On Our 18th Anniversary

An Open Letter To My Husband On Our 18th Anniversary;

For some reason, I remember every little run in I had with you before I really knew you.  I remember driving with my sister to my friend Shawna’s house at 12 years old who happened to live on your street.  She saw you mowing your lawn and said, “Hey, that’s my friend Brad Vantine!” I just tucked that memory away.  A few years later, my sister was in Writer’s Club with you and I remember reading your poetry and thinking, “Woah, this guy seems so happy to write such dark stuff.”  That same year, you tagged along as a third wheel on a date with my sister and her boyfriend and I remember her coming home and telling me about how funny you were.  You were also her drivers ed partner and she’d come home irritated with how much grief you’d give her about her driving skills.  My sophomore year in high school, we both did the same play, The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild.  You did it at the college.  I remember watching you perform and thinking how amazing you were.  I even remember where I sat watching you.   That same year, I went to your house to hang out with my best friend and her boyfriend who happened to be your best friend.  We hung out with you and your girlfriend, who I thought was very sweet, but I think that was the first time I saw you and thought, “Hmm. There’s something about this guy I really like.”   Each one of these meetings or conversations I heard about you I remember so clearly.  This isn’t something that happens to me with every person. God had set you aside for me before I even realized it.  

You're quite memorable!

Me with Shawna (who lived down the street)

Finally, in October of 1997, God decided it was time to bring us together for good.  I was in a production at Weatherford  College of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  You watched the show and came to the cast party afterward.  Though I didn’t stay long, I was there long enough to write my email address on your forearm in sharpie.  Later I learned that was very effective because you weren’t able to get it off for a very long time so you had plenty of time to see it and think about it.  The next week at school, I asked my friend James if we were going to have another party the next weekend because I wanted him to invite you again.  Seeing as how theater kids were always up for a party, we did plan another party.  We had emailed a few times that week and you let me know that you’d be there.  You asked me out on a real date at the next party, which I eagerly accepted.  

From that day forward, we emailed questions back and forth to get to know each other better.  On our first date, you picked me up and took me to Olive Garden and to a movie.  I was taken back at how sweet you were to me.  You were so respectful, funny, kind and just made me feel so safe.  I didn’t ever want to leave your side.  During the movie, you held my hand and something weird happened.  I felt this weird shock feeling run up my arm.  It sounds silly and cliche but I knew that this was the real deal.  When you walked me to the door and kissed me goodnight, my knees literally buckled.  Luckily for me our sofa was right inside the door.  I walked inside and collapsed onto the sofa.  I just sat there, staring into space.  I have no idea how long I sat there.  I was dizzy.  My world was changing and I knew it.  

From that day forward, I was hooked. I’d stop at Super Save to buy calling cards so I could call you long distance since it was too expensive to call you long distance in Stephenville.  We emailed constantly.  I’d sit in the car, talking to you on my parent’s bag phone because it had free long distance after 9:00 pm.  I’d walk around with my head in the clouds, thinking about you.  I’m sure I was disgusting to be around.  Luckily for me, you were just as bad as I was.  We were a pitiful sight and I love to close my eyes and go back there.  It’s not hard to do.  

By mid December, you told me you loved me.  I loved you too.  I knew it but it hadn’t even been six weeks.  I was scared to death of losing you.  I knew if I fully let go and told you I loved you too and we broke up, I’d never be okay again.  The first time you said it, I smiled, said “Thank you,” and went inside my house.  From then on, I think you saw it as a challenge to get me to say it back.  You told me multiple times a day for the next couple of weeks.  Each time, I’d smile or pat your arm.  I’d say thank you or give you a hug but I wouldn’t reciprocate.  I think you learned a little about my hard headedness during that time. Finally, on New Year’s Eve, I decided to give you what you wanted most.  On January 1, 1998, the first words I said to you were, “I love you, too.”

