My brother Todd and his wife Lisa, pictured here in 2014, just celebrated their twelfth anniversary a few days ago. I have long been inspired by the love they share and the ways they lift each other up in even the toughest times, so I asked them what advice or wisdom they might offer as I get ready to walk down the aisle.
They sent me the following. You might want to grab some tissues first.
Todd and Lisa
When Sandee asked us to write about our love in honor of our twelfth anniversary, we thought it would be easy. Turns out, not so much. Legal battles, cancer, money issues, struggles with our five children had sometimes overshadowed the spark that always held us together. We stared at each other, floundering for ideas.
The beginning is most always a good bet on where to start.
We wrote our initial commentaries separately, with plans to then head out to the Nevada desert, thinking a peaceful place might make the task of comparing and combining them into a finished essay easier to complete.
I don’t know where to start. I don’t even know where to look for the words to describe what you mean to me. We’ve known each other for 3 years now and each year gets better. They’ve been 3 of the best years of my life and you are part of the reason. I can’t imagine next year at school without having you there to talk to and to give me a smile. I feel as if something very important will be missing. You may not know it but you[r] smile a[nd] laughter kept me going many times. I will always carry it with me in my heart wherever I go. I’m going to miss you. I don’t even want to think about how much. I hope you will keep in touch (if you don’t I‘m going to be upset) I want your new address when you move. I hope that your life with Craig is everything that you want it to be and more. I must admit that I am somewhat jealous of Craig. He’s getting a wonderful person. I hope I find someone half as wonderful. You’re a very special person Lisa and you are very special to me. I care deeply for you and always will. I pray that our friendship will last forever. If you should ever need anything, even if it’s just someone to talk to, all you have to do is give me a call. I’ll always be here and I will always be glad to help. Don’t forget me in your new life. I won’t forget you. You will always hold a very special place in my heart. I love you. Always will.
All my love,
That is one of the only love letters I have written in my life. I wrote it to my now-wife in her senior yearbook. She was graduating and going off to get married and move away. From me. We had never dated. The boy she was going to marry had been her boyfriend throughout our entire friendship, and I had done my best to keep my feelings to myself (to honorably and privately fall on my sword, as it were). Until that yearbook. Even then, at 17, I thought I was just telling a friend how much she meant to me, lying, and not lying, about wishing for her happiness with someone else. It wasn’t until she showed the yearbook note to me after we’d met again 20 years later, shortly after our first real date, the one where I told her I loved her for the first time, that I discovered it wasn’t really the first time after all.
I don’t really know what it means to find love later in life, as my sister Sandee, a FsFTB, describes. I found love, my Love, Lisa, very early in my life. I just had to wait a very long time to share it with her. We did stay friends all those years in between. Stayed in touch. Even had the occasional lunch together here and there when our paths crossed back home where both sets of our parents still live. And one day, somewhere along the way, she read my love letter. Really read it. I guess it worked.
Lisa is still my friend. She is my best friend. And these days she is also my wife. I love that part and everything that comes with it. But my favorite part still is that she is my friend. And that is, if I have any to offer, my advice to anyone getting married, young or old, early or late. Always be friends. Before everything else. The rest is just cake.
When high school ended in 1984, I was eighteen, had been engaged for a year, and only three months away from my wedding date. I knew exactly what I wanted and doggedly pursued it. I’d stubbornly chosen to marry the first boy I ever dated. Nothing, not my parents, not common sense could pull my focus off my meticulously planned future. And still, I wrote these words to my closest friend:
Dearest, sweetest Todd,
You didn’t leave me any room to write. Shame on you! Well, school’s over. I can’t believe all of it has come to an end but there is one thing I will always remember – the friendship and love of one special guy. I guess you know it’s you! You are very important in my life, you (cont. on pg. 181) were and are always there for me. Meeting me with a smile every time and a hug when I needed one. If you only knew how much that meant to me. I can’t really tell you. If I keep writing like this I’m going to cry. I know this won’t be the last time I’ll see you. I just feel it in my heart that somehow over the years we will stay in touch. Right now I really can’t imagine a day without at least seeing you but (cont. on pg. 178) I guess we will both have to get used to that. Every time I think of you I’ll see your handsome smile and hear those sweet things you would say to me. You are one in a million. I will always treasure the love and friendship you gave to me. I only hope that I have returned half as much as I took from you.
Special love, thanks and friendship,
Reading this now, thirty year later, my conflicted feelings about leaving Todd behind are obvious. In a last ditch effort to speak the truth, my subconscious flowed from the leaky pen onto the pages of his yearbook. If you believe in the law of attraction, then what happened that day is a miracle. I made space in reality for my deepest desire, to never be without Todd, and the universe went to work resetting my compass. After eighteen years on a slow tacking, painful course, I found my way back to him, my one in a million.
Together under the stars
As the desert sun set, we reclined on an air mattress, nibbled on chicken fingers, sipped cheap wine, and read the above comments aloud to each other. We’re happy to report we didn’t finish writing this blog post that evening.
Our best marriage advice is simply this…when things get tough and you’re coming apart at the seams, go to the desert and get naked, naked to your core. If you find any combination of acceptance, gratitude, respect, love, or lust in your partner’s eyes, then stay there, hold on tight, and take a little time to nurture that spark. You’ve got what it takes.
And as Todd said, “The rest is just cake.”
Happy anniversary, Todd and Lisa. Wishing you many happy years together! –FsFTB