May 14. Our Anniversary. This time last year I posted the most popular piece this blog has ever seen. Thank you. This year, it’s my wife’s turn. After all, she’s more the real deal than I’ll ever be, as writer…and human. To wit…
Our epic romantic comedy begins in a High School English Class in 1982, when I (possibly the inspiration for Bridget Jones but with more klutz and better hair) switch high schools in my last semester. The English teacher reads a poem by one of her past students. The best she’s ever had. (A rumour persists that the student and the teacher did indeed ‘have’ each other, but it was unfounded). This former student’s sister sits in front of me in the class. She winces at the mention of her brother for she had endured comparisons throughout her public school career.
The quality of writing in this geo-political poem, something about beavers and eagles, leaves me completely gobsmacked. My 17 year old self thought I had some writing talent, not stellar, but better than average. How could someone my age possess such staggering talent? I dip my toes in the Sea of Self Defeat, a place I would later wade and nearly drown. How many days or weeks it was between the time I hear that poem and then sit with my parents on the sofa, just before graduating from high school, to be informed of my mother’s colon cancer, I can’t recall with accuracy.
Four years later, after a recent break up with one of the many Johns I dated, (the last had a thing for blondes) my Pastor tells me about a student of his in a music class at college, Rob. Not long after, said music student shows up to our church (enter Bridget Jones’ misunderstanding scene): with his fiancée! Who is blonde! Chatting with her, she is pleasant. And, I discover they attend my BFF’s church where BFF’s father is the Vicar.
While away at college, I learn through a letter from BFF that Rob has called off his wedding to blonde fiancée. As BFF and Rob are both much better musicians than me, I ask if she is interested in him. “No,” she says, “He’s a player.” (As it turns out, BFF has confused one girl, different hats). The important point to note is that I hold very firm opinions on country music, camo fabric, animal prints, and players.
One evening, I am out at a mystery supper at BFF’s church. Rob attends. Alone. He, BFF and I carpool between dinner locations. I find him engaging and witty. My mother is weeks away from losing her battle with cancer and I had great need of ‘witty’. I remind myself frequently that he is a player, and his new GF is a student, NON-BLONDE, opera singer. When he learns my mother is dying of cancer, he hands me his phone number with an offer of mutually consoling conversation. “My father recently died of cancer. I understand this. If you ever want to talk….” I am touched, but will never call, because, say it with me, ‘he is a player.’
We discover our cars are parked beside each other and, what started as a quick goodbye, ends as a thirty-minute conversation about the ‘c’ word. And, we share what it is like to be 22 and watch a parent die. Though all of my friends have tried to be compassionate, he is the first person who actually understands what I feel. A bond was forming. The next day I tell my mother how much fun I had the night before and she is pleased. Two weeks later, at my mother’s funeral, BFF tells me, “one day, I know God is going to bless your socks off and good will come from this.”
I adjust, (not well), to attending University in Calgary, and grief. I develop a few crushes to provide minor distractions from my grief. A snowy November evening, several of us decide to go out for cheesecake. We carpool. (Who knew we were so green in 1986)? Suddenly the car door opens and BFF pushes me onto the icy pavement. “Rob needs someone to carpool with him.” Frankly, at this point, my interest in Rob is strictly platonic. I have two other crushes on the burner. We chat non-stop, and I became more fascinated with him as the evening goes on, especially when he tells me how he ended up in jail after a rock concert. A few years previous, that might have been me. I discover once again, that we both possess a saucy, British sense of humour that plays off each other well. Rob, I later learn, kept thinking, ‘damn, she’s funny, I wish demure, Christian, opera singer girlfriend was more like Rae.”
Painful days ensue in my grief process prior to my first Christmas without Mam. December 28, at my little Baptist church, I‘m surprised to see Rob. I’m even more surprised to learn he is going to be doing a choir practicum over the next several months. Things are looking up.
That evening, a large group of friends diminishes to six. Only Rob and I are left and briefly discuss our experiences with grief. Then, to my utter disbelief, he tells the group how he wishes opera singer GF wasn’t so perfect. “Why can’t she trip, spill, fart, or drop something? Maybe speak stupid words at the wrong time?” No man, and I repeat, no man, has EVER stated these as desirable qualities in a woman!
Fast forward several months. Rob has ended relationship with Opera Singer GF, and we have developed a sweet friendship that has slowly blossomed into a romance. The first time I am at his mother’s house, we are standing in the living room and I see a family picture over a piano. “I know that girl,” I say, unsure of where I have seen his sister. He tells me her name.
“YOU, it was YOU, who wrote the geo-political poem about the beaver and the eagle?!” I am, again, gobsmacked. Five years later, I still remember not just the poem, but how impressed I was with the writing. A year later, at our wedding, we pay tribute to the parents we lost to cancer. When I return to my seat, BFF has tears in her eyes, “I told you God was going to bless your socks off!”
2012. Twenty-four swashbuckling, adventurous years of marriage filled with many epic misunderstandings, juicy secrets, a rinse-repeat of colon cancer, this time with my father, and two handsome, talented sons later, I turn my back on the Sea of Self-Defeat. I remember my love for writing, and I begin writing a novel. Frankly, our romance had waned, and writing a handsome hero is like having an affair, without the mess! But as I rediscover my love for writing, I also rediscover my love for Rob. I have always been in awe of his many talents, but perhaps he needed to hear me say it again. He listens patiently as I read chapters aloud. We start acting out characters and scenes (mmmm), one of which lands me in the hospital with a dislocated kneecap after trying to demonstrate spy ‘gravity grips!’
Today is our 26th Wedding Anniversary. I am still deeply moved by his writing. I am more moved by him. And he is, without doubt, the funniest man I know and the best I’ve ever had. If we’re unavailable, we are probably rehearsing a scene.