I remember standing at the front of the church as everyone rose and turned to watch the bride — my bride — make her entrance. She was the only one looking at me.
That’s when it hit me. This was for real.
It was a hot June afternoon in Temple Terrace as Elaine Patterson walked down the aisle, escorted by her father. She made her own wedding gown, as well as those of her bridesmaids. My goodness, she was beautiful. She still is, in case you’re curious.
On Friday, it will be 33 years since that day. Three decades, plus three years. It surely doesn’t seem that long, so maybe we’re doing something right.
The people who keep track of such things say this is the most popular month for getting married. If you are planning to take the plunge this month, congratulations and good luck.
You are getting lots of advice, no doubt, and you’ll get more. You also won’t remember a word of it because you have found The One. You are starry-eyed and overjoyed right now, no matter your age. I hope you find a way to stay that way, but there are ground rules.
❖ ❖ ❖
Rule No. 1: You will have to learn to compromise. You’re probably thinking that won’t be a problem, but the day will come when you want to watch the football game and she wants to install a kitchen floor. Put on your work clothes and remember that’s why God invented DVRs.
Make the bed. Learn to cook dinner, because even if your spouse is good in the kitchen they will want a night off. Mow the grass. Do your own laundry. When you hear a crunch when you walk across the floor, it’s time to run the vacuum.
Now there is no compromise on some things. Learn to tell the difference.
For instance, Elaine has learned not to use the decisive inning of a playoff game with the Cincinnati Reds to chat about what happened at work that day. I have learned that our freezer is going to be filled with Eagle Pops pretty much all of the time.
You need to give each other space, and for Elaine that space is with the Eagles of the Brandon High boys and girls cross-country team. She has been their unofficial team mom for 10 years, starting when our oldest son ran there.
He eventually left, but she didn’t. The coaches wouldn’t let her.
She is the Eagles’ encourager-in-chief.
She runs with them sometimes at practices. She gets them food. She organizes road trips and the year-end team party (another event where I have learned to stay out of the way). She makes sure their paperwork is in order. She has, occasionally, offered helpful training “suggestions” to the coaches.
And she created Eagle Pops. Those are frozen Gatorade ice cubes, because runners told her they preferred that over glugging large amounts of liquid after a hot workout. Our freezer is filled with them.
I keep mostly quiet about that.
❖ ❖ ❖
That’s because I know how lucky I got that day I watched her walk down the aisle. I have had her back for all these years, and she has had mine. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
We raised two sons, moved five times, and have done too many projects around the house to count. We argued, sure, but never held a grudge. She is the strongest yet most gentle person I know.
She gave birth, twice, without using so much as a Tylenol to dull the pain because she didn’t know how it might affect the baby.
People say to marry above your station, if possible, and I definitely did. When people ask what she does, I tell them she keeps busy being indispensable. Thanks to her I feel young every day.
May those about to make that lifetime commitment this month feel the same way.
And 33 years from now, may you look at your spouse and say out loud, as I do now, “Happy anniversary, sweetie. I love you.”