This year I am celebrating 20 years of wedded bliss. The 20th anniversary of our engagement was a couple of weeks back. The wedding anniversary is a few months ahead. Those are “official” anniversaries. Events marked on the calendar in advance, they were carried out with great forethought.
Today I celebrate an anniversary of another sort – an unofficial one. It was a haphazard moment, but I remember the date every year. It is the 20th anniversary of my move to Chicago. It’s where my fiance was living at the time.
When we started dating, I lived in a small town where her parents lived. She lived a hour away, where she attended college. Six weeks later, she graduated and moved to New York. That fall she moved back to the Midwest – a couple hours away. A few weeks in the hometown right before my vicarage ended, and she was off again. By the time we get engaged, we had been dating just over a year. We had lived in the same state for nine weeks, the same town for three. We were young and in love, separated by distance, kept together by letters, and phone calls billed by the minute. 20 years ago today, that ended.
Since that day, we have been together. Oh, we go to work separately. I go to conferences; she’s gone to conferences. But, with one exception in 2016, we have never been apart for more than a week. 20 years of togetherness.
When I returned from Vicarage, there were a few constructive comments on my evaluation – some things for me to work on, things like occasionally sleeping through my alarm clock, etc. Every time he read a comment, the director of placement said, “Well, if you get married, that will pretty much take care of itself.” On call day, with the entire United States scattered from sea to shining sea I was placed six blocks from her apartment building.
And on this day, twenty years ago, newly engaged, I set off for Chicago a day early, because she asked me to. I hadn’t planned it. I just got in the car full of boxes and set off. It would be the last time that my parents house was my house. I was looking forward to marriage. To my house being ours. I remember, as I drove toward the city, thinking to myself, “We haven’t actually spent that much time together. I think we’ve been on the phone more than in person. I hope this works out.”
The years since have flown by. Four children, four different houses, two states, two dogs, a cat, seven cars, and more blessings that we can count. My wife has not only managed to get me to the church on time each week for services, she has been my help-meet, my comforter, my love, my friend, my partner. It’s been a great ride so far. And I’m praying for many more years together with her in this world, unless our Lord returns first.
My kids will tell you to this day, I’m pretty much rubbish without her. I grouch about the house, waiting for her return. I post on Facebook, counting down the hours. Today, those thoughts ramble through my head a bit more poignantly, because I am once again separated from her. 72 hours of her with my youngest in a nearby town – but not near enough to commute. So, I wait for her to return, counting hours, and thinking about that day, 20 years ago, when everything changed. Until then, we would plan to spend a few hours here or there together, a day or two snatched from busy schedules. But today, in 1998, we began an adventure. No longer counting days apart, now we would lose count of the days together. I could run a spreadsheet. But I’m content counting years. 20. Every one of them a gift.
Happy Unofficial Anniversary, Mrs. Winter.