In 1984, I was a Labor and Delivery nurse at Ramsey Medical Center and I had just started law school. My brother Dave was always my partner in crime growing up on the farm and we had remained close even after college. Our lives were too busy starting our careers to spend a lot of time together, but he was always the first one I called if I had a flat tire or needed a new battery. I even consulted him to help me find my first apartment. I trusted him and relied upon him, but when he called in the fall of 1984 and said he had the perfect guy for me, I was more than skeptical.
Actually to be honest, I had zero trust that he had any idea what I was looking for in a guy. He told me he had met this guy at work, had gone fishing with him (a sure sign of good character) and he was perfect for me. Dave was a chemist and his work buddy was a PhD chemist. Dave wanted to set up a blind date. I had never been on a blind date and thought the idea was crazy, but because it was Dave, I agreed.
This guy named Joe called me to set up our blind date dinner. The night before the date I cleaned my apartment, because that is what we did back then. I didn’t want him to think I was messy, even if I still had zero confidence in the success of this blind date. On the night in question, fall was fully in the air, and I selected a pink sweater and a skirt to go to dinner. He was a coworker of Dave’s, and even if it did not work out, I did not want to ruin Dave’s relationship with Joe.
Joe picked me up on time, and to my surprise he was nice, relaxed, and most importantly could carry on a very interesting and fun conversation. I had dated a lot of men who were decent and hard working, but some were boring or just not very bright or had offensive world or political views. Joe had been raised in a German Catholic home in New Ulm Minnesota. Both of us had grown up with brothers and sisters, and had grown up in the rural areas of Minnesota. I can say after all of this time that having a similar background and similar religious, political and world views is important in a long term relationship. Those shared experiences help in everything from our world views, to views on marriage, and most importantly child rearing.
Joe and I had a lovely dinner on that fall evening together, and spent a few hours afterward just talking in my apartment. As skeptical as I was before the date, I had turned 180 degrees. I called my brother after the date to report how it went. I told him, “This is a man I could marry.” I had never said or thought that before about anyone else.
This was a man I could marry and I did. We were engaged within a year and married within 2 years. The ceremony was in one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in Minnesota, and we had a heck of an open bar and dinner. Weddings in rural Minnesota back then were an all day affair and a lot of fun. We took our commitment to each other seriously back then and still do. This week is our 30th Anniversary.
Joe and I raised our three great kids together and have been partners in our adventures whether it be world travel, adventures to the zoo, or the emergency room for stitches with the kids. We have negotiated through soccer, hockey, and work schedules, and managed to share the household chores and yet have time for dinners together and a private laugh after the kids were in bed. Now as empty nesters we have reconnected for some relaxation, travel, and a lifestyle that refocuses back on us as a couple.
They say if you are a close couple you finish each other’s sentences. It is more like you correct each other’s sentences when you have been married a long time. I have heard my parents who have been married for over 60 years do it and we do it too. I believe it is because we have spent so much time together, have had so many shared experiences, and we both remember them differently at times. But, arguing as a couple is not a bad thing. We don’t argue about anything big, just little details.
They say the opposite of love is hate, but that is not true. The opposite of love is indifference. Only when you care about a relationship or care about a person do you fight to make it better. Show me a couple that does not bicker or care about each other or about the relationship and I will show you a couple that will not stay together. You can only be driven mad or become mad about things you care about. Joe and I have been angry with one another, but never for long and never about anything big. We care, therefore we have strong feelings about each other. That is the sign of love.
I believe after all these years that finding a nice person as your spouse is THE most important thing. Everything else is secondary. Joe is one of the nicest, kindest, caring, sensitive, gentle guys I ever met. He also was, and is, an outstanding father and husband because of it. He could look at me when I was hugely pregnant and bloated with dark circles under my eyes and he could convincingly tell me how great I looked. He left hostess snowballs over the years on my steering wheel for no reason, because he knew I liked them a lot, especially when I was pregnant. He drove thousands of miles in our Yukon without complaint to show our kids at all ages the entire US and Canada by road trip. He fixed the kids cars and he worked hard for his family.
As a spouse of 30 years I can say he and I have had a lot of fun together, but I have also appreciated having him by my side for support and to share all of life’s journeys, both good and bad. We navigated the uncertainties of parenting, and I can say we are both stronger for the other. The companionship, friendship, and intimacy were all important for a full life. He has been a sounding board and a calm influence. He has been someone to talk to when needing an opinion. He has been a true partner. I saw Joe cry 5 times in our 30 years together. He cried the day we said our marriage vows 30 years ago, and he cried when each of our three children were delivered, and when we lost one of our babies through miscarriage. He is a strong, but sensitive family man that has shown his true character through his actions without bragging or without needing to be recognized.
Joe has provided the balance in my life and the JOY for 30 years, and I know that I am a lucky person. You never know if you have the Happily Ever After until you have the years behind you, with full hindsight. After 30 years, I can say with full confidence that I have my Happily Ever After. I have a friend and a companion. I have a guy who enjoys traveling, biking, hiking and any adventures the two of us can dream up. We have fun going to Menards on a weekend and doing projects in the house as much as going to dinner. I have a true partner who shares my life, yet we are both comfortable enough that sometimes he watches his Twins and I can watch my romantic comedies.
We have swam In the seven sacred pools on the road to Hanna in Hawaii and went shark cage driving in New Zealand. We have hiked in Alaska and warmed ourselves in the hot springs of Iceland, but all of our adventures have been better because we were able to share them together. I have my Happily Ever After! Happy Anniversary to the nicest guy a girl could ever have dreamed of in her life. Happy Anniversary to my Joe!