Today is my 14th wedding anniversary. I know people say that time flies by, and I am usually not one of them. Time can crawl painfully slow through hours, days, and years – but I truly have felt that 14 years have gone by quickly. I do not feel like it was so long ago that I said, “I do,” to my handsome husband, and I do not feel that 14 years are much in the span of a lifetime. But this anniversary and every year are an accomplishment and should be celebrated, no matter if we are together or where we are.
So how did this whole relationship start? It starts with a hockey game – your typical girl meets boy story, right? I happened to take my brothers to our dad’s hockey game. He played on a league with people from his second job. Andy happened to work there and play on that team. I saw him, he saw me – that was it. However, I left the next day for a long trip in Eastern Europe with my mom, and we had a 4 year age difference. He was afraid to ask me out on a date for this reason, and I was just waiting for him to ask. I developed a sudden interest in B-league hockey games on Sunday nights, and he tended to hang around after the games to talk with me. It took some time, but he finally asked me out for a date.
We dated for about a month, and everything was going well. He was older than me though, and he was more serious about us than I was. I was scared with just how much he liked me – so scared that I broke up with him. No good reason except that I was 17 years old and didn’t know how to handle how I felt about him. I realized almost immediately that it was a mistake, and it took a month for me to get the courage to talk to him and for Andy to date me again. He LOVES this story – I came crawling back to him. The breakup doesn’t matter, because we were together since.
Andy and I had just started dating when 9/11 happened. I feel like this was the type of defining moment for our generation that Pearl Harbor was for that generation; it ignited a fire in the entire nation and inspired many people to enlist. Andy was one of them. Suddenly, the guy I was dating who was 6 month shy of finishing paramedic school was talking about going into the Air Force. I like to think that I was prepared for it, but I was in high school! Of course I was not. I had the dreamy idea of him going away and that we would make it work. He officially enlisted after his graduation, one of the harder of many goodbyes we have endured.
He made it through basic training and technical school. He joined a career that sounded terrifying to myself and his mother, but we made it through. He took leave over Christmas and proposed, and I said yes. As crazy as it seemed, I could not imagine NOT marrying him, no matter our ages or how difficult it would be. My parents thought we were unrealistic and that I would never go to college, as I wanted to move to wherever he was after graduation, but we didn’t care. His first assignment was only 8 hours away, so he took advantage of the distance and took leave when he could. I will not pretend that it was always easy or perfect, and we were both young and immature – but we made it work.
I graduated high school at 7 weeks pregnant. Yep – I was a statistic. It was obviously unplanned and completely unexpected, shocking for us and our families. We kept the same goal of marrying a year later, but it was our families who convinced us to marry that summer. Andy was going to deploy to Iraq (the war had just started), and it made sense to make everything official. We organized a wedding in a week, and we held the ceremony on July 3, 2003.
It was a small affair, with only family present, but it was beautiful. It was just what I had wanted. I grew up with grand ideas for a wedding, dresses and rings and flowers pasted on my walls, but this wedding was all I needed. Everything seemed to fall into place, and I remember not feeling nervous at all. How many brides can say that? We were married in Vandeveer Park, one of my favorites in our hometown, and my mom and his grandpa were our witnesses. I had always said my mom would be my maid of honor. 🙂 I would not trade that day for the most glamorous wedding available because it was ours.
My favorite story of that time, outside of my actual wedding day, is of the day my mom and I went dress shopping. I knew the dress I wanted, but a swelling belly made that dress impossible. I cried in the dressing room. I remember thinking that I was just another knocked up girl, rushing into a wedding and feeling awful. My mom was wonderful – she found a salesgirl and brought in another dress that she kindly suggested. It was perfect – it fit exactly right and happened to be on sale for only $33. My veil cost more than my dress! I left feeling so much better and like everything would be fine, as ridiculous as that sounds.
I moved to Fort Campbell, Kentucky about 3 weeks later (after much yelling and arguing with my parents about the decision, discussing, tears of sadness, and vomiting from nervousness), and Andy left for Iraq 3 days later. I could write about this decision and how life was for many, many paragraphs, but it was a difficult but necessary decision for us. I learned to grow up fast, to live on my own, and to be a functioning and responsible, bill-paying, mature adult. I learned military life from one of my greatest friends and survived our first deployment, all while being only 8 hours from family. The point of this is that we made it. WE MADE IT. We went on to have a child in Kentucky, to move 2 more times in the area, to start college, to manage our life, to move back to Iowa as Andy went to Korea….it goes on from there. Our life has been tumultuous, chaotic, hilarious, ironic, and rewarding – much more than I can write in a single post.
14 years later – 4 children, 2 pets, 7 moves, 3 countries, 4 deployments, and 3 long, LONG years in Korea – and we are still here. Not only here, but beyond happy to be here. Andy is one of my best friends, the person I cannot fathom my life without. He has seen me in my best and worst moments, has watched me deliver 4 babies, has said goodbye so many, many times, and has supported me no matter what I have tried and accomplished. I told him that I was getting my bachelor’s degree, no matter what it takes – and I have a master’s degree. He’s seen me in hypoglycemic reactions, anxiety attacks, extreme labor pain, and pure fear – and he’s still here, albeit teasing me about it now. We have both changed in good and bad ways, as happens as your grow older and mature, and yet we have learned to love each other through whatever is given to us. Life has been wonderful and yet completely unexpected, but he is the person I want beside me.
We are still learning things about one another, and I hope we do for the rest of our lives together. I recently learned that while I can be more hormonal, he is the more romantic of the two of us. He has learned to argue more intellectually with me, otherwise he loses that debate. I will never fully understand his job, and that is okay. He has learned that instead of a big fancy vow renewal or expensive things, I would rather take our money and continue to travel the world (our kids have been beyond lucky to see so much). He knows that I need coffee like most people need oxygen, and I have learned that my cooking tastes better than his because it is “made with love.” We try to blend what we grew up with and what we want to change from our own childhoods, and we do not always meet in the middle. We are often parenting and building a marriage from different time zones, but this forces us to communicate more than most. We take inspiration from his grandparents and my great-grandparents, long married couples who also seemed to love one another and make it work. One of my favorite memories to tell the kids is of the day I witnessed an argument between Andy’s grandparents. We were only dating a few months, but he used to take me to see them often. His grandparents were arguing about the color of pen that his grandma used to write an address down. I’m not kidding – the color of the ink in the pen. They argued about it, Grandpa refused to admit he was wrong, and they moved on. A week later, when we returned, they still argued about it (Grandma was right in the end). I remember laughing and thinking, This is what I want. And I have it. If my biggest argument with Andy is about how he does not put his clean laundry away or that a certain street sign said this, I think we are doing pretty well.
Andy wrote me a love letter for our anniversary, and I think this is my letter to him. On July 3, 2003, I married Andrew James Carpenter in a simple ceremony on one hot summer day. In all these years, I have never regretted this choice and have only grown to value our marriage and commitment even more. I feel beyond fortunate to not only have found a person that I want to spend the rest of my life with but that I found this person so early in my life. This is extremely rare, and I do not take my luck lightly. Happy anniversary my love – just one of many in our long life together. And it will be a long life as I strive to keep us the healthiest we can be. 🙂