03 January 2022

Archival footage: 04 January 1997

I wrote the post reproduced below for our 20th wedding anniversary, 04 January 2017. A lot has happened in the five years that have transpired since then, too much to mention here for certain. Suffice to say, we're still together, still in love with one another, still trying to figure it all out, one day at a time.

I wanted to republish what I wrote back in 2017 today, on the eve of our 25th wedding anniversary, because this one seems to me to be an even more significant milestone than was our 20th, for lots of reasons, and not just because it's a bigger number.

In another post I wrote in 2017, I said,
"My (wedding band) tattoo has aged and changed over the years. Sure. It's weather-worn now, gotten bumped, been bruised, and seen cuts, has bled, and been scarred in the course of the last 20 years.

So has our marriage been.

Just like my tattoo, our marriage has survived. Changed. But it is intact. The bruising and scarring, laughter and elation, and long stretches of simple, mundane, day-to-day living-in-partnership with someone who's company you enjoy most of the time, are all just parts of our narrative now, the course of time and the turning of events that have conspired to make us us. Older, most definitely, wiser, indeed, and yet here we find ourselves on our 20th anniversary still together and none the worse, despite the wear.

My tattoo doesn't need to be touched up.

Neither does our marriage.

I love what we have become.

I like us the way we are."
I stand by those words, they are all the more true today, some five years and nearly half our lifetimes later.

I love you, LisaCoe! I hope we get to do at least 25 more together, and then some.

Scheduled to begin at 2:00, our wedding ceremony nevertheless began at 1:53 in the afternoon on January 4, 1997. The church was at capacity at that point, and there was no one else trying to get in, so we decided to get started a little early.

Twenty-four minutes later, at 2:17 PM, we were done.

We had no attendants, no guest list, no decorations, and no formal reception; Jason played piano at the top of the service, Gerv played his guitar at the end.  A few random friends and relatives took pictures and sent them to us afterward.  I wore my well-used concert choir tux and Lisa wore a lovely dress she found on sale at a small boutique in town.

Dozens, maybe hundreds of our favorite folks showed up for our mid-winter wedding on a beautiful cold-blue Saturday afternoon, honoring us with their presence. Some brought gifts.  Some brought cookies.  Some didn't bring anything except themselves.  We didn't really care, we just wanted them to show up, and we were so glad when they did.

I gave the pastor a check for $80.00 so that he would have the heat in the church turned on that morning.  Other than that, and the giant flat-sheet carrot cake that I surreptitiously purchased for $45.00 from Brandy's with Lisa and John written in frosting on its top, we spent nothing else on our nuptials, even the ring I gave Lisa was a gift from my mom.

For our wedding ceremony, in lieu of candles and soloists and staid processions up and down the aisle, we wrote our own vows, kept them secret from one another until that day, and then said them aloud to one another for the very first time during the ceremony.

My wife's vows were lovely.  Amazing, really.  And the crowd who had assembled to watch us wed that day laughed and cried along with her.  She's always been a natural on stage.  Our wedding day was no different.

As to my vows, well, all I can say is: I meant every word of them back then. And I still do today.

We watch our vows together almost every year on our anniversary, thanks to my mom's oldest friend, Valerie, who videotaped them for us that afternoon without being asked.  I transferred the tape to YouTube a year or two ago. If you like, you can watch it below.  Lisa's vows start at 10:45 and mine begin at 17:00.

I've included a transcript of my vows below the video, too.  Just for the record, I guess, filed here forevermore as one more piece of my life's archival footage.

"I am glad you're here, Lisa!

My vows have changed some since I started writing them.  I guess that's to be expected.  I tell my [students] frequently that nothing you write should ever be finished, and I guess, sometimes, I practice what I preach.

"I decided that the best way to relay all of this to you is to tell you a bit about how these vows finally came together.

"Initially, I thought I'd find a rather clever analogy to frame my vows in. As you know I like how a good analogy helps me feel like I'm a little closer to understanding something. So, of course, my first idea was to frame my vows to you around something that I know pretty well: bikes.

"I actually worked on this idea for a long time.  But in the end I decided that it was a little on the predictable side, for someone who knows me so well, so I decided to go in a different direction. But the main point of it was, that even as someone who doesn't know a tenth of all that there is to know about bikes,  I have developed, what some people might call a fondness for them. This is, in ways, similar, though by no means as intense as the way I feel about you.

