We walk through our neighborhood, gloved hands laced together. We know the way by feel — my ring finger and pinky together between his last two fingers so my smallest one needn’t stretch far.
We’ve held hands like this for the better part of 19 years. Driving backroads in an AMC Eagle, walking cobblestone streets in York and beaches in Zihuatanejo, welcoming dark-eyed soft daughters, watching movies from our couch.
On Friday, we took a date to a neighborhood restaurant and shared food and beers. We asked the waitress for recommendations, agreed on dishes we’d both like and ate a whole mess ‘a small plates — roasted vegetables, mussels, salad covered with the best bacon I’ve ever had.
“You’ve got to try this.”
I overheard the older woman next to us say, “They’ve got quite the appetites.”
Why, yes we have.
I talked (a lot). He listened. He talked (less). I listened. We drove across town on a search for Christmas lights and sang to oldies on the radio. (When did music from our era plant itself in the oldies category?!)
In the end, we sat at a rough-hewn wood table in a cool tavern with Pac Man and Donkey Kong against one wall and a shuffle board table surrounded by women younger than ourselves. We drank “grown-up coffees.”
It felt good to be on a random adventure, just us two. Just like old times.
I told my husband what I liked about him when he was 17. He was comfortable in his own skin. Knew how to talk with girls like they were people. Appreciated and understood music — all sorts, not just the trendy classic rock all the boys pretended to know about. He belted out Neil Diamond tunes before it was campy cool for our generation to sing along.
He wasn’t worried about impressing anybody. He liked what he liked. Safeway Chinese food. Sunny Delight. Me.
He’s known me since the days I shifted uncomfortable in my own skin. He’s known me since the days I labored over nearly every decision, afraid to make a mistake. He’s known me since the days I neglected to tweeze an eyebrow hair.
He’s lived my depression and gasping tears. He’s lived my late-night giggle fits and half-asleep talk of wanting toast. He’s lived my pregnancies, bed rest and childbirth recovery. He’s lived my fear and what-if’s, my anger and sorrow, my wild enthusiasm.
He’s lived them as ours.
And he has never spoken an unkind word to me. Not ever.
He is a solid, steady man. Good with details. A great multi-tasker. The guy you most want with you on a camping trip because he will set up the kitchen just right — putting the towels and dishware out like you would yourself — and then start a roaring fire.
He’s the guy you want beside you when you’re hurt and crying snotty because he speaks wisdom that makes it feel covered by faith and love somehow.
He sacrifices watching his favorite Christmas movie with the family (the movie night he’s planned) so he can drive to the home improvement store before close to replace the kitchen faucet. Then he installs it while we sleep and comes home to repair the hot water hose on his lunch break the next day so we won’t be without.
He returns after a long day at work and makes creative, delicious dinners for our family so I can write. He wears pajama pants with holes for years without a breath of complaint. Instead he names the favorite flannels I try piecing back together “Frankenjammies,” cuts off one leg from a pair of cotton PJ’s when the hole grows too big and keeps wearing both pairs. When Santa stuffs his stocking with a replacement that promptly rips at the seams, he smiles and says it doesn’t matter.
On Wednesday nights, he makes convoluted Papa ladders so our girls can climb his long limbs and hop into bed. He explains baseball. He listens to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. He makes biscuits, pancakes and smoothies. He rocks babies with confidence. He writes cards with few words — clear and sincere and all love. He holds a Bible in one big palm and tells the story of Jesus’ birth.
He remembers to tell me I’m beautiful. He tells me over and over every day that he loves me.
He reminds me to breathe. To be gentle to myself. Tells me that I’ve got to let go, that I can’t do everything. That I’m a good mama, that he’s proud of me.
He reminds me every day why I chose those years ago to love him.
And why I do. I really do.
It is so good to remember.
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I’ve never in my life been so moved by such love!!! Never. Excuse me while I cry, snotty.
(and, just so you know, a mother could never ask for more than her child be loved like this. Never.)
I’m struck too, now that I’ve stopped slobbering, what great value there is in “remembering” – in sitting down to count all the ways our love loves us, to remember all the wonderful “little” things they do or say or give that we may lose sight of as we grow accustomed to being loved so well. How it would bless us all, each and every one, to practice this good-remembering.
Mmm…. this is good stuff.
…something about a ladder…
…and Donkey Kong.
*retreats back into man-cave*
You make me laugh, man.
You make it easy to love. I love because I am loved well. Thank you
This is an entry to be added to a marriage workshop for people preparing to marry! How well you have clearly stated what is so important to actually say out loud, especially after many years together, when we often forget to say them!
Thank you Martha!
This is love. It’s such a blessing to have a man of faith to love and who loves and takes care of his family. Sorry, I keep using (my) Mike’s profile because I can’t remember my wordpress password. I’m wondering if someday I may wake up and be more organized. I think not. Oh, well! Gotta love the man who loves my mess! Well, he doesn’t love it but loves me! -Annie
Oh, Ash. Such beautiful,sweet memories!! There is a Jamaican Beige eagle in my neighborhood and I think of you two everytime I see it!! Enjoy remembering and thanks for sharing. As always, a job well done! Hugs to you both.
Mike was amazed and touched :) that you remembered the Jamaican Beige!
LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. These words. Both of you. MISS. MISS. MISS. You both. WISH. WISH. WISH. We were raising our brood of girls together. What I love most is how true this description is of my friend Mike.
Oh Alex, love and miss you!! Thank you for your comments!
the cutest photo….you must enlarge & hang in the home because you can just see how much you adore eachother. your girls are so blessed by this. and i do remember you falling in love with who mike larkin was… waaay back in the day…and i was so annoyed because i just wanted you to hang out with me! but hey, it all worked out in the end. :) xoxo love u both!!! and i totally get it about the pj bottoms. i have a pair that i have worn every stinkin’ year to girls weekend. why stop now?
Really. I can’t get over how much I love you both.
A true and pure love you two share!! How blessed our kids are to grow up around such love and respect. Your descriptions of Mike are all so perfect….especially the one about Mike being every camper’s dream—we certainly would attest to that. I don’t think I could ever bare to camp without him again! Xoxo love you both!
We’ve seen, “Power Lunches”, “Power Naps” even, “Power Computing” and now my dear Ashley, you have provided us with, “Power Loving”. Excellent!
The love you have for each other is fueled by your cherished memories, it continues today evidenced by the strong bond of love and respect for one another. That loves embraces your wonderful girls as well. Love, Papa
Heart warming, inspiring, pure joy to read!
Ashley, this is beautiful!
I dont think I have ever told you but i went to elementary school with your husband. I grew up in Tualatin and lived around the corner from Mike until I moved to West Linn in 8th grade. I think we even might have done Crossing Guard together in 5th or 6th grade. So crazy… Glad you are so happy. I hope you had a Merry Christmas!
Hi Kristen! So great to see you here! Actually, Mike and I made that connection several years ago. I don’t remember exactly how — maybe looking through old yearbooks. Anyway, I love these overlaps. I’ll have to ask Mike about crossing guards. Our oldest daughter is getting ready to don the fluorescent vest after the new year. Blessings to you and your family.