« Anniversaries »

The month of August is rich with anniversaries for me. Happy and sad, the notable days seem to pile up in this month of the year. Here are the ones that matter most to me right now.

Buber the DogFirst, the 23rd marks three years since Buber the Dog came to join our home. He came to us as a pretty mature dog of about nine years old, and has since mellowed even more, probably just due to the advancing years. Never a digger or barker or chewer, he just is content to sleep or sit in my presence, and ever when Kelli comes home, he comes to life, doing his doggy dance, petitioning her for treats and love. He is totally in love with her. The scenes I'm privy to are beyond cute. He knows when walk time is, but we can't say the word, so we have moved from one code word to another, and he gets to understanding certain tones of voice if uttered at certain times of day. We usually go for walks after 9 pm, and that is the featured highlight of his day after a day of being indoors while we're both gone. So he gets as cute as can be, as excited as can be, when we sort of get the dishes cleaned, or leave the computer, or put on a shirt or coat at about that time. He doesn't pull like a tractor anymore, and he has mellowed a lot on walks, often seeming out of breath (he is pretty fat) in a noticeably shorter time. We usually walk him off leash to give him a bit more freedom. Kelli likes to take him to the dog parks and give him a good half hour of being a dog, but he usually likes to come sit by her, or other people, and ultimately wants to get back on the couch with her, reclined like a lover on her lap.

And speaking of Kelli, we have an anniversary this coming weekend, on the 28th. That particular one is the one I have to remember—this year, our sixth wedding anniversary—but this year, something even bigger looms, and that is that we've known each other for 20 years now.

Yes sir-eee. Twenty years. If I do my math correctly, she was 13 and I was 16 that summer when she came strolling into church with her mom and immediately seemed like part of the family there. That is because they actually were, but a part that I guess I had forgotten about, or never realized. They had been in Florida for about seven years prior to this, their return to San Diego. The story goes that her mom Kay was my Sunday School teacher when I was younger still, and that Kelli and I would have been perhaps in a different class then before they left for Florida. I just don't remember that part, so I pretty much start the clock from August 1990. And here we are, 20 years later.

She and Kay cut an interesting image then, at least compared to the people I knew and understood in that setting. Coming in with jeans and tie-dye, listening to and singing folk music, doing their clowning routine (for real, even if less so here in SD), and generally seeming like old friends I had never met, they were a blast of fresh air on that scene, just as I was reaching a point of feeling spread too thin in church life, from doing so many things there for a year straight. Kelli, a pretty thin, long haired, tie-dye and overalls wearing, classic rock listening and animated figure, was so different from the rest of our youth group pack, most of whom congregated around the new wave and alternative music from the period, or as it was, the "91X" music, after the FM station. Kelli was the first person to make it safe for me to profess my love for Jethro Tull, and the first to accept mix tapes and copied CDs. This was big stuff then.

Of course it's not like I had designs on her then. We were church kids, both born into that congregation, both in the youth group and its associated covenantal group, the Shalom Community. In that setting we got to know each other by the safe space it created. That clearly paved the way for that kind of exchange in future episodes. She was the one I went to talk to about my first breakup; we talked and met randomly during the years when I was away from church; we produced a CD of her spoken word and my sound design; she remained a go-to contact during rough times; she called me to vent when we heard of Daniel's murder (he was a member of the Shalom group); we spent the night together sometimes just as friends who liked to be in touch.

Ed and Kelli at the wedding, on the way out of the church.All that paved the way for what we have now. Still a lot of hard work came after we found ourselves in a relationship preceding our engagement and marriage. The 11-12 years before we got together in this relationship were helpful but not able to waive the work of figuring out how to be in this relationship, at this time. What they did do was to lay a foundation of trust and a sense that we had an ally. Now we've been married for six years and together for over eight and a half. That is quite something that I am proud of, though obviously I can't credit myself alone, nor even her. That takes grace too. We've done a share of work, but lots of people do that and still don't have the grace that somehow zippers up the two components into a whole. Something about our lifelong history (20 years, anyway), indicates that we're on a path, longer and more twisting, than just as two people who happen to share a house together. I keep feeling compelled, drawn, to her as someone who inspires a kind of life in me that otherwise would not be lived. I can't help but feel we need to walk this shared path together. Maybe that is why I never even really "asked the question" of her when we got engaged. I just felt like the old familiar coat that you'd reach for, when nothing else will do.

After a decade of no-go relationships with people I thought I wanted to be with, or bombed out relationships that did seem to show promise for a while, I was in a time to receive someone like Kelli about nine years ago. Not that that was all smooth; the early years took some work, but the compulsion was that it was worth it. I really savor this married life, for all the heartache that visited us at times, we still find in each other an ally for a larger journey. I don't think it trite to say that the presence of Kelli in my life makes clear the presence of God in my life too.

And of course, the presence of Buber in my life makes clear the presence of Dog in my life.

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