The not yet Middle-Aged Woman (left) with her mom and sister, Jennifer
Beauty comes in many forms. There is a beauty unique to things we encounter that are fresh and unspoiled. The beauty of a child, of a young person whose faces seems untouched by worry, disappointment or age, of a flower in bloom, or a beach stretching into the distance - the sand untouched by anything but waves at the shore.
The MAW (age 8) in Spring 1972, First Communion
Physical beauty, though compelling, is transient. But beauty of the mind can be more lasting.
The MAW's senior year photo (1980)
When I first met the MAW, she looked as pictured above - long straight blond hair, a sweet smile, a nice figure, pale & pretty. We both competed on our high school's competitive speech team. I was the smart nerdy boy, extra skinny, with bad acne. She was a smart nerdy girl who hated high school sufficiently that she had decided to graduate in three years. The only girl my age that had ever shown interest in me [not the MAW] became my first girlfriend (we were set up by mutual friends to attend my Junior Prom). When the MAW returned after graduation to see the fall play, her autograph in my play program expressed an interest in me that was unexpected (although I won't say unhoped for). No one that smart and pretty had ever expressed an interest in me as an object of their not-just-as-friends-type affection. My first girlfriend didn't stand a chance.
The MAW's father, Hank, leads her into oblivion on her 22nd birthday (August 10, 1985)
I proposed to the MAW the summer we both turned nineteen. I was spending the summer living with my grandparents in Evart, Michigan, because my family had moved to the suburbs of Chicago during my freshman year of college - and I had no desire to follow them. The MAW visited me there and we drove into Cadillac to be alone. I already knew that I wanted to be with her all the time - but there was no way to make that happen any time soon. But in a little park on the edge of Lake Cadillac, I asked her to marry me anyway - and she said yes.
The MAW, The Girl and me on the porch of our first home (1990)
She made beautiful babies.
I helped (as often as she would let me). Our first child did not come quickly. This troubled the (not yet) MAW at first - and greatly upset her later. But when the happy news came, it carried her through her first pregnancy like a champ. She had never seemed healthier. And The Girl was a wonderful first child; a (relatively) easy delivery [sure, that's easy for the guy to say - but the MAW would say the same thing; ask her], a happy baby and good sleeper with no health problems. Our dream of starting a family together had come true. I remember it as a golden time in our marriage.
The MAW, The Girl and The Boy (1995)
Admittedly, the second pregnancy was not so easy. It wasn't that there were a lot of medical complications particularly - but for the MAW, it wasn't much fun. She was wishing for the pregnancy to be over almost as soon as it had begun. But The Boy was, if anything, an even more cheerful baby than his sister. Perhaps not quite as good a sleeper - but he was healthy, with all the standard equipment intact. We had a matched set and agreed that our reproductive days would be behind us. But the golden time was over for awhile.
The MAW receives her degree with honors (2002)
She's a professional.
Once both of the kids were in school, the MAW struggled to determine what she wanted to do with her life. But once she settled on becoming a teacher, she excelled in everything she did. Perhaps more importantly, she seemed to love the work; deciding on the best way to convey information to students, working and interacting with the kids, developing new relationships with her mentors at the School of Education and (once she was hired into a full-time position) her teaching partners.
Our family (2004)
I can't explain why I love my wife. It's not something I can prove or quantify. I don't understand it really - and I don't intend to spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. The reasons I've listed above are all good reasons - but the explanation they provide is woefully incomplete somehow. My wife is a far more intelligent, talented and charismatic person than she has ever admitted to herself; it may be that in the past couple months she has come closer to realizing that than ever before.
The most recent photo I could find of the four of us together - with my Grandma (2006)
The past few years have been as difficult as any in our marriage. And I know they have been hard years for the MAW all around. Although there have been times when I didn't see how our marriage could go on as it was, I never had a desire to see it end - nor can I imagine feeling that way. I write all this because I do not take it for granted that our marriage - or any other - is indestructible. I think I understand more fully now than at any other time, just how fragile a relationship can be. I sometimes wonder how much of the foundation on which our marriage was built remains.
But fragile and weak are not the same thing. My love is strong - though it's not unconditional - and can cover "a multitude of (our) sins". My attraction to and desire for my wife are stronger than ever (that hasn't always been a good thing, actually - at times, a cause of much hurt and frustration for me over the years).
But enough of that noise - Today, we celebrate!
To my friend, my companion, my advisor, my lover - I say:
Happy Birthday, Snoplum.
Happy Anniversary, honey.
I love you.
And don't forget to come back tomorrow for
The Middle-Age Woman's Guest Post
You won't want to miss that!