Today is a love song to the man I married 29 years ago. On April 5th, 1986, I faced my groom in his rented tux and we promised each other our undying devotion in front of God, family, and friends.
I learned years later that my then-80-year old grandmother leaned over to my Mom in the front pew and said, “This will never last.” Brian and I, after all, didn’t have a penny to our names. It wasn’t like we had a long list of marketable skills to fall back on either. In fact, we didn’t even have a short list. Brian had pretty much majored in foosball during his spotty two years of higher education. My track record was even worse. After graduating high school with honors, I’d snubbed my nose at college, moved to the mountains, and cleaned horse hooves at a stable: a sterling example of my youthful oblivion.
As we left the church that day, giddy with joy, Brian and I floated through a throng of well-wishers who very well might have secretly shared my grandmother’s sentiment. We had to borrow a truck to leave our own wedding. There was every reason for our marriage not to last. We were immature, naive, and dead broke.
But, we had one thing going for us: tenacity. Tenacity in life and tenacity in love. Neither of us are giver-uppers. And that’s what any good marriage requires: unflagging allegiance. When the flowery sweetness of young romance takes a backseat to the harsher realities of bills, child-rearing, and inevitable setbacks, couples often tend to think that the marriage is over. In truth, those hard times comprise the precarious bridge to a far deeper love. If we don’t burn the bridge when marriage gets difficult, if we hang onto it for dear life, even when our knuckles are bloody and our strength is zapped, there comes a morning when—miraculously—we arrive on the other side. Together. Looking back, this is when we realize that it took those hardships to fortify us. Like irons through the fire, we emerge stronger. We no longer pine for the gauzy delight of young romance, for we have earned the rarefied prize of something much better: true abiding love. The kind of love that refuses to retreat under heavy fire. A love that will last the ages. A dam that will not break.
So here I find myself 29 years later. I tease Brian that they were the best 25 years of my life. There were a few doozies scattered in there. The foxhole years, I call them. As trying as they were, those times rewarded us the hard-won wisdom that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Sweet Brian chooses to remember his own version of things. “Babe,” he says, “Our hard times were better than most people’s good times,” and he absolutely means it. I cherish this man. He has shared this journey with me through thick and thin. He has stood witness to my life, every triumph and disaster, yet somehow manages to see me only through adoring eyes. He is the embodiment of tenacity and the bravest person I have ever known. Undoubtedly, both were essential traits to have married me in the first place.
Now, whenever I see a young couple in the throes of building a life together, I say a silent prayer that they will have patience for the mundane and strength for the storms. I know firsthand that rough waters don’t last forever, and they will only bind us closer if we let them. And when I see my Brian smiling across the table at me, reaching out his big bear paw of a hand to hold mine, I say another silent prayer: that I will be the lucky one to share eternity with him. Not just for the rest of this life, but for the next and the next and the next. Selfish? Maybe, but I don’t care. It has been a wild and glorious ride and I never want it to end.
I like to think that my grandmother would be very pleased that she was wrong.
Editor’s Note: Laurie Lambert fell in love with Red River in 1965. Her childhood dream came true in 1997 when the family cabin was finally completed. Throughout the year she can be found trail running, snowshoeing and devising all sorts of reasons to never leave the mountains.