When you are in love you can’t fall asleep because reality is better than your dreams. – Dr. Seuss
I met Mary Beth 25 years ago today. She was a 17-year-old looking forward to her high school graduation and I was 21 preparing for a teaching job later in the fall. We found each other on May 4, 1984 and started the process of building a life together. Even though our relationship looks different today than it did in 1984, the foundation is still on solid ground and able to support us for many more years to come.
It was fate that brought us together. My wife and her cousin had plans to go to a popular bar in Virginia Beach (the legal drinking at the time was 18 and Mary Beth was only a few weeks away from her birthday and decided to press her luck), but a wrong turn steered them to downtown Norfolk instead.
Rather than turning around, Mary Beth and Marcia decided to head to a college bar near Old Dominion University, my college. That night I went to a baseball game and was heading home but decided to stop for a beer first. We both arrived at the same place and in the same moment. There are no accidents in life without value or purpose.
After finishing the last sip, I placed the empty beer mug on the mahogany bar and was looking for home. As I was leaving, I saw Mary Beth sitting at a table looking both scared (she made it past the bouncer) and beautiful. I had just ended a long-term relationship and was not interested in starting another, but something promoted me to move toward her and begin a conversation. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I finally found home that night.
A quarter of a century is a long time to love someone. Not all days over the past 25 years have been filled with romantic bliss, but they have contained two important facts: I found my soul mate and I have been changed for the better ever since.
From my heart to yours, Mary Beth, these are the gifts I see in you:
- When I first approached you, your deep brown eyes and exquisite Roman nose added some explanation to the initial impression I had from the across the bar. Like everything else in you, your beauty continues to make my head turn.
- The passion to help your patients find more peace and happiness has no limits and it is never exhausted. The world is indeed a better place with you in it.
- When you talk to Rascal and Riley you do know they don’t really understand what you are saying, right? They just think food might somehow be involved. Regardless, it just shows your capacity to love all things He created.
- Your sincere, loving and unique relationship you have with each one of our children demonstrates that a mother’s love can be unfaltering and genuine. Thanks for making this real for me.
- Because of your awareness, there are always bananas in the house and I never run out of my 81mg once-a-day aspirin to keep my heart strong. I’m pretty sure it will never fail you.
- Yes, you can get on my last nerve for over thinking a situation, but behind the persistent questioning is a woman who, at your core, just wants to be prepared regardless of the circumstances.
- The on-the-fly recipes your create when you have no real plan in the kitchen, but only a handful of ingredients, reminds me of the confidence you have in the other parts of your life. You have a knack for figuring things out and making certain everything turns out well in the end.
- You have become an avid facebook user ( OK, sometimes you can be a little obsessed with it), but I know behind the status updates and commenting, is an abundant heart looking to connect and share with the people you care most about.
- Thank you for bringing the importance of God back into our life. I love our new church and hope it will be a part of lives for a long time to come.
- I admire how you insist Brandon call you at least once a week. Just because he is grown and out of the house, doesn’t mean he should become disconnected from our family. This is an important family value the other children are learning from you as well.
- Your sincere belief in me helps to keep the fire burning. You are my biggest fan and I appreciate your faith in what I am doing more than you will ever know.
- On the nights when I have to work late, you always leave a light on and I know you can feel me enter the room. No matter how quiet I try to be, you wake briefly to offer a kiss before finding sleep again.
- You challenge me to leave my comfort zone and step closer to who I can be when I let my guard down and simply be Alex. The night you turned me into Billy Idol for the Rock Star party was awesome. In an ironic twist, underneath the spike hair, eyeliner, tattoos and jewelry was someone closer to who I really am. Thanks for inviting that person to come out and play (click here to see me as Billy Idol and Mary Beth as my main groupie).
- Every year, Christmas arrives on-time in the Blackwell house thanks to your efforts and insistence we create and sustain our own family traditions. I know Brandon, Caitlin, Andrew and Emily will always remember Christmas with fondness and love.
- No matter what’s on your plate, you stay dialed into me. You took my casual mention of wanting David Cook’s CD as an opportunity to provide it. Our connection has been our biggest strength regardless of what is happening around us.
- You confront frightening situations with grace and dignity. I know you are scared right now, but I also know your courage and hope has the power to get you to the other side. When you do need a dose of replenishment, you can cling to my shoulder until you are ready to go again.
- You are a good soul, Mary Beth, to give up several weekends to volunteer your time and talent to help those in pain. You are leaving a mark and you are making a difference in the lives of others. Although you may never see some of these people again, I know a piece of you will be with them always.
- Thank you for your ability to see through my excuses and for holding me accountable to be honest with you, and more importantly, to be honest with myself. As you know, at the end of the day it will be the truth that will set us free.
- I love how you cuddle up close to me when we are sleeping. Sometimes when you can’t find the blanket, you find me instead and pull me closer to you.
- It’s so touching the amount of time you take to read my articles. Your feedback and comments are like gas on fire for me – they give me the energy to keep going and never give up.
- Your commitment to your mother, brother and sisters is a reminder for me of the importance of staying connected with my family. I don’t think I would have reconciled with my sister if it had not been for your gentle nudging and positive example.
- The Friday evening dinners when we find ourselves alone on a patio at one our favorite restaurants sharing food and the past week’s news provides nourishment for my soul, too.
- Your unexpected emails and telephone calls to tell me you are thinking of me mean… well you know what they mean.
- You touch me when you set a Royals baseball game on the television remote control to Previous Channel so we can get updates throughout the evening.
- When I think back to our first dates, I remember the afternoons sitting on the beach getting to know each other a little better and acknowledging the promise of sharing a life filled with so much love and hope. Now with 25 years behind us, I can still feel the hope. The beach continues to stretch out before us. I cannot see the end, so walk with me a little further Mary Beth. Love will continue to be the bridge that brings us together for the next 25 years, and beyond.