I'm giving thanks this morning for my wife, LaRena, and for the twenty-two years of marriage that we celebrate on this day, the 15th of June. A blog is hardly an adequate place to reminisce about all that we have shared in those years, but I would be remiss to say nothing at all. So I'm taking a cue from some of my friends, and simply ruminating on a few of the high points that come to mind, as I consider my still lovely "princess bride" and the life that we have been given to share together.
We met in 1983, as we were about to begin our senior year in high school. I was dating LaRena's best friend at that point, and even though she broke my heart along the way, I guess I have her to thank for introducing me to the future Mrs. Stuckwisch. The Lord had all of that worked out. He had it worked out, too, that moving to a new town and transferring to a new high school between my junior and senior years wasn't really the end of the world, after all. I got a job that summer, working as a stock-boy and clean-up guy at a local discount store. I was sweeping the floor at the end of the day when June showed up with LaRena, and that was how we first met. I had already heard about her, and knew her name, and considered myself terribly clever for looking up as the two of them arrived and saying, "Oh, hello, LaRena, this must be your friend, June." I really was a dork back then (and I suppose that not much has changed), but it must have been endearing. June had already graduated, but LaRena was going to be a senior, too, and she and I ended up having several of our classes together. She sat right behind me in math class, for one thing, which was frustrating to her, I'm sorry to say, because I could do math like a calculator (back then), and she had to work at each problem a little longer and harder than I did.
LaRena and I got to know each other well, and we became good friends over the next several months. When June left me for another country, the stage was set for LaRena and me to become more than friends. I've often thought that it was a good thing we had already been friends for a while before then, because I became so twitterpated with her that I doubt very much I could have developed or sustained much of a relationship otherwise. As it was, I opened my eyes and realized that my friend LaRena was also the girl of my dreams, and I was smitten. So much for "once bitten, twice shy"! I never looked back, and LaRena never let me go.
We were looking at an old photo album the other day, from shortly after we got married. Wow! I've always looked young for my age, but I was just plain young back then. We were both 19, and I probably could have passed for 16 without much trouble. LaRena looked a little older, and she was certainly more grown up and sophisticated than I was (she still is that, although she doesn't appear to have aged at all since then). But we were still "just kids," like everbody said, younger than our DoRena is now. I guess I was barely 18 when I proposed to her on New Year's Eve, 31 December 1983, and LaRena was still 17 (so both of us were younger than Zachary is). Young and in love, and terribly naive. I'm glad that we didn't know any better, because we would probably have made more responsible decisions, and I wouldn't have the life and family with which the Lord has blessed me ever since. One shouldn't tempt the Lord, but He kept me safe when I was a foolish little boy getting into mischief, and He didn't write me off or wash His hands of me when I became a love-sick foolish young man getting married a year into college.
That summer of 1984, after we had graduated from high school, I had to have major corrective surgery on my jaw. They had to take a bone graft from my hip, in order to build up my upper jaw and bring it into comformity with my lower jaw. A full day of surgery, four days of intensive care, and another week in a regular room, all of this an hour's drive away from home. LaRena and my Mom came up to see me every day, and pretty much to sit there with me for hours on end while I zoned in and out. I spent the whole summer recovering, before heading off to college in the fall, thirty-five pounds lighter than I had been (having had my jaw wired shut for a full month!). It was right about that time that we let our parents know about our plans to get married. Note to my own children, and to others: this is not the right way to go about doing things, even though the Lord did work it all out for the best.
The next year was very hard. I was a freshman at Concordia in Seward, while LaRena went to the community college in our home town (and worked hard at a couple jobs to raise money for our wedding and our future life together). While I had been in the hospital, LaRena had bought us a pair of buttons that read, "I love my girlfriend" and "I love my boyfriend," and I wore mine without fail that whole freshman year. There are probably classmates out there who still remember me for that button. I took an endless amount of ribbing for it, but I didn't care. I think I managed to write to LaRena just about every single day, and I wouldn't be surprised if she still has those letters somewhere. I'm sorry to say that I'm not such a hopeless romantic anymore. I am a fortunate man, though, to still have my bride after twenty-two years.
Our wedding day was incredibly hot, the A/C in the church went out, and we couldn't run the fans because they kept blowing out the candles. The matron of honor just about fainted. There were various points of chaos, and not every detail went as smoothly as we had planned. We were surrounded by family, friends and loved ones, however, and all that I can really remember is what a happy day it was. It was a wonderful day, and the beginning of a wonderful life together. There have been ups and downs, both joys and heartaches, some hurts and hardships and frustrations. I expect that such days will come and go for as long as we live. But my bride was beautiful then, and she still is. Better than that, she has loved me and stood by me, supported me in my pursuits and forgiven me for my mistakes along the way. I still remember being stunned when I first finally realized the extent to which she has hitched her wagon to mine, and how her place in life, her goals and dreams, and her vocations are all wrapped up in me and mine. This is such a humbling thing, but I am so deeply grateful for it. I pray every day that the Lord would be with me and sustain me in my calling to be LaRena's husband.
We share our special day with my sister and her husband. In fact, it was on our own sixth anniversary that I had the privilege of walking my sister down the aisle and giving her away, since Dad was the officiant and already waiting with her groom at the front of the church. Rob and Dorisa are celebrating their sixteenth anniversary today. As usual, the card is in the mail too late to make it for the occasion, but I hope they will know that our thoughts and prayers are with them. My other sister and her husband had their anniversary earlier this week, and Mom and Dad had their anniversary two days ago. I'm late with cards in every case, despite my good intentions, but all of them are in my heart and mind this week. I'm especially grateful to my parents for their good example of faithfulness and commitment to each other, according to the Word and will of God. What He has joined together, let no one put asunder.
I'm looking forward to taking my bride out for lunch in a just a little while. Going out on dates together doesn't get to happen very often at this point in our life, but it's always a special treat. We'll be going as a family to share the evening meal with those young-and-in-love newlyweds, Andrew & Ann, and that will be another treat on this happy day. I can't think of a better way to mark our wedding anniversary, than by basking in the glow of a new husband and wife. They're a little older now than we were then, but it calls to mind a pleasant nostalgia for me.