Aug 12, 2010

Ten Years

Ten years ago today it was raining - much like it is today.  But that's just about the only similarity between August 12, 2000 and August 12, 2010.  Honestly, it feels like it was a hundred years ago.  I remember getting up early - way too early.  I had stayed up late the night before working on a final project.  I drove back home with bleary eyes.  I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for a week.  But that wasn't possible.  It was my last night sleeping in that bed.  And I knew, as tired as I was, that it was going to be a restless sleep.  I was getting married in the morning.

It should have been the most amazing feeling ever - at least that was what I had been led to believe by countless movies and television shows.  There should have been unbelievable excitement and borderline giddiness.  For me, though, there was exhaustion and frustration.  I had to work all the way up to my wedding day - getting all the publications done for the church for that week AND for the next week when I would be gone on my honeymoon.  As a result, I had been forced to delay moving all my stuff until after the honeymoon - a good chunk had been moved, but I still had a ton at the old place.  I was running around like crazy, trying to finish writing a reading for the wedding.  I was late to my own rehearsal finishing that project.  And the night before the wedding, I was up late getting the music for the reception onto a CD.  I didn't even have all the music until I went to Walmart on the way to the wedding.

We had a huge wedding party - largely because we had trouble deciding who to include and not include.   But, managing that many different people had proved very stressful.  There were many times during the weekend when I wished I had trimmed the number waaay down.  Actually, Heather and I both had openly wished we had taken up her dad's offer and eloped with the wedding budget in our pocket.  I was tired and really just wanted the day to be done.  Hardly what I expected.

The whole event was surreal.  There were some wonderful moments.  Most of it was a blur.  I still am not completely clear on who was there.  People will tell me they were at my wedding, and I don't remember that at all.  I think the frustration actually boiled over once we were up in Vermont for our honeymoon.  We got off the plane and I couldn't remember where our car reservation was.  I was convinced it was at Budget.  I checked there and they had no record.  I wracked my brain, trying to remember.  It was an internet deal - pretty novel for me at the time.  I started worrying that I had been snookered.  We were going to have to pay for another car!  I started panicking in the airport and Heather was standing there wondering just what she had gotten into.  I finally started going from car rental counter to car rental counter.  I knew it was Budget and that it was NOT Avis - I would have remembered that because we used Avis in Australia about a month before.  Budget - NOPE.  Hertz - NOPE.  Random Local Company - NOPE.  Finally, in desperation, I tried Avis.  "Oh, yes, Mr. Staples.  We have you right here for an Explorer for a week."  Grrrrrr.

It is funny, we spend so much time and money preparing for our weddings and honeymoons.  And then we get home and it feels like we don't have a clue what is going on.  We had premarital counseling.  But I'm not sure how much it helped.  (Of course, how much WORSE could it have been without it?)  Life has a funny way of nullifying all those lessons.  We had plans.  I was going to work at the church, go to seminary extension, have Heather finish her degree at USF.  Then we would think about things like kids.  But that didn't happen.  My relationship with the staff at the church eroded quickly, leading me to resign four months after we got married.  Two days after I resigned, we found out we were pregnant.  A month later, Heather had to pull out of USF classes due to the pregnancy.  Two months later we were living in Orange Park with Heather's parents.  Six months later, Josiah was born and 9/11 happened.

Our life together had never gone according to plan.  I thought I would be the best husband ever and the best father.  Most days, though, it seems like a struggle to be wonderfully mediocre.  Rarely do we feel like we are in control of the situations we are facing - mostly we are reacting to them.  People teach young couples to plan and make goals and save.  But there is very little teaching on how to deal with things when life frustrates those plans and goals and savings.

I had this idea that marriage was going to be this magical, passionate, romantic experience.  I didn't get that from my parents.  But it was this ideal that had been generated through media, entertainment, church.  We would be madly in love, walking together arm in arm through the adventures in life.  But that is not reality.  Real life is more like movie The Fugitive.  It feels like you are constantly running and escaping and figuring out how to make things work.  The big difference is that you are doing it with another person.  And that can be good and bad.  You aren't waging this war alone, but it also means that there are two people trying to take care of each other and themselves.  The other day on the show Burn Notice, a couple was described thusly:  "They love each other, they hate each other, but at the end of the day - it is always EACH OTHER."  The important thing was that they were a pair - when that was good or bad for them.

I have found that statement more true than "Happily Ever After" in our life together.  Maybe that is why "for better or for worse" is included in wedding vows instead of "happily ever after."  It is like an around-the-world boating contest.  There are times when things are incredible - like when the boat is docked at some tropical beach for a few days.  Then there are times when the storms are so bad you think you are all going to die.  Other times, it is like going through the doldrums - boring and trying.  And other times it feels like an adventure - outracing pirates, sea monsters, DEA agents.

In ten years, we have had eight addresses.  We've lived in four different metropolitan areas.  Heather has attended three different colleges.  We've attended eight different churches.  There has been four pregnancies.  We have three wonderful, insane, brilliant, beautiful children - and one niece and one nephew we adore as well.  We have traveled together to Vermont, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, California, and Mexico.  We have moved from a tiny Honda Accord to a black "molester van" to Honda minivan - all while keeping the reliable Taurus.  We watched the worst terrorist attack on US soil unfold while in labor with our first child.  And we saw the worst environmental disaster in US history start on my last birthday.  We've survived a whole collection of sprained ankles, allergic reactions, calls to poison control, inexplicable kid injuries, forehead eggs, and meltdowns.  And we have switched which of us was the stay-at-home primary caregiver.

The fact of the matter is that I could not imagine my life without Heather.  Things have been crazy.  They have been hard.  But I have had the honor of having her with me the whole way.  I don't deserve her.  I am not a good enough man to have such an amazing woman.  And the man I am now has so much to do with her.  There are times when I am amazed she stayed with me.  If I was married to me, I would have left.  There are only so many yelling matches, tipped over laundry baskets, thrown smoothies, punched bookcases, childish pouts that a person can take.  But she is still there.  I look at her and wonder how in the world I won her heart.  Seriously, there are times when I still am amazed I married Heather Crissinger.

She's a mother of three going to Medical School.  Not only is she going, but she is excelling.  Not only is she excelling, but she is also pulling other students along with her.  She is the "class mom" - counseling and advising younger women in their fledgling relationships.  She has professors that count her as a friend.  Her integrity has influenced people all around her.  And after that, she comes home every day to spend the evening with us - hours that most other students use for studying.

We certainly don't walk around like two giddy school kids in love.  Our love has been broken down and rebuilt and refined and reforged and reinforced.  It is at the point where I cannot imagine being without her.  It has never been easy, but it has been rewarding.  It has been an adventure.  And it is one that is going to continue to surprise.  Who knows what happens next?  We have learned to not rely too much on goals and plans.  We are probably going to move again next summer.  Two years after that is residency - we have no clue where that will be.  I have no idea what I will be doing.  Will Defender take off (finally)?  Will I be teaching?  Writing?  Something else?  And don't get us started on the fact Josiah will be a teenager in a few years.  (shudder)

Heather, I am glad that you saw something in me that was worth throwing your lot in with.  You saw through the man I thought I was, past the man I really was, and saw the man that I could be.  You were patient with me as I still acted like I was that first man - until God broke that arrogant fraud of a mask.  You loved me when I learned what kind of man I really was - even though I didn't deserve it and took forever to want to move past being that person.  And you believed in me that I could actually be that last man - something that I just now am learning to be.  I hope that I can make that investment worth it.  I love you and am so unbelievably proud of you - and immeasurably grateful that you are mine.  And you will be, no matter how many storms we go through.  I'm a blessed man.

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