I took the day off work August 18 and that morning I went down to the Limestone County Courthouse to get a marriage license. It was a Friday and I hadn’t been at my job at that time very long. I had no vacation built up but my boss gave me that Friday and the following Monday.
It was at that time I realized how unqualified for this particular license I was because I realized upon arrival I didn’t know how much a marriage license cost, I didn’t know if you needed to bring a witness, and I didn’t know if the probate judge had any schedule openings for a wedding that day. These are not the circumstances that predict long-term relationship success. To borrow from Guster, “I’ve been one in a million, I’ve been a million to one.”
I paid for the marriage license and returned to the apartment my fiancée and I were sharing. I put on a white shirt and a tie as she put on a simple dress. We drove back to the courthouse together and waited. There was another marriage party in front of us. They came to the courthouse with their respective parents and began filling out forms. I felt like I was in a doctor’s office. When we were finally brought into the judge’s chambers, he apologized for our wait and said that underage weddings require a bit more paperwork. I always wonder about that very young couple.
The judge shook our hands and said a brief prayer before beginning a brief ceremony, reading a variation of the traditional marriage vows I’d heard in countless TV shows and movies. I knew what was I was getting myself in to as much as any man can that side of “as long as you both shall live” but I was struck again by just how unprepared for the moment I was. We knew we weren’t going to write our own vows but with no wedding to plan and no rehearsal of any kind, I felt a surge of something as I heard the judge reading these words and looking at me. I guess all those years in front of the TV served me well because when the time came I knew my line: “I do.”
I’m not a romantic in the classical sense of the word but despite my alien leaders’ best attempts, not all of my emotions were surgically removed. We didn’t have a wedding and we didn’t have a first dance but this song by Sting from his Greatest Hits album has always stayed with me as one of those songs that demands to be a wedding song and since its release in 1994 probably has. It may not have been what we’d have chosen but in my mind it would have been a candidate.
I’ve been married for 3,652 days. I struggled to find words to describe an ever-expanding love that burns brighter with each passing day on this day last year. It’s 365 days later and the task seems every bit as impossible. Under normal circumstances, I’d use that fact as an opportunity to down myself as a writer but these aren’t normal circumstances. We’re talking about 10 years of marriage here.
There have been at least as many lessons learned (and re-learned) over those 3,562 days and some days I still don’t feel qualified to be married or to be her husband. Men married longer understand what I mean. I’ve made mistakes, most of them more than once. Among the many miracles that have formed and sustained our marriage is that I’m still learning and I’m still hopelessly, foolishly, and sometimes awkwardly in love. Ten years. It doesn’t feel like yesterday. It feels like forever. I think that’s the point.