Tuesday, July 1, 2014

20 years

Tomorrow is our 20th wedding anniversary.

For couples who are alive, it's a fairly big milestone worthy of celebration. For a widow who hasn't celebrated an anniversary with her husband in five years, it's, well, kind of sad.

In general I no longer live daily thinking, "If Steve were still alive, we would (fill in the blank)" -- unlike life in the first couple of years. Such as, "If Steve were still alive, we would be watching 24 together" or "If Steve were still alive, we would be cooking dinner together."

So much time has passed, and I've settled in to a different sort of normal.

Yet I can't help but wonder what we would do to celebrate our 20th, in that alternate universe in which there is no glioblastoma in the brain stem. The dreamy world in which our family blissfully and unconsciously takes a totally different path in early 2007, one that doesn't lead to chemotherapy and radiation and blood clots and irreversible weakness.

Would we go to dinner alone? With Cooper and Katie? Host a small dinner party for close friends, during which Steve would laugh his trademark can't-breathe laugh? Would we go on a little trip? Or a big vacation to one of our dream destinations? Would we buy each other extravagant gifts? Or would we agree to buy each other nothing then secretly second-guess that decision and buy something small but meaningful?

I know that we would talk about our sweet ceremony, which began at noon on a warm Saturday, just after an unusual July rainstorm. Steve would tell me that he was a wreck before the ceremony, and I would tell him that I had a sense of peace unlike any other in my 22 years.

We would marvel over our lean years -- the years in Lubbock when we worked jobs with low pay and Steve was earning his MBA, when we made dear friends, when we learned to live independently, when we started attending church together.

We would talk about our move to Dallas and those three long years he worked for Arthur Andersen, out of town almost every week, flying to and from Los Angeles and later St. Louis. We would reminisce about my rough months on the sports desk at the Star-Telegram and my dream-come-true jobs at the Morning News.

We would remember buying our first home. Our travels to Colorado, Florida, California, Michigan, Europe, the Caribbean, New Orleans and D.C.

We would talk about deciding to have children, attending Holy Covenant, discovering the joy of being parents to Cooper, moving to Frisco, changing jobs, forming friendships, becoming godparents, welcoming baby Katie, traveling more.

In that alternate no-cancer universe, who knows what more we'd add to the list as we celebrated two decades of marriage.

Instead, we got 15 years of marriage -- with phantom years that follow.

There have been many moments in these phantom years when I second-guess myself. Can I do this by myself? Am I strong enough for this? Am I good enough for this? Can I handle this? ("This" means any number of things, big and small, depending on the occasion.)

In those moments, I eventually come around with the help of two thoughts.

First, Steve chose me -- me! -- for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish. Steve -- a strong, funny, brilliant, kind, generous soul -- had faith in me.

Second, I have faith in God and strength from Christ. My go-to verse these days is simple: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

There won't be a fancy dinner tomorrow. No fancy gifts. There will be fun, though. Katie and I are meeting friends for lunch and a day at the pool. (Cooper is in Oklahoma for a week of Boy Scout camp -- his ultimate idea of fun.)

And I'm certain that more than once, I'll recite Psalm 46:1 as I think of dear Steve and the promises we joyfully made on July 2, 1994.

Tyra and Steve, post-reception, July 2, 1994

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