Forty years ago today I stood in the back room of a church in Rockford, IL. My childhood friend, Dave, held a ring in his pocket and my brother was there as well. I hadn’t been nervous any time leading up to this wedding, but when the organist started to play, the anxiety took over. After all, who was this girl that I would pledge to live my life with? Even though we had known each other for nearly two years, does anybody really know for sure if they are making the right decision?
I knew that Deb was beautiful, loyal, and strong and mind and spirit. She was independent; not a woman who would want me to make decisions for her. This would be a marriage of two dominant personalities, teaming up to make a go of it. That’s exactly the kind of woman I wanted.
After the wedding we headed out to Colorado in Dad’s 61 Chevy. We probably had a couple hundred dollars in our pocket. We honeymooned in a small cabin in the snowy Rocky Mountains. The first night Deb made spaghetti, but we didn’t boil the noodles long enough for the higher altitude. When I commented on the texture of the noodles, Deb said, “Oh I thought you liked your spaghetti chewy!” We laughed.
Four years later our son, Tad was born. A month after that we moved from Kansas to a small town in Minnesota that I had never heard of, a place called Winona. Within two years we had purchased a big white house on Main Street. Only a fool would have bought a place that needed so much repair. We lined up; willing fools! It was Deb’s dream house and she fell in love with it. Four years later our daughter, Tara was born. They brought her home from Community Memorial Hospital in a Christmas stocking.
Some people like the towns they live in. Others absolutely fall in love with a place. That is how Deb feels about Winona. I know that she would have made any town a great home for us, but Winona fit us well, like a pair of old slippers. Over the years we’ve worked hard to make a living. Deb started a Bed and Breakfast in our old Carriage House. We’re still open after 26 years. Every second of every day Deb kept our home clean and neat. She once told me, “If I was poor and lived in a house with a dirt floor, I’d sweep that floor every day.”
They say that marriage is one of the most important decisions a person ever makes. I know that this is true. I write this blog in Chicago, surrounded by my wife, our children and two grand children. For me, a nervous skinny kid from Omaha, I was standing at the right place 40 years ago today. It was the right church in the right town. Best of all, it was the right woman walking down the aisle.