There are traditional anniversary gifts, and people have heard of the majors, twenty five years is silver, fifty is gold. Seventy-five is diamond, incidentally, and holy cow, how do you make it to seventy-five, was it the end result of a child marriage, maybe? My wife and I have adopted the practice, and over the previous years have adapted it to our purposes, because we do not usually give each other actual, physical gifts, reasoning that we are both adults with jobs, and if we want something we can just go buy it for ourselves, and we don’t need to torture the other with the responsibility of attempting to guess. So we either make something using the material, or we do some related activity together, my mere presence, apparently, being gift enough. My wife is excellent at this, at giving, and will present me with the most thoughtful and amazing gifts, and then I will look at whatever garbage I managed to cobble together and hold it up like a kid presenting a crappy half-fired clay ashtray to his parents that don’t even smoke, and she will be gallant and graceful and pat me on the head and tell me that no really she loves it, and she will put my crappy ashtray out where she can look at it all the time, so I don’t get my little feely-feels hurt.
The traditional gift for ten years is tin, or aluminum. “Great,” I said when I heard this. “I’ll get you a Coors Light, or a can of creamed corn!”
I am hilarious.
I thought about just writing a sappy love letter, filled with wide open emotion and graceful and beautiful words, but I forgot how to write sappy love letters, filled with wide open and unashamed emotion and sealed with a kiss. That skill seems to have died along with the stupid wide open kid that wrote them.
A long while back, I sat down with her to watch the movie version of The Punisher, not the weird ’80’s version with Dolph Lundgren, that has its place, in that place where strange ’80’s action movies reside, there with Jean Claude Van Damme in Kickboxer, a place where it is okay to be a bad movie as long as you are a fun movie, and not the 2008 follow up, Punisher War Zone, which is terrible but has enough ridiculous redeeming moments in it that I just can’t bring myself to hate it, despite its abject absurdity and awfulness. No, we are talking about the 2004 version with Thomas Jane which managed to take the story of Frank Castle, a man driven by rage and revenge, and some make it completely unmemorable. They managed to take a character, based entirely on over the top violence and fury, and make him just boring as anything, no small feat, considering that I loved the Punisher going into it, and was willing to forgive any number of liberties that they would take with the character, just as long as it didn’t suck. But it did.
But I still don’t hate it, and the reason is simple: about half way through the movie, the girl I was watching it with turned to me and said, “Sheesh, the only one getting punished here is the audience.” And that, friends and neighbors, was when I knew I was going to marry that girl. And I did, a couple of years later.
This is a story I like to tell, because it is funny and I think illustrates something I love about my wife, who is smart and has a great sense of humor. I like to tell this story also because it is silly to think that a single joke would determine the rest of my life, and obviously it isn’t completely true, because I didn’t really know at that moment that I was going to marry her, because I didn’t think I would marry anyone, and I also didn’t think myself worthy of being her husband, and I wasn’t sure if I could be the kind of man that she so obviously deserved. Who was I to shackle her to my broken and decrepit wagon that was so clearly not going anywhere? I like to tell that story because I think it is cute and sometimes it makes people laugh, but really I didn’t know, not then. I only knew I loved her, and that she was one of my very best friends, and she was beautiful and caring and fun as hell to be with.
I love being married, for a number of selfish reasons, not the least of which is that I have always been horrible with women. I could never pick up signals or read body language, and was always so convinced of my own faults that I couldn’t ever begin to believe that they might actually be interested in me, and most of my previous relationships happened kinda-sorta on accident, more or less, like we were just friends, and then we… weren’t, somehow. I was an idiot with women, in other words, and I have to believe that I remain an idiot with women, and do not wish to ever have to have that confirmed. But more than all of that, I love what she has made of me, I love who I have become since meeting her, I love when she laughs at my jokes and when I can tell that I have made her happy. I love being married, and wish to remain so for the rest of my life.
