A few weeks ago Richard and I celebrated twenty eight years of marriage. I began the day in my usual fashion, out on the lanai having my quiet time with God. My husband was inside having his quiet time too, and through the open door I could feel the connection as we each experienced our own unique relationship with God. As I read my various daily reflections, the meaning of that day slowly sank in.
We had known each other for almost twenty nine years. I met Richard towards the end of July 1983, and we married on 24 March 1984. It was a bit of a scary time for me. I had been married once before for almost ten very unhappy years and it had been ten years since I had separated and consequently divorced that man. I had lived much of that previous marriage emotionally alone, and had become very independent and self-sufficient in the ensuing ten years. Oh, and did I mention that Richard is almost twenty years my junior??
I thought back to that time after Richard asked me to marry him and remembered how much praying and self-questioning I went through. I had also insisted that we speak with the priest and go through counseling, and then I went on a retreat to distance myself from the relationship for forty eight hours, just to have some clarity and see if I had any different thoughts and feelings about the situation. After doing everything I thought I should do to be sure of how I felt, we went ahead and married.
I sat there on the twenty fourth of March this year with a very full heart as I traveled back in time, and the prevailing thought was “where had all those twenty eight years gone?”. The words from a well-known Christian song came to mind: “in the blink of an eye”. As I said goodbye to Richard that morning (he had a day-long class he had to attend), I remembered our first real kiss. It had me blushing for a moment because it was a very incredible and passionate kiss and I remember thinking that I could just have floated off in that kiss all those years ago. But it was also a very tender kiss, and I think that’s what sold me on Richard from the very first – he was such a tender person. Tender-hearted as a person as well as tender towards me, and others.
If I needed any other evidence of the years we have been together, we have a twenty seven-year old daughter, Melissa, who is proof-positive that all those “blink-of-an-eye” years really existed. I remember very well appearing in a play, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, when I was about six months pregnant with her, and my eldest son, Marco, from my first marriage, break dancing day in and day out during the pregnancy. Melissa was born to the rhythm of break dance.
While Richard was in class, I got on with my day and couldn’t help but notice in great detail the contents of our home, which is something between an art gallery and a curio shop. There are paintings and photos all over the walls. The paintings come from many different places that either Richard has travelled to during his years in the Navy or that we both have travelled to together. Then there are the statues and figurines that cover every shelf and available surface throughout the house. Many people are quite taken aback when they visit our home for the first time because of all “the stuff”. But everything is a joyful representation of the years that we have been together and the memories that we have created.
When Rich came home from class, we got ready to go out and celebrate our anniversary. First we went to the El Apache restaurant to enjoy a delicious Mexican meal. With tummies pleasantly full we then headed over to the Thrasher-Horne Center for Arts to see a show. A few weeks earlier, at a silent auction fund-raiser at our church, we had won the bid on two tickets for The Peking Acrobats which were dated twenty four March. I think the only reason we bid on them was because the date was the same as our anniversary. The show was quite breathtaking and very exciting and it was a great way to celebrate the day.
However, we didn’t quite finish the celebrations at that point. Instead of heading home, Richard pointed the car in the other direction. You see, he has an absolute weakness for Shakes, a small drive up cubicle that sells shakes and sundaes made with frozen custard. And so we completed our evening enjoying our favorites: for Rich this was a strawberry milkshake, extra thick; for me it was a kiddy-cup with one small scoop of vanilla frozen custard topped with a healthy drizzle of caramel – yum. A perfect finish to a perfect evening, and here’s to number twenty nine!!
Last weekend Richard and I travelled south to Melbourne, Florida. We had been invited to help celebrate the wedding of an old friend and colleague who we got to know during our time in Naples, Italy. Bob is also a Harley guy. In fact he infused Richard with the desire to get his first Harley, and he also made a three day motorcycle trip with Richard from Naples, across Italy to Bari, then on down to the “boot” of Italy and back up to Naples.
Since we have been here in Jacksonville, we have hooked up with Bob to go watch a shuttle launch from Space View Park in Titusville a couple of years ago. Rich also hooked up with him back in February of this year and they braved the bitter cold of an un-Florida like night to see a night launch actually on the NASA site down at Cape Canaveral. Unfortunately that launch was postponed and neither of them could make it back for the following night when the launch finally took place.
So it was with great pleasure that we accepted the invitation, along with about forty other people, to join Bob and Angelica in the celebration of their union. We drove down from Jacksonville on the Friday afternoon. It was a gorgeous day and I think we said “it would have been a perfect day for a ride on Harley” only about a dozen times! When we got there we quickly discovered that many of the guests were retired navy and/or Harley folks!
The wedding ceremony, which was held at 6.30pm in the lovely open courtyard of the wedding venue, was short and sweet. Angelica looked as beautiful as any bride should and our dear friend Bob was obviously very happy and, even though he said he wasn’t, he seemed quite nervous. Friends were asked to give them advice or share special thoughts with them before the minister, another friend, declared them man and wife. I told them, “don’t stop dating”.
The rest of the evening was spent socializing and enjoying a lovely dinner. The DJ was great and spun some good “old music” as well as playing guitar and singing himself. Some of us even managed to get up and boogie a little. The cake was duly cut and eaten and,shortly afterwards, we headed back to our hotel for the night.
On Saturday morning we got up slow and easy. After breakfast we packed our bags and headed out to go visit Bob and Angelica in their home. As we turned onto A1A heading south to Grant, we noticed a Bonsai nursery to one side of the road and made a decision to stop there on the way back. And so, a couple of hours later we found ourselves in the company of Mr. Feng Gu who proudly showed us his trees and explained the art of Bonsai. It was absolutely fascinating.
Well after looking at all the different types of trees, Richard said, “so pick one Babe”. Oh sweet music to my ears. I have so wanted a Bonsai tree for many years. But it wasn’t one of those desires that I had ever spoken out loud. In the bigger scheme of things owning a Bonsai was not a pressing need. It was simply a secret desire. Yet here I was, just a choice away.
Some of the trees were quite expensive but Mr. Gu was very patient and kind and showed me a small tree in a beautiful cobalt blue dish. My soul leapt but I was a little hesitant because it was bare; exquisite trunk, branch, and root growth but no leaves. Mr. Gu explained that he had just recently pinched all the leaves off, which needed to be done twice a year to encourage the tree to produce smaller leaves than normal but in proportion to the size of the tree itself.
My heart was captured and the deal was done. I had my tree, and while I was waiting for Mr. Gu to run my credit card, I noticed he had two baskets on his desk with miniature clay Japanese figurines. So I picked out a little wise man reading from an ancient scroll. He had a long blue robe of cobalt blue which perfectly matched the dish of my newly acquired Bonsai. So there he stands, among the roots of my tree which, by the way, is already full of minute new green shoots .