Those butterflies you gave me never faded.  I kept thinking they’d settle down, but they didn’t.  I was madly, crazy, stupid in love with you.  It was so hard to be in different towns.  Even though we were only an hour away from each other, it might as well have been continents away.  I never wanted to be away from you for a minute.  We’d find time to meet up in Granbury which was 30 minutes away for each of us just to see each other for just a little while.  No one had ever made me feel like you did.  I could be with you 24/7 and never get sick of you.  To this day, you’re the only person I can be with constantly and not get tired of.  

In August 1998, you proposed.  You didn’t have Pinterest boards or Facebook to help you out with great ideas, so you don’t have to keep beating yourself up.  I can tell it my way since it’s my letter.  We went to eat at the same Olive Garden that we went to on our first date. Then you took me to The Rose Gardens where you got down on one knee and asked me to marry you.  (I’ll leave out the part where I was you were leading me and I tripped on the curb or the roses were dead because it was August.  The only reason I remember those things are because those are the parts you tell, anyway).  I just remember being so happy.  We set a date for the following June.  

June 12, 1999 was the big day.  I was young.  I was only 19.  People probably think I was crazy to be getting married so young, but I had never been so clear on anything.  It was the best decision I ever made.  I’m so glad I met you when I was so young and married you when I was young, because I have more years to spend with you and more time to make memories with you.  We aren’t promised tomorrow so what is the point of putting off what is meant to be?  Our wedding was a whirlwind. I barely remember it.  I mainly remember what was captured on our video and pictures. Then we were off to South Padre for our honeymoon.  

I remember it felt so surreal to be married.  As we were flying out or checking into our hotel as a married couple, I couldn’t believe this was real.  I was Mrs. Vantine and not Miss Bennett.  What the what? This was so grown up.  I couldn’t fathom it but I loved it.  I didn’t ever want to come home from the trip.  It was so wonderful to just be away together, being married, enjoying life and basking in the afterglow of the wedding.   

It didn’t take long until I had baby fever. Once again, I was young.  I was 21, but I knew what I wanted. Hayley was born about 9 months after my 21st birthday.  She was a challenging baby.  We learned a lot about teamwork and what sleeplessness looked like.  We laughed a lot at our inadequacy as parents, marveled at this amazing child we had created, and grew closer through our love for this beautiful girl.  

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Three years later, we were brave enough to do this again.  Mia was so much easier.  She didn’t cry nearly as much.  We felt like we had the hang of this parenting thing.  We were pros, right?  Ha!  Toddler years hit Mia with much more venom than they did Hayley.  We’re never prepared.  We were still a great team.  Together, we can do anything.  

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Then, out of the blue, we were expecting a third.  I never felt like we were done having kids, I guess.  It was a boy.  We couldn’t settle on a name easily like we did with the girls.  We tossed around Aidan or Jaxon.  Nothing seemed right.  That’s because nothing was right.  Just a few weeks after learning that he was a he, we learned he had passed away.  We decided his name was Matthew, for some reason.  It was a name we’d never even discussed.  I clung to you like I never clung to you before, but for the first time, you didn’t know how to help me.  You wanted to fix this and you couldn’t.  You watched me sinking, and no life raft you threw me worked.  It wasn’t your fault.  Nothing could have helped.  It wasn’t you who I needed to save me.  I needed to work it out with God and within myself.  I know it was excruciating to sit and watch me struggle and not be able to fix it.  You are a fixer.  You are frustrated when you can’t make a problem better.  You did everything I needed.  You stayed constant.  You never left.  When I finally came out of it, you were still there, waiting.  That means the world to me.  Thank you for your patience.  

During that struggle, Zane, came into the world.  He was what kept laughter and silliness in our home while I was gasping for air.  I’m not sure what would have happened if he hadn’t been born.  I hate to speculate.  His funny way of looking at the world, his hilarious sayings have made us all take things less seriously which is such a gift.  

So here we are, 18 years in.  There have been some high highs and some low lows, but my love, there is nobody else in this world I would want to walk this path with.  You’re my best friend, you’re my favorite person, you’re my deep talk partner, you’re my long walk walker, you’re my editor (so I hope this doesn’t suck), you’re my everything.  I love you with everything I am.  

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SHMILY

Carol