Today’s Essay

Twenty

As a practice, I always write something for my wedding anniversary. I want my wife to know that I am grateful for her love and for caring for me over the years and I want her to understand that she saved my life. This year marks our twentieth year of marriage and our twenty-fourth together.

            Yesterday, Facebook sent me a reminder of some of the things I’d written. I’m particularly proud of what I wrote on our fourteenth anniversary and the list I made on our twelfth was not just funny but instructive as well. Some of what I write expresses my frustration at not always being the husband I should be, some of it a reflection of who we were and who we have become. All of it expresses my gratitude.

            I began gathering my thoughts together long before the appointed date. This was a milestone, after all and I wanted what I wrote to be special. At first, my plan was to write a book about her and present it to her on our anniversary. I was going to interview her sister and daughter and a few other folks important to her and really make something cool and fun, but then I thought ‘What if I give away secrets she doesn’t want me to tell?’ I put that idea on the back burner.

            There’s the cookbook we started writing together that I have yet to finish. I wanted illustrations done a certain way and have never got around to creating. Both of these ideas kind of smack of cheapness, like the birthday cards you made for your mom as a kid. “Look. See. I made you this book instead of buying you a present.” Somehow, I felt like the whole thing was being forced.

            Maybe instead of writing something, I could go big. She loved my Christmas gift last year where books by all of her favorite authors are sent to her on the day of release. How was I going to top that? A transcontinental Canadian railway journey? A stay in a resort hotel in Aspen, Colorado? Another concert date? I found myself sitting at the keyboard researching this event and that journey, out of ideas.

            As the days grew closer, I began to panic. I had nothing. I went window shopping, hoping to generate some ideas. I asked my friends and searched the internet for the perfect anniversary gift. A twentieth wedding anniversary is represented by china of which we have none and which I don’t think she would care for. What if I was wrong? Should I plan a trip to China? I don’t think she would like that either.

            Our anniversary was suddenly upon us. Kathy slept soundly, but had sent me a text at 5:09 AM exclaiming HAPPY ANNIVERSARY PUNKIN! The day was just beginning for me an I was already behind. When she woke, I brought her breakfast, got her situated and then told her I was going to the gym. I spent the next two hours searching the mall and anywhere else I could think of for some sort of answer. I was supposed to take her to the dentist, but I lost track of time and got home late.

I picked Kathy up and got her to the dentist. I was doomed. I didn’t have so much as a bouquet of flowers or even a card. Was it too late to get a barbershop quartet to sing to her? I searched dream vacations on my phone and then snuck out of the dentist’s office and walked down to the Christian bookstore around the corner and picked up the most appropriate card I could find, filled it out and stuck it on top of the sun visor in the car. When I walked back into the office, Doctor Q came out and wished me a happy anniversary, which made me feel even more like a failure. Kathy returned from the nether regions of the dental office, made a new appointment and we were off.

            I asked her where she would like to go for our anniversary dinner and she began looking at menus for one of our favorite places. We drove home and while Kathy changed, I tried to make reservations.

            “Sorry, we’re all booked, but you can come down. The wait is about fifteen minutes,” said the cheery restaurant manager. Of course, I had forgotten that we had married during one of the busiest tourist times of the year and that every restaurant would be booked.

            “We’re all set,” I told Kathy. “They’re not taking any more reservations, but the wait is pretty reasonable. We hopped into the car, got to the restaurant and waited for about forty-five minutes to get a table. I sat there expecting that Kathy was expecting me to pull a ring or other bit of jewelry out of my pocket, but she sat contentedly enjoying her dinner. I finally had no cards left to play.

            “Look, I said, “I didn’t know what to get you so I thought I would give you a choice. There’s this transcendental railway journey in Canada or a resort in Colorado we could go to or we could go back out to Phoenix for another concert.” I was looking for her to save me, and she did.

            “This is perfect,” she said.

            “It’s perfect because of you,” I replied.

            “It’s perfect because of us,” she said.

            Just like that, the anxiety over my sub-par anniversary performance was gone. We sat and ate our dinner, talked about the Dylan album we had listened to recently and how much we loved it. We talked about maybe going back out to California in November or taking an extended trip to see our friends and family around the country and that was it.

            We returned to a home full of jumping dogs. Lynn had run out and bought two dozen roses (20 + 4) to represent our time together and two large chocolate cupcakes with one numbered candle each, a two and a zero. I sat down and tried to write something while Kathy got ready for bed, still unable to make sense of the day.

            I know it’s not about gifts or cards or flowers. I know it’s not even necessarily about love, but it’s about us. We have been together so long that we are no good without each other. I can’t be who I am without her. I am who I am because of her. I can’t imagine where I would be alone and I don’t want to find out.

            We sat in bed together and exchanged anniversary cards. Hers was funny. Mine was sappy. Kathy gave me a larger bulletin board to replace the one where I keep all my memorabilia and all my birthday, Father’s Day and anniversary cards. Lynn gave me pushpins. Simple and like Kathy said, perfect.

Copyright 2021 by Jose Antonio Ponce