We have officially spent half our lives together. For half my life I have been with this one man, this person who became my family.
I mention this for two reasons. One, it’s worth bragging about. People who know my backstory, wonder how we do it. In this era when roughly 40% of first marriages in developed countries end in divorce, and those are generally finalized within eight years of the wedding, celebrating 23 years in high-stress family situations is so rare it’s treated as legendary.
Second, I mention it because it is more than a number. Those 23 years are half my life, and when I look back on those years I realize how I’ve grown, and how much this man has made me into the woman I am today.
I believe, and I have for decades, that this marriage was meant to be. Whether you call it fate, destiny, soul mates, or life charts, I believe this man and I are supposed to be together. Though I’ve had many experiences through the years that reinforce this belief, none were more powerful than the way we began.
I first laid eyes on Tony on March 21st, 1992. I literally saw him from across a crowded bar, and I was smitten. I had just arrived with “Cassie”, a friend I was hanging out with that night. We were about eight feet in when I zeroed in on this very cute guy. He had Bon Jovi hair, Miami Vice clothes, and a bad-boy look of boredom. He slowly turned in a three-quarter circle until his back was to me. I pulled Cassie close, pointed towards him, and yelled in her ear, “There’s the man of my dreams.”
I feel I should point out that this statement was completely out of character for me. It makes me sound like one of those girls who is always trolling for the next boyfriend. I was never one of those girls. I liked guys, but I rarely let them out of the friend zone. I was almost anti-romantic. So when those words spilled out of my mouth, no one was as surprised as me.
Yet I didn’t take my initial reaction seriously. Tony, who was simply “That Guy” for the first few hours, was just a very cute guy who was likely there with a girlfriend. Cassie and I scoped out a spot, ordered our drinks, and started to dance. And for the entertainment value, I kept my eye out for That Guy.
That Guy moved around. He was with a larger group, but he seemed a little separated from them. (I found out later that he only knew one of them well, and he was feeling a bit left out.) He was not “with” any of the girls in the group, so the possibilities were looking brighter.
Cassie and I talked about it in the bathroom, and I made the decision that I wouldn’t wait for him to notice me. She had hooked up with another guy that night and she was supportive of me doing the same. So I “shyly” approached him at his table, and asked if he wanted to dance.
He later confessed he thought I was more than a little drunk (I was sober). He was in the process of saying goodbye to his buddy, but he decided to give me a dance before leaving the club. Had I waited two more minutes he would have been gone.
I remember that first song. It was Trooper’s “We’re Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time)”, which was popular in Vancouver clubs at the time. It used to make me melancholy because it reminded me of a friend who had died about a year and a half before. When we danced to that song, its sadness lifted forever.
I even remember the second song, which was a Violent Femmes number that sounds identical to every other Violent Femmes number ever released. But by the end of that song, Tony no longer wanted to leave.
We stayed until closing. Cassie’s beau had to go, so three of us talked and laughed until the lights came on, then we talked and laughed over coffee and desserts down the street. To stay with the taking-charge theme, I got his number. We agreed I would call the next day and we could hang out.
I was sick with nerves about calling. What if he forgot our tentative plans and was already out? What if he had left his house knowing I would call and wanting to dodge me? What if he didn’t remember me that well? What if he changed his mind about seeing me? What if he was really interested in Cassie? What if it wasn’t his number?
I waited until the respectable hour of noon. He was still in bed, but he took my call and agreed to get together. We ended up hanging out for eight hours. I still remember the restaurant, and what we ordered. I remember the buskers and sidewalk artists we saw on our walk on the beach. I remember getting coffee and dessert at a Mexican restaurant, and how Tony hadn’t had churros before. I remember how we walked across the street to a movie theatre, where we caught the early show of “Wayne’s World”.
In the years since there have been countless highs and lows. We love and we anger. We laugh and we yell. We pull together whenever we can and let go when we must. There are things about him that make me melt, and things that drive me crazy. It isn’t often smooth roads with rainbows and butterflies, but we make it through the troubles that destroy other relationships because we are committed to being together. Because we can look at each other when we are at our worst, and we remember that the person we danced with so long ago still has great value, and deserves a little slack.
This is what I have learned in the second half of my life (so far) from my husband, my marriage, and my children. I learned that people change continuously. I learned that fortune ebbs and flows, and that new paths can be forged. I learned there are no guaranties in life, good or bad, and that sometimes miracles come disguised as disasters. I have learned that the greatest builds come after the destruction, and that learning never ends.
Thank you, Tony, Shayla, and Dimitri, for showing me that I must never finish growing up. I love you all with everything I have.