Friday, August 7, 2015

Thanks For Eleven Great Years!

We snapped this photo during our third date on the
Virginia Beach Boardwalk -- August, 2004.

Wow... eleven long years. Tonight marks the eleventh anniversary of my first date with Crystal, the absolute joy of my life -- my partner in crime, my better half, my boo (inside joke)! We'd spoken all throughout the Summer of 2004 via text messages, phone calls and the internet before ever actually getting around to going on a date. Thanks to my father, I was nearly late to our first date on Saturday, August 7, 2004 -- he suddenly had a giant pile of rocks for me to shovel (I can't make this stuff up, folks) just moments before I was about to leave home. I don't think I've ever worked a shovel so fast in my life, either before or since.

Thankfully, Crystal was more than understanding and waited for me to show up. We watched The Village and heckled the theater audience because the plot was so predictable. We spent hours on end just talking, each too nervous to actually touch the other one. Finally, at 10:20 PM that night, you pulled me close. Our eyes locked and you gave me this grin... that was our first kiss.

At the beach in 2005.

These past eleven years have been quite the journey. What started out as two innocent kids on a date turned into more than I could have ever imagined. A full decade later, we own a home, have two wacky dogs and don't have to worry about living paycheck to paycheck. We're able to travel and move where we want, when we want. I'm thankful for all that we've worked for and accomplished. Though, I'm probably most thankful for you sticking by me in what was certainly the toughest period of my life. Only in the past few years have I really come into my own as a man. I've been able to put a lot of anger and sadness behind me. I have you to thank for that, Crystal. You made possible a loving relationship that allowed me to heal, even when I wasn't a very nice person to be around.

Taking silly pictures in our apartment in 2006.

The first year of our relationship was great -- the honeymoon phase as many folks call it. The next few years after that weren't so hot -- you came to understand how closed off and emotionally guarded I was. I would lie and hide things about myself from you. I wasn't always the most committed man, either. You came to understand how nutty my family can be. And yet, you hung in there. The years after our move to North Carolina were filled with grief and fury -- my internal strife and depression nearly drove me insane. But there you were, still fighting the good fight and supporting me. You were there through the death of my mother and my family being torn apart. You were there when my sister needed someone to depend upon. You were there when I finally decided to take better care of myself, both mentally and physically. Some days were good; some were bad. Living with me was like riding a roller coaster without a seat-belt. I guess spending all those years with horses taught you how to rope a wild beast.

You were there, over and over and over again.

Christmas of 2012 -- I was at my heaviest weight and about to make a change in my life thanks to you.

The past couple of years have been our best, in my opinion. I finally got my head screwed on straight and much of the anger in my heart defeated. Crystal, you've been there in both good times and bad, for better or worse.

When I had no place to lay my head, you gave me a bed to rest on.

When I had no one to call my friend, you gave me your hand to hold.

When I needed someone to help me get better, you were there to patch up my wounds.

Off for a hike in 2013.

Words simply can not express how much you've done for me, Crystal. All I can say, with every cell in my body, is thank you for loving me -- especially during the years when I wasn't so lovable. I was a miserable monster for the bulk of my 20's, but somehow you found a way to love me. It baffles me, honestly... but it's not something for me to worry about anymore. The finest way to repay your love and kindness is to be the best man I can be, thereby loving you more completely in return.

Crystal, I love you. You're the funniest person I know. You're wise beyond your years. You know how to lead and you've never, ever been a follower. You're stunning and graceful in more ways than I can relate. You are the best of humanity all rolled into one sublime package. I hope the next eleven years are filled with more success, happiness and peace for the both of us. You deserve it for loving a difficult man like me. We've stuck together through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Without you, I am but a hollow ghost left to wander this world. To be honest, for all that you've done for me, I think it's about time I started calling you my wife. Considering we eloped in 2008, it's long overdue anyway.

I love ya, pretty lady.

P.S. -- I know you're going to yell at me for sharing photos of us, but hush. You're gorgeous and I'm proud of us. ;-)

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