On January 19 of 1997 (coincidentally the day on which our middle child was born), I started dating a young college boy. I was a senior in high school, hellbent on getting out of the small town in which I’d been raised. I previously met this college boy when I was 14. We went to *cough, hack church ahem* together. He was 17 to my 14. I followed him around for a few weeks, doe-eyed at his thick brown hair, lean, athletic runner’s body, and aloofness. I fawned over him. Then he graduated, moved on to college, and I moved on to a new crush.
Three years later, I was working at Captain D’s. Yes, the fast food fish restaurant. After a late shift, I’d gone to Wal-Mart and was perusing the CD singles area (remember those? CD singles!). I turned to see one of my (many) high school crushes standing behind me.
I think I exclaimed something along the lines of “Jim Ashe! As I live and breathe!” Ok, not really. That might’ve been my response if I were a Southern belle debutante (which I am not). In reality, I have no idea what I said, but it turned out to be a fortuitous meeting. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just re-met my future husband.
We talked in Wal-Mart for close to an hour – standing in the CD aisle. I have no idea about what. When we parted ways, I was disappointed that he didn’t ask for my phone number. This was before the age of cellphones. It was late, and I remember calling my mom from a payphone to tell her where I was and when I’d be home. I also told her about running into Jim. My mom still remembers that phone call even now – 21 years later.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I went to visit my best friend. Jim was there, hanging out. We spent a couple of weeks spending time as “friends” together. One night, we were watching Forrest Gump (at the time, Jim’s favorite movie), and I mentioned that he should ask me out.
That’s where it began.
We dated for about a year before unromantically agreeing that getting married was the “logical thing to do” since I was moving back to Florida to continue my undergraduate degree. It’s not the most “swept away” romantic love story ever…but it is the greatest love story of my life.
We married on July 2, 1999 in front of about 100 family and friends.
Since then, our journey has been one of great joy and great grief, small hurts and big hurts, big loves and little loves. We’ve argued. We’ve made up. We’ve lived in … I’m counting here … at least 10 different houses/apartments scattered over 5 or more cities in 3 different states. We’ve finished advanced degrees and managed to stay married to each other. We’ve held each other up and let each other down.
We’ve welcomed three very loved children into this world and said a devastating goodbye to one of them.
This journey is not what I could’ve foreseen. I guess life is never as we foresee.
Thanks, Jim, for sticking with me through the late 90s and early millennium, when I made you listen to Third Eye Blind and Tonic and every other bad pop band out there. Thanks for listening to “How’s It Gonna Be?” seventeen hundred times with nary a complaint. Thanks for skiing with me at Hawksnest. Thanks for teaching me to rock climb, for pushing me outside of my comfort zone. Thanks for loving my friends and family as if they are your own. Thanks for letting me have all the cats and bottle fed kittens and noisy, obnoxious parrots that I wanted. Thanks for supporting me through vet school, even when I was at my worst.
Thanks for being the father of the three children that I love best in the world and for not panicking when Hazel was born on the couch. Thanks for holding our son’s hand every day of his life and always, always being willing to give up every part of yourself for him. Thank you for your calm acceptance of his trisomy 18 and your willingness to be his daddy and support system for as long as he needed us. Thanks for doing the dishes, for cooking dinner when I’m sad, for loving me when I’m at my worst.
You are the epitome of what a father and a husband should be.
You are a once in a lifetime treasure, and sometimes, I foolishly forget it. I love you. I love what we have created in the last 18 years. Here’s to 50 more!