20 years ago Teresa and I got married.
It was a beautiful, if a bit warm, October day at Lake Pleasant (just north of Phoenix) and I was a nervous wreck. I wasn’t nervous about marrying Teresa, there was never any doubt that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her, I was more nervous about the ceremony and everything else being as perfect as it could be.
I remember waking up early and gathering my suit, a present for Teresa and whatever else I was supposed to bring. I remember wanting to pack everything in the car right away so that I wouldn’t forget any of it and ruin the day. I wanted to do this but I was also terrified that the plastic garment bag that encased my suit would melt and ruin said suit so I sat in our apartment debating when I could/should put everything in the car.
I took a shower.
I worried I’d forget something.
I got dressed.
I finally decided that I had to go now, I couldn’t sit and wait any longer.
I stopped at the mall that Teresa and I had met. I went to the bookstore that we had worked at together and talked to a couple of our old coworkers for a bit. My coworkers kept asking why I was there and why I didn’t look worried. I remember wanting to stop at the mall to be where we first met. I wanted to remember where I saw Teresa for the first time and what it felt like when she accepted my date proposal. It wasn’t because I had forgotten over the course of a year and a half but being there brought a sense of calm to me; if it weren’t for me getting a job here would I have met the amazing, intelligent and very beautiful woman that I was about to marry?
Over the last several months the approaching date of our anniversary has weighed heavily on me. What would I do to celebrate it? Could I celebrate it? A lot of thoughts and a lot of questions have flowed through my mind over the last month or so. There never was any real doubt that I needed to do something to celebrate/honor the day and what it means.
I want it to be perfect though.
I want it do honor to Teresa and show her how much I love her, always have loved her and always will.
I want Teresa to be here to celebrate with me.
After eating a lunch consisting of breadsticks and more breadsticks, I had to leave as my fear of the plastic melting onto my suit grew too strong to ignore. As I drove I wondered how I became so nervous and worried about the ceremony, about everyone showing up and of everything going as planned for the reception. Through the whole process of planning and rehearsals I wasn’t nervous at all. I was excited and only focused on how lucky I was to marry the love of my life.
I had never been responsible for something this big before. Yes it was only a suit, a present and maybe a few other things but it wasn’t about them, it was about not messing the day up – I wanted it to be perfect.
I arrived at Lake Pleasant and started to get dressed.
The suit did not have plastic melted to it.
I forgot an undershirt though.
I’ve considered a number of possible things to do on the day of our 20th Anniversary. I’ve tried to imagine what Teresa would have wanted to do. Would we have done something the day of our anniversary or would we have waited for a later date, something we often did? Would we have gone out to dinner or would we have not felt safe enough to do that?
Last year, for our 19th anniversary, we went out to dinner to a restaurant in Downton Beaverton and then went to a wine bar.
It was our last date.
Would she want to do that again? Would I have stepped up and tried to have made it extra special or would I have gone with the usual plans we had made in the past?
As I watched Teresa walk down the aisle, seeing her in her wedding dress for the first time, I was still nervous but, when she was next to me, I always felt better, safer. We said our vows, kissed for the first time as a married couple and walked away to the tune of Vince Guaraldi’s famous Peanuts song.
She said, “I do”!!
My nerves were forgotten.
I was now married to the woman that I fell in love with almost immediately upon meeting.
Teresa was so kind; so down to earth.
She was beautiful, her beauty was natural and a reflection of the immense beauty within her.
Teresa was one of the most intelligent, hard-working and talented people I knew.
She was so much fun to be around and had such a great sense of humor.
Teresa was now my wife and nothing in the world could have made me happier.
When I think about sitting at one of our favorite restaurants on our anniversary I wonder if I can do it. I wonder if I can sit there and eat a meal while staring across at an empty chair, the chair Teresa should always be sitting in. I wonder if this would be the right thing to do. I wonder if it will be the perfect thing to do.
Will it express to Teresa what I want to express to her? Will the memories of her and our wedding day (along with countless others) help fill the hole her absence has left in my life? Will the process calm my nerves and help me realize that it’s okay if it isn’t perfect?
I don’t know.
I do know that there isn’t much I wouldn’t give or do to have her there with me, to celebrate our 20th anniversary together and be able to look forward to many more anniversaries to come.
I do know that.
With the reception over Teresa and I drove away as husband and wife and started the 19 year journey that was to be our lives together (with a detour to Jack in the Box for food as neither of us had eaten much at the reception).
It was a journey that took us on some straight and well paved roads. It was a journey that took us on some winding and, occasionally, bumpy roads as well.
It was a journey that ended way too damn soon.
Regardless of where we were on our journey, Teresa, I also loved you and always felt incredibly lucky that you allowed me to be your husband. Sometimes I didn’t tell you this enough. Sometimes I didn’t show you how much I loved you enough.
But I always loved you.
And I always will.
Happy 20th Anniversary Teresa! I love you with all of my heart and always will whether I remember to wear an undershirt or not.