Gina and I were married on January 11, 2016, which was the day before her birthday and the day after we returned from what may be tied with the Dallas Fan Existential Crisis as most angst-filled convention we’ve ever attended. David Bowie had died the day before, which had a little bit to do with it, but we’d reached the ends of our ropes in other ways.
There’s no pretty way to say we were losing our minds living apart, which was one of the judge’s requirements prescribed during my previous divorce. It’s a completely understandable arrangement; I can imagine how less responsible parents might have a series of strangers shacking up with them, and I can further imagine how that could be detrimental to their children, but it still seems a bit nanny state to me.
Gina has always loved the girls, and it is a testament to her huge heart that we’re even together. I’d like to cite my charisma and devastating good looks here, but we all know no amount of game can make up for having two kids from a previous marriage and going through a brutal divorce process. I’ve said it before, but Gina really is the patron saint of stepmothers, and I’m not sure what I’ve done to win this lottery.
The tone of this love letter is already different than some I’ve written in the past, so let me make something clear: I stray from any sort of negativity when I talk about our relationship in public, and I’m absolutely going to hold to that pledge. Not that I have anything to complain about when it comes to Gina, but it really is a death knell when I see some of you folks whining online about something your significant other did. You need to address that shit in private, otherwise it’s emotional abuse, plain and simple. I’ve been guilty of this in past relationships, and every time it pops up on my On This Day app, I cringe.
Furthermore, when I’m writing about celebrations of love, I try to keep it positive. There’s something missing, though, if I act like nothing was ever hard (haha, maybe I should say difficult). Holy shit, guys, it wasn’t just difficult. At times, it was devastating, but it wasn’t because of us. It was baggage, circumstances, and the world. We’ve won such a victory here, but there’s no reward without a struggle. I’ll save the happy sappy shit for our legal anniversary on January 11th or Valentine’s Day. Today, however, a day before April 16th, which was the day we celebrated our marriage publicly with our friends in a mostly-traditional ceremony, it’s time to get real.
The first thing I did when we arrived home on January 10, 2016, was crack a beer and put Space Oddity on full blast. Life was short, and we were going to get married.
This wasn’t some Vegas, Elvis impersonator-associated notion. Gina had survived a harrowing car accident a few weeks before when she totaled her car and escaped with a few bumps and scratches. She only drove home that night because a court order said she had to spend the night under a different roof than my children, otherwise she would have been safe with me. I don’t believe in fate, but if you want to call that a sign, I’m not going to hold it against you.
So, the next day we drove to the Craighead County Courthouse, got our papers, found a Justice of the Peace, got married, Gina moved in, and we lived happily ever after, The End.
Oh wait, something else occurred a month later, and a month after that she showed me a positive pregnancy test. I’ve strained my brain trying to remember which time it happened, but I can’t peg it down. It had to have been early February, and I’m certain it must have been a great time for everyone involved.
I have to tread carefully on this next part, because there were a few days of sitcom, no, rom-com level misunderstanding as we both assumed the other person wasn’t ready for this even though we both were. No one wanted to say the words, but every time we discussed the situation, it was more along the lines of “What are we going to do,” not, “Holy shit this is amazing.” I mean, we had just gotten married, and it was time for stability and relationship building, not cranking out babies, right?
The standoff finally ended one day when she said, “We have to talk,” and I started spilling my guts. We had our Hollywood moment, or something close to it, when we realized we both wanted the same thing and that we were also terrible at communicating sometimes. Conflict resolved, set sail for parenthood (again).
(Willie, if you’re reading this, you were always wanted – though you were a bit of a surprise – but Gina and I were also terrified of upsetting each other. Thank you for being here, and thank you for teaching us how to talk about Important Things.)
Gina and I held a public wedding ceremony at Lake Frierson on the 16th of April that year. Only a handful friends knew we were already legally married, and next to no one knew she was pregnant (although I’m sure they’ve done the math by now). The girls were in attendance, which was wonderful, and I have to say it was the most pleasant wedding I’ve participated in. Third time’s a charm.
I’ve told the tale of how Willie was born, which I hope you’ll read if you haven’t had the chance. I think about it often, and I frequently thank him for being here.
I thank Gina, too, but not enough. I thank you again here, love, for all you do. There’s no way I can repay you, other than being here and loving you and Willie.
As we journey into our second year of marriage and our first year of parenthood together (my fifth, personally, but who’s counting), I cannot pass the day without marking it. Though there’s no traditional precedent for dual anniversaries, I think we’ve earned January 11 and April 16.
I love you, Gina. It’s still an adventure.