Uh… actually, we didn’t do much dancing on November 16, 2002. I think we danced once, mainly because Bill doesn’t dance and I was wearing a big white dress that didn’t lend itself to moving around. And we didn’t do any horizontal dancing, either, because we were both too tired and I was being visited by Aunt Flow. She showed up right after the ceremony, right on schedule. So there wasn’t any dancing and, in fact, our wedding was fraught with tensions ranging from dealing with the obnoxious caterer, the irritating florist, my organist mom getting pissed off that the organist kept messing up hymns during our rehearsal, my father-in-law fainting right before we said our vows, and our photographer going into combat mode and taking pictures of the whole thing… It was probably the worst day of our marriage so far. 😉
The night before our wedding, Bill was very nervous. His mom tried to comfort him by saying, “Don’t worry, Bill. No one ever died at the altar.” Imagine Bill’s horror when, just as we were about to say our vows, Bill’s father starts to collapse. It turned out he’d locked his knees, trying to emulate the soldiers in their uniforms, and that caused him to faint. He was revived and we said our vows, but the first thing Bill thought of as his dad was having his sinking spell was that his dad was going to die at the altar at Virginia Military Institute, right in front of the huge mural of the Battle of New Market.
And then, we weren’t officially married until about two weeks after the wedding, because the court clerk of Rockbridge County misplaced our marriage license and wouldn’t cooperate with us in trying to find it. I’ve already written the story about that, and how Bill had to use his powers of persuasion to get that mess sorted out. We have definitely had our challenges since that rainy day in November 2002.
Despite the issues we faced at the wedding, it was still a wonderful day. My former boss, then a Presbyterian minister, was the officiant. We had beautiful music, including “Highland Cathedral”, and several other gorgeous hymns. My friend, Robert, a gifted pastry chef, made our cake for us. We got some lovely photos and no one said or did anything embarrassing or illegal. All in all, it was a successful day regardless. And the good news is, things have gotten even better as time has passed.
Today, we’ve been married for 17 years. They’ve all been good years, despite everything that has happened. Look at everything we’ve weathered! Here’s a list:
- Nine moves, twice to Germany and once within Germany
- Bill’s narcissistic ex wife and her smear campaigns
- Shunning from his daughters and ex stepson
- Multiple job changes
- My prolonged unemployment and subsequent early retirement from the career for which I spent three years and many thousands of dollars in training
- Manipulative family drama from my family
- Manipulative family drama from his family
- Deployment and extended TDYs
- Military retirement
- My father’s death
- My mother’s breast cancer
- Bill’s financial recovery from his first marriage, to include bankruptcy and foreclosure
- My student loans
- Bad living situations
- Tyrannical and intrusive landlords (and there have been a couple)
- Abusive boss in a war zone
- Extreme child support payments
- Bill’s decision to leave Mormonism
- Health scares
- My depression and anxiety
- Losing four rescue dogs to diseases
I’m sure I can think of more items to add to this already impressive list of the challenges we’ve faced. It’s more fun to think of our victories, though. Here’s a list:
- Exploring life in five states and Germany
- Visiting more countries than I can count
- Mom has been cancer free since 2014
- Bill reuniting with one of his daughters and meeting his grandchildren and son-in-law on Skype
- Finally being completely left alone by Bill’s ex
- Multiple job successes
- Bill earning two master’s degrees
- Paying off my student loans for my three degrees
- My writing and music career, which some people appreciate and for which I have earned some actual money
- Deciding to distance ourselves from family dramas on both sides
- Confronting people who are abusive and taking legal action when necessary
- Full financial recovery so that Bill’s credit score is now as good as mine is
- Better living situations
- Military retirement
- Church free Sundays
- Ending child support
- Realizing that not having children isn’t the end of the world
- Being basically healthy– neither of us has been hospitalized yet
- Being more assertive instead of resorting to ineffective behaviors
- Surviving war… and not having PTSD
- Absence makes the heart grow fonder… TDYs and deployments can be blessings
- Realizing that Facebook isn’t the end all, be all
- Realizing that my dad and other relatives who have passed on are no longer in pain or suffering
- Most of the time, I’m not depressed or anxious and I no longer require medication
- Adopting five awesome dogs and making a commitment to keep giving a loving home to dogs who need them
- Working hard to eliminate and minimize debts
- Bill’s work being recognized and appreciated, and getting to live in Germany, which despite everything, is a great place to live.
We have had our share of trials, but I can truly say that as much as I loved Bill on our wedding day, I love him so much more seventeen years later. He is a wonderful, kind-hearted, decent, responsible, intelligent, honorable man, who loves and cares for me like no other. I will always be eternally grateful that we found each other and decided to share our lives. I think it would be very difficult for me to find another man who understands and appreciates me as much as Bill does. Not everyone can take my personality, my sense of humor, or my very distinctive, cackling laugh.
As I was writing the above lists, I suddenly remembered that day in early August 2007. Bill had been in Iraq for six months, working as a deputy for a very abusive boss who was later very publicly fired from the Army. Although Bill was never in much physical danger when he was downrange, he had a boss who enjoyed abusing him and others who worked with them. It was probably the longest six months of Bill’s life.
I spent those months alone with our two dogs in a brand new house at Fort Belvoir. Although I missed Bill terribly, I took care of myself and the dogs, and started to prepare us for our first move to Germany. Bill got a temporary bump in pay, so I took the opportunity to start paying off debts. I paid off his credit cards and bumped up my student loan payments by $20. I remember thinking we’d never get beyond those debts. Hell, even five years ago, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. As of last year, they’re gone.
And then there was that day in August when Bill came home from war. I drove to Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC– otherwise known as National– to wait for him to emerge. There was Bill in his uniform, a look of sheer delight on his face when he saw me. His boss walked ahead of me to greet his family and Bill came charging toward me and enveloped me in a tight hug that almost knocked me over. It was a true movie moment. People were standing around us, watching the reunion. We went home, where I had decorated the house with streamers and balloons, and baked him his favorite chocolate cake… and we spent several days making up for all of the sex we didn’t have while he was gone. Six weeks later, we moved to Germany, where things continued to improve.
The first five years of our marriage were tough, especially financially… but things got a lot easier after Bill went to war. That was when we were finally able to get ahead financially. Moving to Germany also helped, since we got extra money there, and I was making some money from writing. By the time we left Germany in 2009, two of the three kids for whom Bill was paying child support aged out. And two years after that, number three turned 18 and refused to speak to Bill, so we reclaimed her share of the money, too. We started being able to take nice vacations, put money in savings, retire debts, and invest for our future together. Through it all, we loved and trusted each other. Even when we were broke, we were happy just being together. Now that we’re no longer broke, we’re still happy and thriving.
Considering how and where we met, and everything that seemed to be against us, it’s crazy to think we’ve survived everything for so long. In fact, I’m sure a lot of people were certain we’d wind up divorced. But it’s all working out beautifully… so much so that I’ve adopted Keb’ Mo’s lovely song “Life is Beautiful” as our theme. Because it just keeps getting better… despite everything.
Well… here’s to 17 great years with the best husband (for me, at least) ever. And here’s to at least 17 more. Now, time to pack a bag for our night in Frankfurt and days in Poland. It will be yet another fine adventure!