We sat at a small table for two, unceremoniously wedged in the corner of a fancy steakhouse located inside of the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.
Bob had argued with the hostess, demanding a table near a window, although I didn't quite know why. After all, the spectacular view of ocean waves crashing against the wind-swept white sand beach could only be left to the imagination, for nothing could permeate the darkness of this cold, January evening.
The appetizers arrived without incident, as did our main meal. We passed the time making small talk, as our server dutifully brought out each course with a smile... diet coke, salad, chicken, steak, a bouquet of balloons....
Wait? What? A bouquet of balloons?
I looked at her, a puzzled expression on my face.
"Oh," she said, stumbling on her words. "We sometimes like to give balloons to nice couples like you."
My attention turned to Bob. "Are you planning something?" I asked, trying to keep the accusatory tone out of my voice.
His reaction to my question took me by surprise.
He seemed genuinely angry.
"I told you Lisa, you are impossible to surprise, it's going to happen on Valentine's Day, so stop asking!" he demanded.
Taken aback by his harsh tone, I didn't pursue the topic, and instead tried to gear the conversation back to mundane small talk.
We finished our meal without further interruption, however, before the server came back to take our dessert order, Bob stood up, an awkward smile on his face. Then, to my utter astonishment, to quote Taylor Swift, he knelt to the ground and pulled out a ring.
Finally, it all made sense. The desire to sit at the best table, the server's gift of balloons (which nearly ruined the surprise) and Bob's feigned anger. I was officially engaged to be married!
Fast forward 25 years.
It was a typical Monday evening and I had just come home after another dreaded workout at the gym. I sat on one end of the sofa, my computer on my lap. Bob sat at the other end, consuming his nightly dose of cable news. I felt tired. I felt sweaty. I felt hot. Yes, I felt oh so post-menopausal hot.
In an effort to get relief, I put my long, matted hair in a messy ponytail, sitting lopsided on top of my head. Bob turned his attention away from the TV to look at me. "You are so cute," he said.
That's right. He thought I looked cute.
He thought his sweaty, post-workout, ponytail-clad wife looked cute.
And that is one of the many reasons why, after all these years, I am still so in love with this man.
When I think back to our engagement in Atlantic City, I could barely see beyond that moment in time. The man I loved wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Nothing else mattered.
Did I realize that my walk down the aisle would signal the start of something much more significant than a night of dinner and dancing followed by a honeymoon in Hawaii? Did I realize how much my world would become intertwined with his, and the joys, challenges, and obstacles we would face together?
No. I couldn't possibly have known where life's journey would take us. But I did know that I was going to marry the man who loved me no matter how terrible I looked, the man who made me laugh no matter how silly the joke, the man who had become my best friend.
Since that night in Atlantic City, we have packed and unpacked our belongings seven times, as each of us took turns following a job to a new location. We saved enough to purchase the single family home of our dreams, and finally downsized to an empty-nester town home. We have held hands during health scares, mourned the death of loved ones, and survived job losses and financial challenges.
We have savored our vacations, taking delight in each other's love whether we're strolling on the boardwalk at the Jersey shore or crossing Abbey Road in London, England. We have seen concerts and ball games, movies, and broadway shows. And yet, we are just as comfortable with a quiet night at home, on opposite sides of the sofa, or cuddled in each other's arms.
We started our journey, just the two of us, with that fateful night in Atlantic City, and 25 years later, after marrying off the oldest, welcoming a grandson, and sending the youngest off to college, it's just the two of us again.
And he still makes me laugh.
And he still loves me no matter how terrible I look.
And as we celebrate our wedding anniversary, he is still, more than ever, my darling, my love, my man of steel.....
My very best friend.
|Bob and me during our anniversary weekend getaway to Ocean City, Maryland
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