The couple was in college, studying some general ed triple whammy experimental course on the intersection of History, Social Studies and English or some strange amalgamation. They were young, future ahead of them or so they thought.
Being freshmen at a local community college doesn’t quite feel like Notre Dame or Stanford where the big names go, but the future looked no less bright. They were wide-eyed, even if a little naive about what it meant to be parents.
That’s how this was supposed to go, right? Parents at 18 and 19 years? Marriage ‘whenever’ it happened?
Everything was backwards.
She was passing him a note in class, he was in school mode: all ears and hungry for whatever the professor (or whatever this person was supposed to be) had in store. All he knew was that this chick behind him wouldn’t quit passing him notes in class.
“Jasmine” he wrote. Passed it back.
He heard her chuckle…Did they have detention in community college? He thought they were doomed, that was the third time the teacher/professor/intern/whatever was giving him the stinkeye.
Great. Now I’m busted. This stinks…why are we in school, again? What was this class?
He felt the tap again. “Hell no, not Jasmine.”
Now it was his turn. He sucked at names, but didn’t know it yet. He snorted, suppressing laughter and not daring to look at the teacher-person-thing.
Let’s just go get some Ben & Jerry’s and watch Ricki Lake. That’s all he could think about – he knew he’d never name his child, but in the heat of the early Autumn, with life pressing on his shoulders, he needed a good ice cream.
Mint Chocolate Chip or Chocolate Fudge Brownie? Tough decision…He liked how the chocolate and brownie were so rich – he could eat a pint or more – but they coated his throat…Maybe Mint Chocolate Chip.
That way, the 8 billion pigs worth of fat and cholesterol – like he cared at 18 – wouldn’t feel so heavy. Mint it was. Really, it didn’t matter.
Anything and anywhere but here. He wasn’t even sure what he was ‘going to be,’ but he’d already ruled out being a writer.
The world didn’t have room for another John Saul or Stephen King anyway…he might as well play the lottery while getting struck a second time by lightning: fat chance I’ll be a writer.
Oh. Maybe that’s what he should study? English. Become a writer. That way he wouldn’t use sentence fragments and he could actually work at a publishing house to make his loot. They’d make a movie out of all that went on in his head…
But first thing’s first. He needed to get out of this class and take his baby mama with him.
Watching Ricki Lake and Changing Diapers
It didn’t take them long to drop out, she was sick to her stomach in the first trimester, and the 82-degree classroom wasn’t helping. That was college. In the interim, he wasn’t quite sure what he’d do, but he was built for work so that’s what really mattered, right?
All he knew was that he wouldn’t drop the ball. Except he hadn’t picked it up since high school.
Whatever. Let’s watch Ricki Lake. Oprah’s got nothin’ on Ricki…
So there they were, two kids on the couch changing their kid, the world’s finest baby in the history of babies. She was perfect (and not named Jasmine, which he was told reminded his girlfriend of ‘Jasmine rice’ – good call).
Ricki was on T.V., kicking some knowledge about paternity tests, being overweight, dating or domestic abuse…or fashion…or something irrelevant to the grand scheme of proper society, of which society he was decidedly not a member, changing his daughter’s diaper at 18 years of age on the couch in his parent’s home with no job other than the ambiguous, “Look for a job, that’s my job.”
The topic of discussion at present was what was on their itinerary once they arrived in Lake Tahoe. Her dad had a timeshare cabin deal, they’d go up and take some time to…not gamble, drink or otherwise enjoy of the ambiance that is Lake Tahoe in Autumn…
The conversation was brief but they both wanted to get away, be grown-ups and know-it-alls, together with a pack of Marlboro 100′s and some Diet Coke or a can of Campbell’s Chunky this or that – maybe some Dinty Moore beef stew.
That was a gourmet meal in a can.
He distinctly saw her freckles blushing. She was beaming. Her green eyes on fire, he was wondering for a fleeting moment what he’d missed.
She had a smile playing about her lips, so something was “up” for sure. Then she said something that he thought he misunderstood – surely he was mistaken when she said:
So, when we go to Tahoe, wanna get married?
His exact response:
What? Are you serious?
Whoops. (That was his next thought.)
If she had been a zeppelin, at this point she would have been the Hindenburg, burning and crashing…oh, the humanity of that moment. Her eyes, once lit, were now a browner, darker and less hopeful hue of sewage water.
All hint of green fire in her hazel eyes (which could turn into blazing emeralds given her mood) was now extinguished, smoking grey and dark without any light. Her playful smile was now upside-down, she recoiled a bit as if smelling a foul odor or dodging a cloud of gnats.
