Thirty-one years ago, I changed my life with two words: “I do.” Maria and I got married in the courthouse in Paterson because it was too much trouble to have my first marriage annulled so we could get married in a church. The contrast between my second wedding day and my first was striking. At the time of my first marriage (when I was 24 years old), I was terrified, nervous, and not at all sure I was doing the right thing. On the morning of that first wedding day I had a strange itching sensation on my back. I peeled off my dress shirt to let my Dad have a look, and he announced that my back was covered with hives.
“You’re just nervous, Bobby.” He laughed.
I’d never had them before, and I haven’t had them since. The marriage, a mistake, lasted barely three years. The morning of my second marriage, June 18, 1982, was warm and sunny. I was excited and nervous – this time in a good way – as I put on my suit in the garden apartment we’d rented in anticipation of the wedding. I bounded down the steps, and came upon Mr. Coley, an older gentleman who shared the downstairs apartment with his wife and small dog. He was just coming out of his door with a bag of trash in one hand, and the leash in the other.
“Heyyyy … where you rushing off to like that?”
“I’m gettin married,” Mr. Coley. “Today. Right now. To Maria!”
I rushed past him out the door, barely hearing his startled congratulations, happier than I’ve ever been. Not a hive in sight.
We have never looked back. That’s not to say it’s always been easy – there are plenty of ups and downs in 31 years. For instance, my parents, Maria’s parents, and her grandparents all attended our courtroom wedding ceremony, and the modest reception that followed. Of that group of six, only my mom is still alive.
On the other hand, we’ve conceived and raised three amazing children along the way. Now it’s all a jumbled memory of dirty diapers, skinned knees, school concerts, soccer games, class projects, plays, squabbles over toys, broken hearts, holidays, homework, family vacations, sleepover parties, learning to ride bikes, learning to drive cars, and packing off to college. Maria and I have been together through all that and more, sharing our energy and experience and love, and making this house a home.
I was 27 going on 28 when we got married in 1982, looking ahead to being 30, and “all grown up.” Now I’m 58 looking at 59, having grown up along the way, and wondering what the next phase of life will bring. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Just as we did 31 years ago, we’ll join hands and move on, happy and content with each other, and trusting that’s all we’ll need to face whatever lies ahead.
My younger son, now 23, mentioned the other day that Maria and I might get tired of one other one of these days. I’ve now been with her more than half my life, and she’s as much a part of me as my hands, legs, or eyes. Would I ever “get tired” of them? Not a chance.
Here’s to you, Maria. And us. And 31 more.