It will be 18 years ago tomorrow that I took my wife on our first date. I was nineteen, confused, and trying to find my place in the world before I would be twenty. My best friend Shane appeared to have conquered bone cancer and I felt it was time to grow up and go out on my own. How I would do this I didn't really know but I knew that my life really needed to change.
I had two good friends one was Mike and the other was Shane. One was my bad side and the other was good. One side liked to drink, party hard, steal, and get in gang fights which was my friend Mike. The other side of me was honest, hard working, gentle hearted, and really kind which was my friend Shane. I knew on one end I was really close to dying. I would drink till I passed out and get up and do it again. Then I would head to Shane's house and go sober.
My girlfriends were not much better. I picked the ones that were simply the easiest to get into bed. I remember one time a girl said, "No."
I dropped her off on the side of the road.
I never forced the issue. I just wasn't that type of guy. I wanted a girl that wanted the same things. I remember Shane met one of my dates. He got so pissed off at me and he asked me what I was doing with a girl like that. I remember laughing and saying something about it was going to be an easy lay. Then we sat down and had dinner. She made the mistake of commenting that he couldn't have a fake leg. Finally after a few comments like that Shane took a fork and stabbed himself in his fake leg. She screamed and that ended all plans of my midnight romance.
I had known my wife since Middle School. I always thought she was classy, nice, and treated others with respect. As we grew up we sometimes had the same classes. Though we never really went out. We seemed to always find a way to drift into each others lives. I always thought she was to nice for a guy like me. When High School ended we went our separate ways. I didn't think I would ever see her again.
Then one day she drifted back into my life. It started with her appearing at Shane's house and she had came back to say, "Hello."
I got her phone number just to talk about the past. I didn't think anything of it. Three days later I gave her a call. We went out to dinner and down to the beach. We lit up a fire and called my friends to see if they wanted to come over. It was the first time I had a conversation with a girl that I really cared to get to know. She was having problems too trying to decide what to do with her life. It seemed odd that we were having the same problems and here I thought I was alone.
It was sometime after the first bombs fell on Iraq. I suddenly knew what I had to do. I went down to the Army Recruiters and signed up to go fight. I was never very Patriotic and yet on that summer afternoon I was filled with an emotion I can't really describe. I wanted to go fight for my country. For once I knew what I really wanted to do.
Shane thought I was crazy, Mike wanted to know why the hell I was going away, but I think I knew that I had to escape. This was my one chance to get off this run away train. If there was one thing I knew how to do... It was to fight.
Over the next couple weeks me and Nyki continued to date. For once I didn't want to bed this girl, I wanted to get to know her instead, and thus our relationship began to bloom. Two weeks after dating I told my recruiter I was going to get married. He laughed and asked if I even had a steady girlfriend... I answered, "No yet."
By October 1st I knew Nyki was the one. I think I knew it all the time I had been in high school. We were just two people trying to find our way through life. We just never had a chance to get to know each other yet. So on a park bench, down by a special lake, I asked Nyki if she would marry me and be my wife. Of course she said, "Yes."
January 13th was when I was due to go to basic training. I had from October 2nd to get the marriage done and get my things in order. By now Shane knew I had lost my rocker, Mike knew he was loosing his side man, and my life for once had direction that was as focused as an arrow.
On December 21, 1991 me and my wife got married and then on January 13th 1992 I left. Basic Training combined with Advance Training. They say Basic Training is just eight weeks of hell, they were lying to me, it turned out to be six months long. Then I put in for Recon and was further trained. By the time I got done it was almost my Birthday again. I went home for an eight day trip. Said hello to my friends and with it some good byes.
In Germany it was a struggle to find a home. Finally, I brokered my way into a house that had a hole in the attic. In December me and wife began to live out our life. I was gone most of the time while I was in the Army. I enjoyed the combat atmosphere and then one day I came home. My son was one week when I had left and when I came back he was almost one years old. I think that's when it settled into me I would have to get out.
Back home Shane came down with cancer again. Me and my wife talked to him on a cold December day on a pay phone outside of the base in Kitzigen. He had made it through all the times. Yet, something was different this time. I told him he had to wait till I got home. That he could fight this. That he could get better.
In May my best friend gave up the fight. 22 years old, he was just a kid. I remember me and my wife crying on the Main River. We threw in a rose and I remember wondering what I would have done if she hadn't been there to hold me tight. I still carry my Best Mans obituary in a scrap book. My mind made up I decided I would go home.
When I returned it was a different affair. Struggles would greet me, lack of jobs, and there was the bitter affair of Mike I had to still wrap up. He wanted to go out drinking and fighting, stealing and hurting, but that was no longer me. I had grown up. I had a wife and a child to think of. So, I left and said, "Good bye."
Shane was still with me but Mike had gone and left.
There is no longer just me but now it's me and my wife. We struggled, we had some hardship fights, we even came close one year to just calling the whole thing off. We sat together watched 9-11. We both cried knowing that there was fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wifes, and even children that wouldn't be coming home that night. There was no crime for that entire week. When you went to the store people were kind and polite. Me and my wife just gripped each other tighter that night.
I think our biggest challenge came on a February 10th day. I was working and had gone to this little girls room. Sometimes I would sit on my breaks and read to her but at this time I had to clean her neck. I went to just straighten her out. There was an explosion of pain, my legs crumpled up under me, and my body fell down. When I woke up my lower legs wouldn't work just right. They sent me to the ER and from my hospital to the next one down the road. When they came back with the MRI they didn't have to tell me it was bad news. When I got on the phone and spoke to my wife I just told her I had both good news and bad news. I then explained the bad news was I wasn't going to be home for dinner. The good news is I'm probably retired.
Some people ask me how I have made it 18 years. It's been hard, it's been fun, and yes I'm still in love with my girl. We've had our differences, we've had our fights, and we've also had our really good times. When we got together I think we had the same plan. To start with each other something that was new. We didn't want to ever get a divorce. It was never in our plans. I've been there for her when she's needed me most. When she lost the only thing that resembled a parent. She's been there when I've needed her most.
I do somethings that are kind of special. Once we were sitting in the Vet. clinic. I told I was going to wheel about and returned ten minutes later with a dozen red roses and gave it to her in a very crowded room. It was a good feeling when another wife turned to her husband and smacked him and said, "Why don't you ever do that?"
Me and my wife have three children. My oldest boy is sixteen, my girl is thirteen, and my other boy is ten. They seem to be the best of both me and my wife. Kind, considerate, respectful, bright, intelligent, ambitious, and kind. Our life has gotten a lot harder since I was hurt and yet we are closer as a family than we ever were. Something good started Eighteen Years ago. A new start, new hopes, and new dreams for two kids that were as lost as two kids come.