"You see, I'll never know all that there is to know about you. You're far too intricate and wonderful for me to ever presume that. And, as you continue to grow and change, you will, of course, become somewhat different from the person that you are today. However, none of that will ever change the way that I feel about you. I will not stop loving you. The you that I know today, I love.  The you that I will know through many tomorrows, I will love just as well, if not moreso.  Nothing will change that.  Not a lack of cash.  Not a prolonged illness. Not an argument. Not senility. Nothing.

"So, once I'd thrown out my bike analogy, I began to search for some other device that I could use as a framework for my vows. And, of course, music came to mind. For a long time, I looked for a song that had some tugging set of emotional lyrics in it that I could sing to you during this ceremony... well, I am not going to sing.

"You see, through all my searching, I kept hearing just one song playing through my head, over and over again. A song that I've never heard anybody sing during a wedding ceremony, but a song that for me expresses deep sentiment.  My grandmother taught it to my mom, and my mom taught it to me.  It implies that you are the joy of my life.  That you heal me.  That the depth of my love for you cannot be plumbed. And please, stay with me for a lifetime.

"However, I decided it was a bit on the silly side, so I decided not to use it as the framework I was looking for. But the words to the song go like this:

You are my sunshine,
my only sunshine.
You make me happy
when skies are gray.
You'll never know dear
how much I love you.
Please don't take
my sunshine away.

"One day, not too long ago, I got to thinking about all the things that I believe in.  I started jotting down some things that I believe in and I began to think that this was the much sought-after framework for my vows that I was looking for.  I could talk about the things that I believe in, and eventually find some clever segue that would allow me to talk about you and me and all the things I believe about our future together.

"Well, after rereading some of my ideas several weeks later, I decided that some of the stuff that I'd written wasn't very meaningful for a wedding ceremony.  However, some of the other stuff I wrote about you and me was really nice. Stuff like:
  • I believe we will always be steadfast in our commitment to one another. 
  • I believe that patience, gentleness, and truthfulness will never fall out of fashion where we're concerned. 
  • I believe that you are now, and will continue to become, the most interesting, sincere, humorous, intelligent, and exciting friend that I will ever have, and I will strive to always be likewise to you. 
  • I believe that you possess genuine wisdom and that I will never be misguided by seeking out your loving counsel first and above all others. 
  • And finally, I believe that I was never loved in this way, nor did I ever love like this, until I met you.
"Regretfully, I never found the clever segue for this device, so I had to throw it out along with the others.

"I finally found the answer in the Bible.  Specifically on page 1337 of my Ryrie Study Bible, in a footnote. Actually, I'd found this answer years ago. However, in my effort to communicate my vows to you today, I came back to it not too long ago, and its message literally jumped off the page. In fact, I liked this concept so much that I had it indelibly etched on my finger, for the rest of my life, in lieu of a ring, and as a constant reminder to me, and the rest of the world at large, of my commitment to you.

"As you already know, these Hebrew letters spell out the word Hesed. The word means lovingkindness. Interestingly, this one rather unusual compound word occurs about 250 times in the Old Testament and it's used to imply all sorts of things about loyal, steadfast faithful love.  According to folks who understand Hebrew way better than I do, this word lovingkindness "stresses the idea of the way that those who are involved in a love relationship truly belong together." The word connotes all sorts of things that marriage partners should be able to provide for one another, things like deliverance, empowerment, enlightenment, guidance, forgiveness, communion, hope, praise, and preservation.

"That's some word.

"With all those wonderful things implied and understood, this then is, very simply, my final vow to you today. It's from Hosea, chapter 2, verses 19 and 20, where I first encountered the deeper sense of this word in a footnote. With only the slightest paraphrasing, it goes like this:

I marry you for all time.
I marry you in righteousness
and in fairness,
in lovingkindness
and in compassion.
I marry you in faithfulness."

We never had the money to arrange to take a honeymoon.

Instead, the day after we wed, we rather aimlessly drove to Painted Desert National Park, mostly because we felt like we should go somewhere and do something away from home that day.

It began to snow as we drew near the park and, by the time we'd paid our entry fee and driven to the first overlook, there was nothing to see. Everything was covered in snow.  I took one quick picture of my beautiful new wife, and then we turned around and drove home, stopping to eat an early dinner at Holbrook, Arizona's, finest (and only) Italian restaurant, Mesa Italiana, cloth napkins and all.

It snowed hard the whole drive back.  And it continued to snow for the next several days. By the time the storm was over, there was nearly 5 feet of snow on the ground.

School was closed for a whole week.  We claimed it as our honeymoon and spent it at home.

Snowed-in, just the two of us.


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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey