This week, Eric and I celebrated our 26th anniversary. I’ve been married to this guy over half my life. And believe you me, this has been no small feat. No one, except me maybe, thought we’d make to to the one year mark.
Our love affair has romance written all over it.
We met December 1, 1989 at the water treatment plant where Eric worked the second shift. The whole world was covered in ice and snow. I was buzzed on Miller Lite (I could drink a bunch of them back then) and smoking Virginia Slims Menthol 120s. They were some long cigarettes. I loved the way the smoldering ash looked as I talked with my hands, and you could still smoke inside–everywhere.
I remember what he had on–Osh Kosh painter pants, a red Calvin Klein sweatshirt–the sort with three buttons at the neck, and blue deck shoes. He was as thin as anyone I knew. I can still see him as if it were yesterday, but I have no idea what I wore although I suspect it was a fashionable ensemble of tight Calvin Klein jeans, high top tennis shoes, and a long sweater that covered my ass and a good part of my thighs. It was the 80s, after all.
We were introduced by a mutual friend who thought Eric might have a little weed, and he did. He kindly rolled us a small joint and promised to hook up with us later. I’ve never been much of a pot smoker. Truth be told, the pot was an excuse for the introduction, and it worked.
Eric showed up at my friend’s house at 11:30. He whisked a cheap bottle of vodka out from under the front seat of his blue Honda Accord–oh the magic–and he and I proceeded to drink ourselves silly on my friend’s couch. My memory of this lovely first date is understandably a little blurry, but I do remember this. He left around 4:00 AM. I walked him out to the car. He slipped on the ice, fell into his car, and with admirable flourish, pulled me close, kissed me hard, and said, “Don’t forget about me.”
A little over two months later, we were married.
It would be easier to explain or understand if I could say it was a whirlwind romance with trips to Paris and loads of money, if I believed in fate and love at first sight, but I don’t. The truth is a whole lot simpler. We were two flailing people, and we made some kick-ass snow angels that winter.
Later, we would create a story of inevitability based on some glittering sparks we glued together. A few months before I met Eric, I went on a date with a fellow named Jeff. Before the date, Jeff, who knew Eric, went to Eric’s house and said to him, “I’m going out with Bridgett tonight,” as if that was something.
Eric said, “Who the fuck is Bridgett?”
And once, when Eric was 28, in the hospital, and still passed out from having his tonsils removed, he sleepily mumbled to his then-wife, “Brigitte, please get me my skates.”
When he woke up his wife asked him, “Who the fuck is Brigitte?”
“You are Bridgett,” he says to me. “No, I am Brigitte,” I answer.
In February, we crossed state lines into Kentucky where we were married at The Executive Inn in Owensboro. My parents were there and so were my friend and her husband. The ceremony was held in my parents’ room because of the murphy bed and the way it folded into the wall creating just enough space for a lovely wedding.
A drunken justice of the peace, whose car broke down on the way to the Inn and called for a ride, presided over our nuptials. He slurred through the entire 5 minute service. “Eeeeeerick, do you take Brid-i-get to be your wife?” he asked. Eric said yes, while the rest of us tried not to laugh. “Brid-i-get, do you take Eeeeeerick to be your husband?” by this time we were all laughing, but again, I said yes, and it was a done deal. We were married.
After a lovely dinner in the Executive Dining Room where we spotted the country music star Janie Fricke eating supper, Eric and I retired to our room to watch Buster Douglas surprise everyone by beating Mike Tyson out of his heavy weight title. It was all downhill for Tyson after that fight, but our marriage had begun.
Here’s the thing. We weren’t supposed to make it. But I knew we would. I am as stubborn as a bull ox (that’s what my dad says, anyway), and no one thought we should get married, so I was determined to show them.
It’s a love story, yes, but it’s not crazy with passion and romance and sultry nights and days spent in bed with roses scattered all over the room. It’s a story of two people who helped each other grow up amidst the chaos of kids, dogs, a bunch of different rodents, basketball games, low-brow television, mental illness, diabetes, sports injuries, and a healthy amount of vomit swirled in.
We both like to talk, and thank God, we like to talk to each other. If I didn’t like to talk to Eric, it never would have worked. He’s smart, and I’m smart and we agree on Hillary and God–the other stuff we let go. We have four great kids and two great grandkids. Each year we stumble through the turmoil that is married life and celebrate with a sigh and a glass of Pinot Noir for me and a beer for him. We can afford much better beer and wine these days.
There were years, YEARS, when I looked at the guy snoring next to me and thought–oh hell, what the fuck did I do? I’m sure he thought the same thing, and for the record, I snore once in a while, but it’s not nearly as loud. In 26 years, we never stopped talking. Talking–who would’ve thought?
I have to tell you, though, these last ten years have been wicked good. Yes, ups and downs, but mostly wicked good. I believe in love, I do. And I love my husband, but I’m sure as hell glad that I like him because 26 years is a long damn time.