Another somewhat mostly true story I like to tell is about how we met. I always say that I caught her checking me out while I was working a show in Chicago, which is only mostly true; I have no idea whether she was checking me out, though given my general appearance and previously stated incompetence in reading signals from women, I would find it unlikely if that were the case. The truth, from my perspective at least, is I noticed her, and more specifically, her hair, which was a vibrant purple. I spoke to her a few times over the course of the weekend, and at the end we exchanged email addresses and phone numbers. And that was that. I usually didn’t ever write or call the people I met on the road, because the life was so transitory and it was difficult to maintain relationships with people when you were travelling all the time. But I did write her, and we became email pen pals and then we called one another on the phone and then we were speaking on the phone for hours at a time, and then I did a show in St Louis and she came out to visit me, and then I came to visit her, and then she came to visit me, and then I came to visit her, and I never got around to going home again, and then I realized that I was already home, that where ever she was going to be was home, and here we are. Sometimes you hear if life gives you lemons to make lemonade with them, and that is all well and good, but sometimes life serves you up a large slice of delicious cake, just hands it over, and in that case, I would advise you to take the cake, enjoy and savor the cake, love the cake. I did, and ten years later I am still sitting here, grinning like I have gotten away with something, frosting all over my face.
Listen, here is a free lesson: if life gives you a gift, an unexpected and beautiful gift, it is okay for you to accept it.
We have now been married a decade, my wife and I, and anniversaries are so arbitrary, aren’t they, these milestone years, one year, five, ten years, twenty, but we put importance on these things because it is important to take note of the time passing, it is important to reflect.
I didn’t really want to write a ‘my wife is so good and I am such a fat idiot, and God bless her for putting up with all my garbage, I hope she never comes to her senses and sees what a dipshit loser I am’ piece, not because it isn’t true, because it so clearly is, but because it isn’t entirely true. I clearly do not deserve the happiness and security and peace and warmth that she has provided me, but also her being so awesome has forced me to step up my game, too. I genuinely do my best to overcome my own limits to be a good and caring husband, and I have had to face some harsh truths about myself in order to do so. I have had to exorcise some of my demons to be able to be good enough to stand in front of her and say I do. She has made me better, in every way, I am better, more complete more healed, more patient and kind, and I am literally the most humble person that has ever lived on Earth.
It isn’t always easy being married, we fight and yell at each other and sometimes for days on end our house is filed with this terrible tension and pregnant silence, sometimes we fight via text and lose our tempers and shout IN ALL CAPS, sometimes its serious, sometimes its just a misunderstanding, sometimes we are just tired and got caught with our guard down. We’ve all got our buttons, and they get pushed sometimes on accident, and sometimes on purpose. We’re not perfect, not by a long shot, but we both try hard to be good and kind to one another, we both try really damn hard to cling to one another when the waters rise and we feel like we are going to be washed away. We are not perfect, but I like to think we are perfect for one another, maybe.
We are about to mark our tenth anniversary, and the traditional gift is tin, or aluminum, and I know this is cheating, but I titled this Tin, or Aluminum, and this is my gift, my crappy little half-fired ashtray. Can you see my hope filled eyes, my quivering lip, ready to smile or burst into tears? I was fortunate enough to meet and marry my best friend, and I am filled with gratitude and love for her. We are celebrating our tenth anniversary this weekend, and maybe I forgot how to write stupid sappy love letters, and I don’t really want to remember, because of all the times I said forever, I only really meant it once.
I love you, Sheri. Forever.
Obviously this is a sort of love letter, and a gift of sorts to my lovely and brilliant wife, Sheri, but it is also something that I have been meaning to write for some time now, because often I forget to acknowledge the happiness and safety and warm peace that I enjoy daily. I forget, in other words to celebrate the result of my prolonged and sometimes difficult growing up process. With the exception of posting the link that leads here, I am off of social media for the forseeable future. I am too soft for the madness that people seem to relish so much. Regardless, you can reach me here, or via email: dissent.within (at) gmail.com. Don’t let hate win, not in our world, and not in your own heart. Peace.