I’d been on mess duty about a week before I noticed him. Really noticed him. At the time, women Marines made up only four percent of the Marine Corps population, so it’s not that much of a stretch to think I didn’t notice yet another hopeful face in the sea of men at Camp Lejeune.
Jerry was a line cook. He’d made me a cheese omelet once or twice. As he tells the story, he joked and smiled as he cooked—all he wanted was for me to make eye contact. I did not.
I had no idea when I received orders to report for 30 days of mess duty that they would change my life. The work itself was rather mundane. As part of my responsibilities, I checked identification cards at the front doors during mealtimes, which also meant doing some minor record-keeping in the office. For me mess duty was an annoyance; for Jerry it was a 30-day window of opportunity.
Every afternoon during a break time between meals I’d settle at a quiet corner table with a cup of hot tea and a book. Soon he started to join me, and I set my book aside in favor of a daily chat. I didn’t learn until years later that he wasn’t exactly a fan of hot tea.
Then came the day I misplaced the cashier keys, and a disciplinary-minded sergeant hid them to teach me a lesson. I probably would have gotten into a lot of trouble. However, Jerry saw where he hid them and snuck them back to me just as I’d noticed they were gone. The sergeant came into the office grinning like a Marvel Comic villain.
“So…are you missing anything?”
“Why no, I don’t believe I am.” I pulled the keys from my pocket and opened the cashier’s box in front of him. The look on his face was priceless.
Jerry has been my hero ever since that day. We married 31 years ago today, on Friday the 13th at a Justice of the Peace office in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. I wore black because that’s all I had with me.
We survived the first 19 years of marriage on our own, despite gale-force winds and buffeting storms. We almost didn’t make it.
Then God became part of our lives and helped us through the next 11 years. I highly recommend the “with-God” approach to marriage. It’s not without storms, but the winds don’t cause near as much damage, and the sunny days are so much more rich and beautiful than I could have ever imagined they would be.
There’s no way I could tell you everything I love about my husband in one meager little blog post. So instead, I’m going to tell you one small story that I carry in my heart because it epitomizes his character. On top of that, I’ll bet he doesn’t even remember this occasion. Why not? Because it concerns an argument, and he never remembers those days once the disagreement passes (sometimes, much to my frustration).
We rarely argue, but on this particular day, it was a major deal, and on a night he had to go to a meeting somewhere. We were giving each other the silent treatment with every subliminal inch of our bodies. Then I remember him putting on his coat and going outside without even kissing me goodbye. (To be fair, I was being petty enough, I probably would have turned my head.)
He came inside, went upstairs for only a second or two, then came back down and left again. I didn’t ask.
An hour later, when I went up to bed, I figured out why he’d come back—to turn my side of the electric blanket on.
He’s like that. All these years later, he’s still my hero. And my rock. And my love. And my best friend. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat—including the buffeting wind days.
Because, yes, I still do.
Happy Anniversary Jerry. Here’s to 31 more.