20

Bejewell on November 16th, 2016

In 1996, Tupac got shot.

The Unabomber was arrested.

The number one song was the Macarena.

Cuba Gooding, Jr., won an Oscar.

Prince changed his name to a symbol.

And the Big Bean and I got married.

***

We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person. -W. Somerset Maugham

***

That’s me up there, with the Big Bean, and his goatee. Freshly married and completely naïve, all three of us.

I can’t tell you exactly what, in that moment, we expected to happen next. I’m sure we didn’t think the whole of our lives would be a rosy stroll through a beautiful, sweet-smelling paradise (we were naïve, not stupid) – but we never could have foreseen the myriad twists and turns and barrel rolls and loop-di-loops that our lives would take, or the immeasurable changes we’d both undergo as twenty years of experience, hard knocks, happiness, love, parenthood, friendship, mistakes, and age all took their toll.

We’re completely different people now than we were when we got married, each of us. And yet, somehow, we’re still together. Somehow, we’ve held one another upright through each storm – or, at the very least, we’ve found each other again after the worst of the weather has passed.


Twenty years after those two babies got hitched, we still love each other. And, more importantly, we still LIKE each other.

That’s kind of sweet.

I don’t know that either of us expected that. I don’t know that we expected to make it to an anniversary #20, if I’m honest. Maybe we just thought we’d knock around together until it wasn’t fun anymore, and then be on our separate ways.


I don’t think that’s what we were thinking, but who knows? That was twenty years and a whole lot of cocktails ago, man. No way do I remember.


***
It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages. -Friedrich Nietzsche

***

I get asked on occasion how the Big Bean and I have managed to stay married this long, and I never have an answer. Even if I did have an answer, it wouldn’t matter one lick – because it wouldn’t apply to anyone else, anyway.

The Big Bean is the Big Bean. I am me. Together we are us. How we interact, prioritize, set goals, create memories, and collectively find things inspiring or weird or funny… these are all completely different for us than they would be for another two individuals who’ve chosen to walk through life together.

Plus, the key to our marriage always changes. Sometimes it’s giving each other space. Sometimes it’s holding hands.

Sometimes it’s the way we both adore our kid.

Sometimes it’s the fun we have with our friends.

Sometimes it’s the fact that he posed for these pictures like 15 years ago on a day trip to Fredericksburg and they still make me laugh.

(Seriously. I laugh every time.)

The one constant, I guess, is this weird determination we share to hang in there for the long haul. There aren’t any guarantees and we don’t expect them – we both know from experience that the second you think you’ve found stable ground, life is gonna come along and yank that rug right the fuck out from under you.

So we try not to take that whole “forever” thing for granted.

But we also both understand that the aging thing, while inevitable, will probably be a whole lot more fun together than apart.

I mean, so far getting old so sucks some serious ass – but I’m guessing it’ll be way easier to bear with someone by my side who, on the regular, makes me laugh so hard that I snort my drink out of my nose.

***

Some people ask the secret of our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing.
She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.

- Henny Youngman

***

The Big Bean and I have had a lot of fights in our 20 years.  A LOT. Like, a ridiculous number.

Some are big, most are small. The vast majority are bickery arguments over petty stuff like what we’re going to eat (because seriouslyOMGjustfuckingPICKSOMETHINGalready).

One of our biggest fights ended in a screaming match in the middle of the parking lot at JC Penney when we were trying to register for our wedding (irony). That one drew a crowd.

One time we almost broke up over the price of a burrito supreme at Taco Bell.

So many fights. And yet, I’m not kidding when I say that every single one of them – every single one – has ended with us laughing. Inevitably, someone says something ridiculous or stupid or silly. The other one laughs. Then we both laugh. And then it’s over and we move on.

Sure, it’ll come up again later – but now it’s something that’s funny. And together, we can always handle funny.

The day we can’t laugh at a fight is the day our marriage is doomed. I firmly believe this.

So far, it hasn’t happened.

***

It takes no time to fall in love, but it takes years to know what love is. – Jason Mraz

***

Yeah, those two kids. 24 and 26. Just babies.

In the 20 years since that picture was taken, I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost pets. I’ve lost several sets of keys, and my drivers license twice. I’ve been hired and fired more than once. I’ve partied hard and fallen down a lot and gotten sick and broken four toes. I’ve traveled to faraway, wonderful places.

I’ve lost and gained both weight and wisdom. I’ve earned a college degree. I’ve burned bridges and built new ones. I’ve had about 50 million different hair cuts and colors.

I’ve been to parades and music festivals and carnivals and zoos and football/baseball/hockey/soccer games and comedy shows and the Renaissance Fest maybe two thousand times.

I’ve given birth to a beautiful son and watched him grow from a happy baby to a silly toddler to an incredibly fun and sweet nine-year-old boy.

I’ve been smart. I’ve been stupid. I’ve been kind, I’ve been generous, I’ve been a complete asshole. I’ve been so happy that I thought my heart might explode, and I’ve been so sad that I wished it would.

I’ve learned more about life and love and family and truth and happiness than I ever could have thought possible.

And I’ve done it all, for better or worse, with the Big Bean by my side.

It has been one of my greatest honors.

***

In 2016, the number one TV show is The Walking Dead.

The Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series.

Nobody knows who Cuba Gooding, Jr. is anymore, and the Unabomber seems like small potatoes compared to the new President-elect who’s somehow managed to hate his way into the White House.

The Macarena only gets played at some random wedding every now and then.

Prince died.

And the Big Bean and I are still here.

Happy anniversary, Jason. I love you.

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