He was a kid.

He wasn’t literally a child. I mean, he was technically a grown man at the age of 23. But he hadn’t really experienced much of life. The small town life had been all he’d every really known and he had not yet figured out what his place in the world was. He made $6.50 an hour at a job that didn’t really hold much of a future for him. He spent his days working and at night he’d sit alone in his room, watching TV and wishing that there was more to his existence.

She was a kid, too. She was only 22. And in her short life she’d actually already lived a lot. She’d lived long enough to have been hurt by the man she loved. And she’d been around long enough to have a precious little boy that meant the world to her. She thought she had everything she needed. She thought that if it were just her and her son that she’d be fine.

The Universe had other plans.

These two met one day. They went on a date. Neither of them was really out to find a relationship. They were each just trying to meet people and venture out of their comfort zone.

I can’t say what it was that went through that girl’s head that night. You’d have to ask her. I can tell you where she is right now. She’s dropping my daughter off at school.

Did we move fast? Yeah, I guess we did. If my kids had the kind of whirlwind romance that we had I’d probably caution them to slow down. My mother did. It made me angry at the time but a few gray hairs now tell me that she was just worried about me. She didn’t have to be. What I felt was real because I still feel the same way.

We married in a courthouse. I’m not the kind of guy that wants to stand up in front of a crowd and make a fuss over myself. And who honestly looks forward to putting on a suit and watching a couple of people light some candles so you can eat a Wal-Mart cake and some ginger-ale punch? So we stood before a judge and promised God that we’d love each other for a really long time.

I kept my end of the bargain. And she’s still here so I guess she’s keeping hers too.

A few months after our wedding I signed a paper that said that I wasn’t her son’s step-dad anymore…I was his dad.

Several months after that I stood in a delivery room and watched a little girl come into the world.

In the years that followed a ton of things have happened with us, to us, around us, because of us…you name it. Midnight rushes to the hospital…scraped knees and sore throats…celebrations and mournings. She was with me at two of my grandparents funerals. I was with her at a few as well. We watched children around us grow up, get married, have children of their own. We watched our son march across the graduation stage. We cheered at ball games…we endured meetings…we shelled out enough money for school supplies to buy a bus!

We’ve had our own heath scares. We’ve been there for people when they had theirs. She was there for me when my dad had heart surgery. I was there for her when her mom had breast cancer.

She held me in her arms the day I watched the life slip out of my mother’s eyes.

It has been a journey…an adventure. And it’s one that I would gladly do all over again. Even the nights when we spend the whole night fighting are worth it because I know that in the end we’re on the same side.

I’ve always told my children not to depend on another person to complete themselves. I said that if you can’t stand on your own you won’t be a very good partner. And that is very true. I am a complete person. But I am even more complete because I have Sherri Wray in my life. I am a stronger person with her. Things that I can’t handle on my own are bearable because she’s in my corner. I certainly hope that she feels the same way.

So…tomorrow is the day that we celebrate our seventeenth wedding anniversary. It’s cliché but I really can’t believe that it’s been that long. I really did something right all those years ago.

Happy Anniversary, Pretty Baby! Seventeen down…a lifetime to go! Here’s hoping to many, many more years of me leaving my socks in the floor, you asking me which way your hair looks best, and all the celebrations in between.

We’ve still got a lot to look forward to. Our daughter’s graduation…the birth of our grandchildren (hopefully many, many years from now), and watching each other turn into old people…and laughing at each other about it.

I love you…so much.

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