I used to tell anyone that would listen that I never wanted to get married. “I’m selfish,” I would say. And, I was completely serious. I really didn’t want to get married. I didn’t want to take care of anyone and I didn’t want to risk that feeling where you are all in. One hundred percent, no holds barred, in. All of that felt way too real to me. I wanted to care about fewer people and not more. That felt safer. I was young when I got married, but I had already been to too many tragic funerals. You could lose people you loved and that terrified me.
Then, one January afternoon at a church Super Bowl party, I met my husband. I was seconds away from leaving to head to a bar and the crowd stood up and the people shifted and there he was. Him. I was introduced, shook his hand, and had an instant feeling of recognition. “There you are.” my heart said. I went home that day and told my Grandma I had met the man I was going to marry. She shook her head and flapped her dish towel at me. “Oh Jean Ann, you don’t even know if he’s a good one.” But, she was wrong. I did know. I knew that first day I met him and I still know today.
I knew because I watched him take up his space in the world in that quiet, I don’t need the spotlight, way that he has and I understood how rare that was even that first day. I knew because I watched him give his son permission to go outside to play and then, as we talked, watch him every second without making a big deal out of it. I knew because I saw him check quietly with the single mom in the group to make sure she had money to cover her lunch at the restaurant we all went to. That’s what he does. He goes through life quietly, doing tiny things that mean everything to those lucky enough to live life with him.
I am blessed to be one of those people. Through our 26 years I have been the recipient of so many small, calm gifts of love from him. The day he called me in the grocery store and told me to add more pie crusts to my Thanksgiving shopping because he had just sent my Mom and sisters money to come for the holiday. The moment in the elevator when we looked at each other over my Mom’s head understanding her cancer was back and it wasn’t going away this time. He never said a word, but he grabbed my hand to keep me from falling apart and told her she looked pretty in her hat. She looked up from her wheelchair and grinned her famous mischievous grin and I breathed again. The days he spent lining my Dad up with fishing gear and climbing a roof so Dad didn’t have to and mowing his lawn when he couldn’t. All of the mornings that he has gathered up his keys and his wallet and made sure he had his mug of coffee so he could leave to go to work and take care of us. He goes through his days taking care of his folks. It’s who he is. But, the thing I am most amazed by is that he will never mention any of it. His good things are never talked about by him. He’s under the radar kind. And folks, that is the best kind of kind. In fact, he’ll be mad at me for writing this. He doesn’t need a lot of fanfare. He’s just solid and quiet and good.
But, in all fairness, I don’t think I always remember this. I get irritated at him. I want him to do things my way. I’m a jerk. And, I don’t think I am alone in this. I think we all tend to take our people for granted. It’s almost a defense mechanism. If we understood, everyday, just how amazing the Richards in our life are it would be too much to take. Too much emotion to handle with chores and bills and everything else going on. But, on a rare day, I think God allows me to fully understand what I have in my sweet husband. And yesterday, his birthday, was one of those days. We had plans to go to lunch with friends that got rained out and then we lost electricity. I had no present for him, because he couldn’t think of anything he wanted–even after a trip to the Guitar Center. So, we ended up eating a fast-food burger and then he played his guitar while it poured outside. It wasn’t exactly a momentous birthday. But, the last thing he said to me before he went to bed was, “Man, babe, what a good day it was. I got to go to church and facetime Everett and hang out with you and play my guitar. It was one of those normal days that’s wonderful. ” Then, he smiled his smile and went off to bed. I sat in my chair tearing up and fully getting it.
He’s a keeper, this sweet man of mine. And, so I will. I’ll keep him in every way I can. Keep him the center of my focus. Keep him in my prayers. Keep him, as much as possible, from heartache. And, hopefully, God gives me lots of days where I feel it right down to my toes how lucky I am to have met him and recognized him and to have stood there on that March afternoon with him holding my shaking hands in his warm, strong ones as we joined our lives forever. He’s my guy and I am better and blessed because of it. If I had any other wish for our future, it would be that I would become more like him. I could do with a little quietness and gentleness. Less of a need for fanfare. More good works that nobody ever knows about. I’m stealing his birthday wish and hoping all of that will come true. Come to think of it, maybe it is his wish too. I say this because I think there is a good chance that I am difficult. But, even if I am (I am) he’ll love me anyway. That is also what he does. He loves me.