Fifteen years ago, my wife and I got married in a little chapel in the heart of Kansas City. My uncle officiated, five of my best friends were groomsmen and, as my soon-to-be bride entered the building, the double doors swung open and the late afternoon sun embraced her in a heavenly glow.
The next day, we flew to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, went snorkeling, got sun-burned, drank rum punch, and relaxed most afternoons in a hammock below our beachfront cabana. After a week of honeymoon bliss, we flew back to the city to start real life as a newly married husband and wife.
Ten days later, two planes hit the World Trade Center. The country was paralyzed. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, it didn’t take much to see that two little people didn’t add up to a hill of beans in a crazy, frightening new world.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if my wife and I had scheduled our wedding and honeymoon a little later than we did. The shut-down of U.S. airlines and airports would have forced us to spend a few extra days in the Caribbean. Would we have decided to just stay down in Tortola and never come home? It would have been tempting to do so.
Staying in the tropics would have been romantic, but not very realistic. After all, we had a house, jobs, and three cats in Kansas City. What would we do for employment? Not many people in Tortola seemed to work, so maybe we could have just fished and slept on the beach?
At any rate, we decided to put down our roots in Kansas City, and I am glad that we did. There have been many magical moments like that trip to Tortola in our 15 years of marriage. There have also been doses of cruel reality, some which I dearly wish we never had to experience.
Through it all, though, we have stuck it out together. My wife has been so much more than just someone I share a home and a bank account with. She is my friend, ally, collaborator and confidant. You need that in a marriage, I think. Just being in love is not enough. You need someone you can laugh with and suffer with, and you especially need someone who can laugh with you even when you both are suffering.
A few days before our wedding, my wife did something that I felt spoke to her commitment as a partner and companion. I mentioned it in my toast at our wedding rehearsal dinner.
My wife and I had tickets to a Kansas City Chiefs preseason game, and we were trying to find a parking space near where our friends were tailgating. The journey in our Honda Accord took us off-road and onto a grassy ridge where fans had parked and were barbecuing. At one point, to get through all the cars and tailgaters, I had to drive along what felt like a 45-degree slope. It really seemed like the car might tip over at any second as we drove through the crowd. My wife, who sat in the elevated side of the car, opened her passenger door and leaned out as far as she could, both hands clutching the roof like a windsurfer hanging onto a sail. Instead of just bailing out, she thought her quick action might help keep the car from flipping down the hill.
We and our Honda survived, of course. I knew then—if I had any doubts before—that I had found a partner who would be with me all the way, even during times of potential bodily harm.
Fifteen years on, she is still with me, and I am so grateful for that.