But she only regained her composure a brief second later and said, still flushed (now more with embarrassment and less with hope),
‘Yes’ was too hard to say past the lump in her throat, he didn’t respond exactly with “YES!” so what did that mean? She was thinking, somberly, ‘A little late to back out now, we have a daughter, I thought this was real love…’
Unbeknownst to her, he was thinking,
I have just been proposed to by my girlfriend. This is awesome! Oh…no…it’s backwards and terrible…wait…I think I’m supposed to say YES. I hope she doesn’t make me wear the dress, too. Damn. She beat me to it…
‘Yeah! But we need to get wedding rings…’
He didn’t have the means to get them rings, you see, but she was working. It was totally backwards in his mind, not the way he wanted to start off, not the way he wanted his marriage to begin…
Who was he kidding? His mom wanted a traditional Catholic wedding, and his girlfriend wasn’t Catholic (nor really was he). What? Big church, big budget – wait for a house…but we have a daughter already and we love each other.
Wasn’t that enough? To hell with the traditions – they’d elope.
They were already a family, why not tie the knot? She was the one, there wasn’t a doubt. Anyway, it seemed to work for her grandma and grandpa (about 50 years of marriage at that time after a similar wedding).
They’re Late? Really?
They dropped their 5-month-old daughter at her mom’s house, and rushed on their way into their future.
On the way up they listened to their music, smoked Marlboro Light 100′s (hard box), downed their Diet Cokes – well, she drank 1/2 and left the other 1/2 to be recycled with the plastic bottle – and talked about how excited they were…
And about how intimidated they were.
His Filipino mom forbade the wedding.
Where are you going to live? How will you support her? Why can’t you wait for a real wedding? Your brother got married this year, it’s bad luck.
Oh, mom. I’m not superstitious. It’s not bad luck. We love each other. All that matters.
They listened to, among other CD’s, Lenny Kravitz belt out Let Love Rule in their rebellion. They already started a family, no stopping it now.
When they got to their wedding chapel, finally, they already had to fight a thousand Harley Davidson motorcycles on the way up. They were late, and riding in a nearly-broken-down Hyundai Excel (with a sunroof, CD changer and stick shift, it might as well have been a Porsche the way he was burning through the gears).
Sign of things to come?
They were late. It was supposed to be an outdoor wedding, with a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe someplace in sight, a gazebo, maybe unicorns and elvish princesses and fairy dust and happy thoughts.
They got to their own wedding late. He knocked on the door, waiting…she was worried, ‘What if we can’t get married? That would suck.’
‘Yeah, but don’t worry about it, just hold on a sec…’ He knocked again.
He was using his sheer willpower to make someone answer. Obi Wan had nothin’ on him.
Shortly after imagining himself on Tatooine, training young Luke Skywalker after proof he was, in fact, a Jedi Master, a light turned on.
See? Told ya… he thought to himself.
The door creaked open and all he could think was, ‘Don’t be some idiot with a shotgun on crack…’ To his fiancee he just smiled. Told her not to worry.
The smell of alcohol punched him in the nose as he heard some witch-like voice creak,
Who are you?
Hell, I’m underage to even have this conversation, I think I’m drunk just by breathing that in…
Out loud, he said, actually…nothing. His wife-to-be explained who they were.
She made all the arrangements, and he sat there wondering when the moisture would return to his alcoholic-breath-blasted eyeballs. Smelled like rum, his dad’s favorite – Bacardi or something cheap. Hold the Coke.
‘Oh! You guys were supposed to be here over an hour ago…we’re closed.’ She was dressed in some nearly decent nightgown thing, but looked like she wanted to lie back down to sleep off her Rum and Coke (without the Coke).
Finding a kernel of his manhood someplace buried deep within, he squeaked, ‘Uh…do you think, maybe…can’t we just say our vows?’
It didn’t matter that this vagabond was drunk. It didn’t matter to him what the law said, he wasn’t going to leave without some evidence they were growed up proper. He wanted to get married, and feverishly he was imagining going to some Love Shack drive-through place somewhere in this lost town.
‘We’re doing this,’ his eyes said. Jane, the vagabond (or was it Jadis, queen of Narnia?) muttered something about calling a judge, or justice of the piece – whatever that was, the boy didn’t know. It sounded like she was calling the cops.
In further mutterings, as the door widened open and they were sort of welcomed across the threshold, he discerned the wedding was on. They’d be married.
