8/1/1992 2:00 PM — I was 19 and you were 21. Two “I do’s” we said.
One car, one apartment, 3 jobs and uncountable overtime hours for eleven months.
7/1993 — One four-bedroom house seemed very empty with four appliances, one bed, one piano, no chairs, no table, and no couch, but it was ours. Auctions, kindness of friends and family, and more overtime slowly added six chairs, one dining room table, two couches, and one Christmas tree for our first holiday. Three friends playing midnight basketball until you got home from work at 1 AM. Suppers at 2 AM consisting of pasta eaten out of one large bowl, with two forks, sitting on a couch watching reruns until 3 AM.
Nine months of anticipation spent painting eight white clouds on four blue walls. Stern warning from a doctor for being on a ladder at six months pregnant when we roofed the house, followed by one moment of hilarity when you at eight months pregnant got stuck in the closet while painting. Water broke 11 days early and 8 hours later we held a bald baby named Alexander John on 9/30/1994.
One new job, two (or three, or four) more cars, decorating a needed second bedroom, one trip to Colorado with an 18 month old at the start of nine more months of waiting. “Look at all that hair!“, the nurse said and after 4 hours of labor we held Caleb Bradley on 11/21/96.
Five years of wedded bliss followed by eighteen months of a marriage on the rocks. One man running in selfish pride, one woman barely holding on, and one God who graciously pursued both. Countless sleepless nights, unbelieveable forgiveness, and God’s grace and mercy immeasurable. One re-commitment, our last nine months of waiting, our one ultrasound to “know for sure”, and after 2 hours of labor Hannah Caryn was welcomed by two parents and two brothers on 6/24/99 to complete this family of five. Eight years we had waited to use the name, Caryn — our waitress’s name the night we got engaged.
Over the years were four trips to Kentucky, three trips to Kansas, and two trips to Arkansas all to see family. Four funerals of grandparents, two funerals of nephews, and the marriages of four siblings and five nieces and nephews. More health scares from parents than can be counted with stents, tests, one open-heart procedure, one stroke, and two Flight for Life helicopter rides.
Ten vehicles, three mowers, three lawn trimmers, and two snow-blowers. One new roof, one new furnace, three new washers, and two new dryers. A flooded basement three or four times, twenty new windows, and two new hardwood floors. Two crab-apple trees taken down replaced in time with three cherry trees and two peach trees. One strawberry patch planted in excitement. One strawberry patch removed in frustration three years later. One vegetable garden gone to be replaced a few years later with two.
One employer for you at one location for twenty-one years. Five employers for me scattered in four different cities until we found one right in our backyard. One business start-up now 10 years old. One 1,200 square foot shop built in 2004. One day you were welcomed home to the sight of three kids ages 10, 8, and 5 on the roof of the shop “helping” me.
Sixty visits from the Tooth Fairy, two children in for minor surgery, and one child with asthma. Three sets of training wheels, one bike ridden into a parked truck, and one bike chasing after deer. Twenty-eight different seasons of soccer (12 championships), five seasons of basketball, five seasons of football (1 championship), and seventeen seasons of baseball (three championships). Three Betta fish raised were our only pets. Unless we count the Monarch caterpillars raised into butterflies which numbered well over four hundred.
Six broken bones that have been confirmed — four for me, one for you, and one for one of the kids. Surprisingly, not the kid we would have guessed. Twenty-six combined years of homeschooling, four years of public high school, and two handsome boys attending three homecomings and one prom. One night at a Milwaukee Bucks game watching our three sing the National Anthem with a group of others. One Green Bay Packers mini-camp, numerous Milwaukee Brewers games, and county, state, and children’s fairs. Five trips to Bay Beach to ride the ten cent rides, one son stopping himself in fear halfway down the three-story tall slide, one dad trying to stop himself on the same slide to help his son get down. Two piano teachers, three piano players and one beautiful young lady in voice lessons. Two new drivers, one son preparing to vote for his first time, and dozens of college advertisements.
It’s hard to add it all together. To think and remember the love and how it’s changed from what it once was to what it is now. That every moment that can be counted has brought us to here and shaped and made us who we are. The arguments that we pushed through, the stubborn pride of “being right”, and the times we set aside our rights for the other. The moments of painful serious conversation when we questioned each other if we would be able to continue together on the path we had started. When love was lost, we chose to learn to love again because we believed it was right and we had come too far to throw it away. Now twenty years in we look forward to tomorrows — regardless of what they may bring — as we remember our yesterdays that have brought us this far. And we rest in the promises of One who has kept us and guarantees that all things will work for good.
Promising to continue to count the memories together . . . I love you.
8/1/1992 ~ 8/1/2012