"Write it down in a blog so I know how you feel". I've often heard this from Nikki. She says it when she's frustrated and wants me to elaborate on something. She's right, too. The fact is, I'm not great at expressing myself verbally, I tend to be much better doing it in word form. I'm not sure why. Perhaps its because talking about things takes so much energy. Many times the details seem so unimportant. If I've spent 6 hours with a friend and she asks me how he's doing, "Fine" is about all I can muster. That's the truth. He is doing fine. Now, he may have told me many things about his life and kids and work, but talking about it will require at least 45 minutes of conversation and I don't see the point in re-hashing what I just got done experiencing. I figure the details will come out in due time.
However, some things are much more important. On the occasion of Nikki's 40th birthday, the details and the small things that need to be said are crucial. They are the foundation of our marriage. It's appropriate, then, that I write about them in a blog so she knows how I feel.
I vividly remember the first time we crossed paths. She walked directly in front of Jay's car in the school parking lot, looked at me, and smiled. I still see that smile in these photos. I was hooked. 18 years old and I'm ruined. I immediately began the search to get her number. I remember the excitement of preparing for the first date because she was the hot chick and I didn't know what to expect. If she's horrible, at least I had a date with the hot chick. If she's kind, life will be a state of nirvana: A hot chick that you can take home to meet the parents! As it turned out, my parents liked her too. That was 1989. We've been together 23 years.
Trying to encapsulate all the time, all the memories, all the meaningful experiences we've had together is virtually impossible. Saying somebody means "everything" to you is trite, unoriginal, and lazy. It's the easy thing to say when you don't want to think. It's like saying "I love you this much" while spreading your arms as wide as you can. I can't describe what she means to me in any measurable way because that doesn't do her justice. I suppose the best way to describe her is to say she's irreplaceable. I can't find another like her, and I can't function without her. There's nobody else that will ever understand me the way she does, and love me in spite of it. She's the most caring, generous, kind, and loving person I have ever known.
When my mother died, Nikki laid by me all night long and never left my side. I was 21 and Nikki was 19. The kindess of that act is monumental. When you're 19 years old there are a lot of other things you would rather do than what she did that night. It would have been easier to leave and come back the next day. But, she loved my mom, and she loved me as well. Nothing was too overwhelming for her. She laid by me and held my hand all night, I don't think we spoke much, there wasn't anything to say. It was love in its purest and most kind form. That is irreplaceable.
When I started the Air Force Academy, Nikki was 18. We saw each other sporadically, a random weekend here or there was the norm. I wouldn't have blamed her if she decided to do other things and see other people. I know it was difficult for her because she was still in high school. I managed to attend proms and homecomings, but I had a flat-top. What high school girl wants to date a dude with a flat-top in 1991? There were a lot of other things she could have been doing. Yet she waited. She gave me her time when she could have chosen other friends and other people. That is irreplaceable.
When I graduated from the Air Force Academy we were sent to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. For three long years we were there. It was freezing cold, or it was hot and humid. There was nothing to do. We met some great people, though in many ways it was miserable, but she made the most of it. She supported my career, and she fit in. I was gone a lot for training and for Air Force Soccer. She forged ahead, alone. She could have complained and made life difficult. I wouldn't have blamed her. She didn't. That is irreplaceable.
When I got out of the Air Force I floundered around a bit trying to decide what I wanted to do. I lost the first career when the tech bubble exploded, then had a steady one for 5 years, decided I wanted a new career, stayed in that career field for 18 months, then went back to the old one, then got laid off after another 5 years. And she's still with me. You see, she's the foundation of all that we do. She's the solid, steady one that allows me to explore and is always there when I falter. She's been completely supportive of all that I've done in my careers, although it surely hasn't been easy. That is irreplaceable.
When our dogs got sick, I mean really sick, Nikki attended to them daily. She hand washed their sores and made sure they were as comfortable as they could be. I helped, but I wasn't in charge. I watched her cry as she attended to them, knowing the inevitability of their death. But she didn't falter. She made sure they were taken care of and never wavered in her commitment to them. I saw the same gentle kindness she showed me years ago when I needed her. Irreplaceable.
I tore my achilles tendon about 5 months ago and became nearly incapacitated (shortly after losing my job). I was completely vulnerable and in a lot of pain, and there she was by my side, making sure I had what I needed and that I was comfortable. In many ways I was like a child again, but she never complained or made me feel useless, which is how I felt. Irreplaceable.
I'm healed now and we're plugging along. She's still the foundation, the link to the past, and the road to the future. I hope I've given her happiness along the way and although I'm nowhere near perfect, I hope I'm adequate and give her what she needs. I've been fortunate to have her in my life and I know I wouldn't be the same person without her. I'm more grounded, more mature, loving, caring, and kind because of her. She's taught me so much about being a good person. I hope she knows she's irreplaceable. That's what I feel. That's what I know.