San Miguel de Allende, GTO, MX, August 26, 2014 – For half my life, I’ve been married to Wiley.
I met Wiley barely one month after graduating from college. The year was 1986. We had both been hired by EDS, the systems integration company once owned by Ross “Giant Sucking Sound” Perot, and had just shipped off to Dallas for two week’s worth of training and corporate Koolaide consumption. So completely awash in Perot-ishness was the culture that an entire day of training was devoted to absorbing his life story, including tales of how he delivered papers on horseback as a child and used $1000 borrowed from his mother to start EDS. Several hours were set aside to review “WWRW”, or What Would Ross Wear, also known as the Dress Code Lecture, or Blue Shirts Might Be OK on An Average Tuesday, But I Wouldn’t Wear One to a Customer Meeting.
Each of us vividly remembers meeting the other. The rent-a-car shuttle picked me up from the curb at the Dallas airport, and Wiley was the only other rider on the bus. I’m not sure I would characterize it as love at first sight, but there was an undeniable attraction that we both felt. I remember instantly liking him, and at the same time being somewhat uncomfortable around him because of that. I had left a perfectly good boyfriend back in Tennessee, one that my parents liked and that I may have married one day, had I not met Wiley. After a playfully aggressive discussion of Southeastern Conference Football (bowl season had just ended and we were then and remain now fiercely loyal to our alma maters, mine the University of Tennessee and his the University of Alabama), I purposely bolted down the bus steps once we arrived at the rental agency to get away from him. In case my striking beauty did not cement my image on his cortex, I guaranteed it by falling and tumbling down the bus steps, landing in a messy pile of scrunchy boots and bangle bracelets on the sidewalk. He was immediately there, helping me up, picking up my things, and asking if I was OK. I sheepishly expressed my thanks and hurried away.
As it would turn out, Fate had other plans, and placed us in assigned seats next to each other for the duration of class. A large portion of the material was ridiculous, and from our spots in the back row we began a fairly intense flirtation based mostly on sarcastic comments scribbled on each other’s class notes. As will happen in groups of people thrown together by chance, we gravitated towards other people in the class who eschewed after-hours group study sessions in favor of a detailed review of Dallas’ finer watering holes. When we parted at the airport at the end of the class we made plans to meet in Cincinnati in a few days, as we were both being assigned to jobs in the greater Detroit area. EDS had just been bought by General Motors, and around that time they hired thousands of new college graduates to staff the account. Wiley was being sent to Flint, Michigan, and I would be working just north of Detroit in a white-collar suburb called Troy.
At that point I had never traveled north of Washington, DC, so I’ve no doubt that my parents were pleased that I had a “friend” with which to make the trip. The boyfriend and I had agreed to date other people during our separation, so at that point I did not feel as though I was cheating, and truly, I wasn’t; at least not at first. I didn’t plan to fall in love with someone else. Gradually, though, Wiley became a part of every weekend, and many weeknights. We were separated by about an hour’s drive, but our desire to spend time with one another superseded any concerns about the necessity of sleep.
I have always been physically attracted to Wiley, but if somehow he was gone tomorrow it would be the more intangible aspects of his person that I would remember. He is incredibly kind and caring. He is smart in a genius sort-of-way, which means that he often has no idea where he left his keys/sunglasses/wallet/insert any personal item here. He is generous and patient, especially as a father. He is truthful almost to a fault, and I have always known not to ask him questions to which I don’t want to hear an honest answer. Here’s an example.
About six months after we met I knew that I had fallen in love with Wiley, and I flew back to Tennessee and broke up with my boyfriend. In the interest of full disclosure I’ll add that he, too, was getting seriously involved with someone he would eventually marry. Shortly thereafter Wiley and I were out one night at a blues club in Detroit. At some point in the evening, my tongue loosened no doubt by a few too many beers, I told him that I loved him. He politely and sincerely thanked me, and I was understandably shattered. His position was that he didn’t not love me, he just hadn’t really thought about it up until that point. After listening to my sobbing, and generally having the entire evening ruined, it probably occurred to him that it would have been easier just to lie and say, “I love you” back, but that’s not how Wiley rolls.
After that night we picked up the pieces and moved on, and about two weeks after that incident he did tell me that he loved me, and I certainly believed him. We made it through a six-month separation and two more years of the kind of good times you have when you are young and in love and responsibility-free. He took me back to Stan’s Blue Note Café on Greenville Avenue in Dallas, where we went for our first date, and proposed in late 1988. We got married twenty-five years ago today, in my hometown, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I really haven’t the foggiest notion what it takes to be married for twenty-five years. We’ve probably all known couples who haven’t made it, when everyone involved was sure they would, and vice versa. I’m not exactly sure why we have made it where others have failed. I do know that it’s not always easy, but it should be, most of the time. I know that sometimes you have to shut up and listen even when all you want to do it punch the other person in the gut and walk out of the room. I know that setting out thinking that you can change the other person’s basic nature isn’t fair to anyone. I know that if you’re not prepared to sacrifice at least some of the time and compromise most of the time, happiness will be elusive. And I know that while lust and passion aren’t absolute requirements in a long-term relationship, they sure as hell keep things interesting.
So here we are. Twenty-five years in, five cities, six houses, one kid, four college degrees, six cats, two dogs, a whole lot of travel, some fights, and a ton of laughter. Thanks for the times, Hon. I’ll always love you. In the immortal words of the Reverend Al Green, let’s stay together. Not that it was ever in question.
Everybody says, “Let’s stay together”
I’ll keep on lovin’ you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad