my car open over night). Thank you for never walking away in an argument, never sleeping on the couch and for always calling before you leave town to see if I need anything from the grocery store.
Thank you for fixing the things I break.
I break a lot of things.
And thank you for making me pick out and purchase my own car and schedule my own oil changes but always coming to my rescue when my tire is flat or the thing doesn’t start.
Thank you for coming with me to ride horses and for patiently teaching me, every day, how to properly use our complicated T.V. remote.
At 16 when I wished for you forever, I didn’t know that these things were important. I didn’t think about who would do the taxes or build our house, unclog the hair from the drain or clean up the puppy poop on the floor. I thought all you needed was love and affection. Those things you gave me, so I thought the other stuff came easy and fell into place like the things that happen in the “happily ever after” section no one ever bothers writing into Disney Movies.
I was wrong. It can be hard. All of the love and affection in the world can’t pay the heating bill, help you decide who unloads the dishwasher at night, make the house remodel itself or cure a sickness while you’re out basking in the glow of one another.
No, it can’t.
But I am so grateful this Valentines Day, husband, that I was wise enough at 16 to make those wishes for a boy who would become a young man with a ring who asked me to be his family.
I’m glad I took the risk.
I am happy I said yes.
And I am happy I have you, on Sunday, and every day in between.