Purple Skies, Lightning and the Honeymoon
After they said their self-made vows (which neither recall but it had nothing to do with either party ever doing more than a load of laundry a week ever if they could help it), the young newlyweds raced off to their honeymoon suite…
…Which was an over-priced apartment (pardon: it was a timeshare) his father-in-law had a stake in…
And enjoyed the single-handedly-most-foreboding display of a lightning storm they’d then seen as individuals. At that point in time, it was dark, they were tired, working on the fumes of Coke and nicotine, and worried about their daughter.
Oh, and newly married. That the world was obviously being torn in two from the sky downwards wasn’t so out of place, it seemed to fit.
They were famished. She was forward-thinking and brought out the can of Campbell’s Chunky Sirloin Burger stew – and they had a terrifying display of violent bolts of lightning bashing the dark skies in a vivid array of explosions in rapid succession.
If Thor was real, he hit his thumb with his hammer that day. Both wondered if this display of heavenly violence was a portent of things to come.
Lightning bolts and peals of thunder would punctuate the darkness in explosion after explosion of violet, a blindingly bright violet.
Neither of them denied God existed, but that night both of them wondered if this was a sign of His displeasure?
Was this some warning of what lie ahead?
Hell yes it was...Out loud, to his wife - his wife! – he said, “Naw, not a sign – but it’s beautiful.”
When they returned home, reality pushed away all fairies, happy dust and unicorns. It came in obtrusively in waves.
First, they found their daughter had developed a severe case of diarrhea, she was now allergic to dairy (a temporary allergy according to doctors at the time), potentially dehydrated and miserable.
They both felt pangs of guilt for their reckless decision to leave her behind, she was in bad shape.
Returning with heavy hearts, half-expecting a welcome party of sorts, the boy’s mother was furious. She became a verbal tempest, matched only by the stubborn will of her son, who wouldn’t deny they were married.
He openly defied her, and after a much-heated ‘discussion’ was promptly thrown out of his own home.
I told you I’d kick you out.*
‘Are you serious? You’re kicking us out? Me, your grand-daughter and your daughter-in-law? Well…tell dad the clutch is burned out in the Hyundai…’
17 Years and 6 More Kids Later
Life’s been a struggle for us, but we’ve made choices that contributed to that all along the way. Since that time, both of us have become Christians, believers in that God shaking the skies and bringing us together in odd ways…
No, I don’t mean Thor, either.
Living the life we’ve lived, none of it would seem feasible without God drawing us near, caring for us, intervening…and I don’t talk too much about the manifold blessings of enjoying the Christian life, but we both do.
I’ve been shown things in life that I don’t speak about on this blog much. After all, it’s not a Bible or Christian blog, it’s a ‘making money online blog’ most days of the year.
In a word, I’ve been blessed. I have no doubt God watches over us – the marriage being one ginormous catalyst and testimony to His hand, I can’t deny that.
But this isn’t the place for debate – not my goal at all.
Today is a remarkable day, however.
Today is our 17th wedding anniversary. I stand in awe of the woman who stuck with me when I was less than a jellyfish, long enough that I could see the day I’d take my place as the man in her life and put the boyhood behind me.
We’ve been through the gauntlet, the ringer and the rack, from the rough beginnings to the slippery-feet-present day.
I’m finally a writer (an answered prayer, a lifelong dream).
I get paid for words. Maybe not these words, but for most of my words…and I have a family that has been worth the struggling and fighting uphill for, cemented by a faith and a bride worth living for.
If you’re new here, no I’m not always so poetic or sentimental. Only on days like today, when I stand in awe of the life I’ve been given. It’s been nothing less than Incredible.
To my wife, Tasha – you define astounding, and hell yes I’d marry you all over again (only let me ask this time?).
Check out her blog here: My Badass Bride
What Are You Playing For Keeps For?
This really is my “make money online” blog – it’s not a romance novel nor a tragedy (unless you read My Story)…so I wanted to end with a few questions.
What’s Worth Playing for Keeps Over?
How bad do you want it? What are you working so hard, striving and sweating and hoping and yearning and fighting for?
It’s not a “greed, ego and fame” deal that keeps me dialed in, punching these keys all day. I know what drives me, what I’m fighting for, who I’m living for, Who’s man I am, all that…
So what drives you?
If you’re not playing for keeps, you’re just playing around.
I would say, “Go big or go home,” but go ahead – start off small…you just need yourself a big-ass big rig hauling you along someplace worth the gettin’ to.
Stay Tuned For:
*By the way – we’re all peachy now (my mom and I had a lot of growing to do). But hey, it’s part of the story. Love you, ma! You’re awesome! Really! (Does she even read my blog…?)
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