In my worst moments of insecurity, I plead with her, “Why do you love me?” She never rolls her eyes or tells me to grow up. I’ve heard beautiful women can’t stand insecure men. She patiently says, I love you because you are you. I love you because you love me like no one ever has. She reminds me of the four beautiful children I have brought into her life.
She still hasn’t addressed my tiresome fears. I’m no better looking, no more able to take her to exotic places, my dark list is still long and tedious… But she holds my hand and kisses me and the list gets all jumbled. I’ll have to pursue my argument later. It all seems pointless, anyway. Yes, it is true, she could do better than me. But she has chosen me, or as she puts it, she had no choice–we had no choice
I am daily in awe of this fact. I get to be with a woman who fills me with awe. I was filled with awe the first time we went out to lunch. As we left the restaurant, she stopped and thanked each person who worked there, whether they had helped us or not. I could see it in their eyes, they were as surprised– and charmed–as me.
Other men have taken her to Africa and Paris and Cabo. Me, I’ve taken her shopping at the St. Joseph, Mo. Hy-Vee–and she paid.
One of her trips to Missouri was for our wedding –Cabin 1 at Mozingo Lake. My children were there, so was my Brother Ryan and his daughter Olive and her mother NyEela. Pizza and Pepsi, storebought cake. My daughter asked if she could wear sweats. Of course, my bride said, scoring points. My friend Nathan Byrne presided.
A highlight of the evening was being pulled over on the way to the cabin –on the way to our wedding– by a police officer who saw a packed car on Thanksgiving and suspected no good. He was befuddled by a car full of children on the way to a wedding. The second highlight came when, in a rush to start a fire in the cabin fireplace, my son Joe burned my handwritten marriage vows as kindling.
I scribbled out new vows and married this woman of grace and infectious kindness.
That my children were at the wedding, a night my youngest daughter called a wonderful evening, is testament to this woman’s ability to break through barriers of pain and anger.
She entered my children’s lives at a difficult time, when I was splitting with their mother. My daughter Annie who now calls my wife Mamma J. and loves her deeply, recently passed a photo of us on the wall in our bedroom from that time. She frowned mockingly and said, “I remember that picture. That’s when I didn’t like you.”
It’s true, they didn’t like JJ much, and JJ gave them space.
I would never bring a person into my children’s lives who would hurt them or treat them with disrespect. That worry never entered my head. I followed JJ’s lead. Again I watched in awe.
She reached out with a letter. My daughter Emily warmed and sent back the Serenity Prayer. These days, Emily talks regularly with her stepmom and they Snapchat almost daily. Joe calls almost every day and seems more interested in talking with JJ than me. Jacob, in college now, doesn’t connect as often, but the affection has always been obvious.
My friend, Fr. Hugh Tasch, a Benedictine Monk, told me that when the Scriptures call for us to fear God, a more accurate translation is to experience awe in the divine. Fr. Hugh also asks me often about my own experience of the divine in my marriage.
When I met JJ and ended my failing first marriage, my parents and sisters turned their back on me and have never spoken to me again. They have done the same to my brother Ryan and his little girl. Ryan noted once that it is sad because if my family ever met JJ, he has no doubt they would love her.
Once again, I note a sense of awe. I am perfectly at peace with my shattered family because I must be with this woman.
I recall the night when it first hit. I had enjoyed a rich and exciting conversation with JJ, late into the night. We had laughed. I had longed for her. There were moments of uninterrupted silence. Emotions had swelled in me. I had nearly wept to hang up the phone. I got up and walked into the kitchen. My legs gave out and I barely made it to a chair. I sat their in the dark, catching my breath, smiling.
“So this is the way it’s supposed to be,” I whispered.