Thursday, June 7, 2007

Kelli has put up with me for 27 years, as of today!

If this doesn't qualify for the Guiness book of world records, I don't know what should. Sure, there have been other people who have been married longer, but the trick there was they weren't married to me. My high school sweetheart, the love of my life, Kelli has been putting up with me for 27 years as of today! Happy Anniversary Kel!

In some respects it seems like yesterday that two skinny 19 year old kids with no clue what layed ahead of them stood at the altar of Calvary Baptist Church in West Branch, Michigan, and promised to stick it out for better or worse til death do us part. There were very few people, including our parents, who thought we would actually make it, they said we weren't ready to be married. We should finish college first, be established in our careers, date around a bit - since we'd been going together since the 9th grade. But we didn't really care what any of them thought, we were in love and wanted to be together, and that was all that really mattered to us.

I told Kelli on that day that I didn't have much to offer her, I had no money, no house, no material possessions to speak of, other than a beat up car, but I promised her that by marrying me her life would never be boring. That's a promise that I have kept, sometimes it wasn't always what she would have preferred, but she was always right there next to me, in the good, the bad and the ugly. That promise uprooted her from all she had ever known, dragged her away from her family, her home, and everything that was familiar to her, and took her half way round the world to a tiny little chunk of rock in the middle of the Pacific ocean called Saipan. When I first brought it up to her, we both had to look on a map to figure out just where exactly Saipan was. We didn't know it was part of the U.S., we didn't know anything at all about it really. But that didn't stop her from agreeing to come here with me. When we moved out here, it wasn't on a 1 or 2 year contract, we sold our house and everything we didn't ship, and moved over here lock, stock and barrell. We had no idea what awaited us, and most of what we had been told turned out not to be true at all. But even with all it's warts, we fell in love with this place and have been here over 11 years now.

Our marriage hasn't always been easy, for Kelli that is. I'm not the easiest person to get along with at times. There are those who would tell you I think I'm always right. That's not entirely true, I just don't think I'm wrong very often. There are also those that would tell you I'm stubborn. Okay, that one is true. Earlier in our marriage back in Michigan, I used to be a golf fanatic, golfing every day after work, dragging two little toddlers around in the golf cart with me. Kelli claimed she was a golf widow at times, unfortunately it was probably true. Now I only golf occasionally, but I have replaced golfing with diving. There are very few weekends that you won't find me underwater. It takes something like a heart attack to keep me out of the water. But wait, even that didn't stop me from diving one weekend now that I think about it. If Kelli was prone to worrying, I'd have killed her from worry long ago. And it's not that I don't give her plenty of reason to, it's just that she tends to lay it all at God's feet, and let him take care of me. She figures there's nothing she can do about it anyway, so she might as well just pray about it and let him deal with me. Kelli has earned every one of those beautiful gray hairs on her head, or maybe I should say that I have given most of them to her.

Now Kelli would have every reason to claim she's a diving widow on weekends, but she doesn't. She has let me pursue my other passion, but just for the record, it's far behind her. She knows how much I love it and enjoy it, and has encouraged me, let me buy thousands of dollars worth of dive gear, and she dutifully looks at my shells and pictures that I bring back, even getting excited about some of them (although I think that's mainly for my benefit).

Kelli has been the most amazing mother in the world to our two children, Joshua and Sarah - and they would both be the first to tell you the same thing. Kelli and Sarah have always been, and continue to be best friends, something not all that common among mothers and daughters. And when Josh is really excited about something, the first person he wants to share it with is his Mom. While I wish I could take some of the credit for how amazing our kids have turned out, I realize the credit all belongs to Kelli and God. It was a joint effort between the two of them, and much consultation took place as Kelli sought wisdom on what to do in various situations. I'm afraid I probably got in the way more than I helped, but fortunately Kelli was always there to pick up the pieces and smooth things over.

There is a saying that behind every good man is one amazing woman. That is certainly the case in our situation, although I'm not sure I would claim to be good. But anything that is good about me is only because I've had an amazing wife supporting me and right there beside me all these years. I'm not sure I've got another 27 years left in me, and I'm not sure Kelli really deserves that kind of cruel and unusual punishment, but there is no doubt in my mind that she will be right there beside me until my dying day, putting up with me dragging her all over the world, being a dive bum, and all the other annoying things that make me who I am. It's been an amazing 27 years, and I wouldn't trade any of them. No, it hasn't always been easy, but everything that has happened with us up to now has molded us and shaped us into who we are now. And in her case, I wouldn't change a thing. She is so much more than I ever dreamed I was getting when I said "I do" to that pretty young girl at the altar.

Happy Anniversary sweetheart, and thanks for 27 amazing years!

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