Today is a very special day for Terry and me; we are celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary. I don’t know where the time went, but it has been wonderful. We always say that in some ways it feels like we are still on our first date, and at the same time it feels like we have been together forever. Here’s our love story, if you care to hear it:
Terry ran a commercial glass shop that advertised in the small town newspaper that I owned in the White Mountains of Arizona and we had known each other for about ten years. At that time I was in a bad marriage and Terry always wore a big ring on her finger so I assumed she was married as well. We were just business acquaintances, though I always admired her because she is that combination of a beautiful and intelligent woman who is very real and never “puts on airs” as my Mama used to say. With Terry, what you see is what you get, and I found that very refreshing. I genuinely liked her as a person and always looked forward to chatting with her for a few minutes when I went in to pick up her ad every week or two.
After my marriage ended, I instructed my friends that if I ever said I was going to get hitched again, please shoot me. I had been shot twice and married twice, and you can get over shot quicker and with less financial outlay.
One week I wrote a silly little column in my newspaper about making the transformation to the single life. I wrote that I had been a single dad for several years between wives #1 and #2 and I was re-learning the skills I had developed way back then. I could survive for a weekend on Pepsi and Toaster Strudel, and in a pinch, I could wash my underwear in the dishwasher and dry them in the microwave. But I lamented the fact that the bakery in town had closed its doors and a chubby little cherub like myself needed sweets, so somebody had better send me either a recipe or a woman. Terry responded by sending me a big plate of brownies with a note that read, “Quit your sniveling!”
The brownies were delicious and I got a chuckle out of the note. When I called Terry to thank her, she said, “Anytime you want something like that, just let me know. I love to cook and bake and I don’t have anybody to do it for.” I asked her why she didn’t bake for her husband and she told me she had been single for fourteen years. So what’s with the ring? “I work with contractors and construction workers all the time,” she explained, “I wear the ring to keep guys from hitting on me.” (Now, you have to wonder, after fourteen years, if she settled on me, what kind of one eyed toothless troglodytes did she pass on?)
Now, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so when my secretary told me “Terry is sending you a signal but you’re too dumb to know it” I didn’t believe her. But over a period of several weeks I began stopping in at Terry’s shop more frequently and we really hit it off. It was amazing how much we found that we had in common.
Eventually I screwed up my courage and asked her out to a movie and dinner. We snuggled down in our seats at the theater and whispered to each other all through the movie (don’t ask me what movie it was, neither of us can remember). Afterwards we went to dinner, then sat and talked until dawn. I was smitten.
There is always a line that, once crossed, is difficult to step back over. So one evening I went to Terry’s shop just as she was wrapping up for the day and told her, “I have a hypothetical situation for you. There’s this guy, let’s call him Rick, and Rick has this friend, let’s call her Mary.” (Really original, aren’t I?) “Rick and Mary have known each other for a long time and lately they’ve been seeing each socially, and Rick thinks that this is something that might go further than friendship, if Mary is interested. But at the same time, he doesn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable or hurt that friendship, if she’s not thinking the same thing. So how does Rick let Mary know that, but at the same time let her know that if she doesn’t feel that way, they can still be friends and just keep on as they have been all along without it getting weird?” Once Terry picked herself up from the floor and managed to stop laughing, she said, “I think he just did.”
Two weeks later we had our second date, to the Fall Festival in our little mountain town. I was on the board of directors of the battered women’s shelter and we had arranged a fund raiser in which the town council and other local “dignitaries” were supposed to take turns in a dunking booth. You know the type, where you pay a buck to throw three balls at a target, and if you hit it, the person inside the booth drops down into a pool of water. It was a chilly day, with temperatures about 50 degrees, and suddenly the local luminaries decided it would be “undignified” to climb up onto the dunking platform.
Well, if you’ve ever met me, you know that I’m about as undignified as they come, so I handed Terry my jacket, shoes and socks, and climbed aboard. It took all of about three seconds until some cowboy with a good eye nailed the target and I dropped down into the water. Damn, that was cold!
That’s when I discovered that I was too short and pudgy to hoist myself back up onto the metal platform. The dunking tank was a wire basket with a canvas reservoir full of water in it, so I had to hook my fingers and toes in and crawl back up the side of it and slide myself into my seat. I didn’t have time to get comfortable, because that cowboy had two balls left, and he used them well! Twice more I got dunked and crawled back up. No sooner had the cowboy stepped aside than the local postmaster, a good buddy of mine, took his place. He wasn’t quite as good a pitcher, but he managed to dunk me one throw out of three.
The local radio station was doing a live remote broadcast, and the announcer was another good buddy of mine. He announced over the airwaves “Folks, if Nick Russell has ever written something that ticked you off, it’s payback time. Come on out and get him wet. It’s all for a good cause!”
And come they did! They were outbidding each other for a chance to throw balls and I was in that dunking booth for over three hours, and we raised over $3,000 for the women’s shelter. By then my toes and finger were bloody from crawling back up that damn canvas bag, and I was so blue that I looked like a Smurf.
Terry was in tears much of the time, though I never have been sure whether it was sympathy for me or mortification from being out in public with the class clown. Whatever it was, she took me home, dried me off, and kept me. We’ve been together ever since.
Thought For The Day – A perfect marriage is made up of two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other.